By Catherine Benson Wahlén, Thematic Expert for Human Development, Human Settlements and Sustainable Development (US)
The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has released its annual SDG progress report, finding that the region’s performance is “poor” on most measurable environmental targets. The region is struggling the most on SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production) and SDG 13 (climate action).The report titled, ‘Asia and Pacific SDG Progress Report 2020,’ assesses the region’s progress towards the 17 Goals. A major finding is that the region is degrading and depleting its environmental resources. On SDG 13, the region emits half of the world’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and its emissions have doubled since 2000. On SDG 15 (life on land), 35% of countries in the region have continued deforestation trends. In addition, progress has been slow on SDG 5 (gender equality) and SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities).
Conditions in 2030 will be worse on 20% of the SDG indicators without immediate actions to reverse the current trends.
The report predicts that the Asia-Pacific region is unlikely to meet any of the SDGs without concerted efforts from all stakeholders. In addition, conditions in 2030 are predicted to be worse on 20% of SDG indicators than they were in 2015 “unless immediate actions are taken to reverse current trends.” Although the region has made progress on income poverty, it is “likely to miss all measurable SDG targets related to other forms of poverty, hunger and gender equality and reduced inequalities within and between countries by 2030.”
Still, the report emphasizes promising progress on targets related to food security, women’s role in decision-making, and access to basic sanitation services. These trajectories provide the region with a “strong basis for future acceleration.”
The report finds the region is most likely to meet SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), and SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). On SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), the region has increased access to electricity across all five subregions (although the region has one of the lowest shares of renewable energy globally, at 16%). On SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), the region’s real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita growth was more than double the world average in 2017. In addition, on SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), at least 18 countries are experiencing less income inequality.
The authors note that progress across Asia-Pacific’s five subregions is uneven. For example:
- On SDG 2 (zero hunger), East and North-East Asia have made the most progress, while the Pacific lags behind the rest of the region.
- On SDG 10, North and Central Asia is considered on track, and has progressed more than any of the other subregions. In contrast, South-East Asia has regressed on SDG 10.
- On SDG 12, the Pacific is the only subregion on track. South and South-West Asia show “considerable regression.”
- On SDG 16, North and Central Asia have made the most progress while the Pacific, South-East Asia, and South and South-West Asia are “moving further from achieving the Goal.”
The report also observes that data availability for the SDG indicators has “substantially increased,” from 25% in 2017 to 42% in 2020. Data is still unavailable for over half of the SDG indicators, including several SDGs with slow progress. Data is available for only a “very few” of the SDG 13 and SDG 14 (life below water) targets. ESCAP calls for urgently strengthening the policy-data nexus in the region.
The authors call for the region to accelerate SDG action to reverse negative trends and to redouble efforts to strengthen the means of implementation, including mobilizing additional financing for development (FfD) and supporting the region’s least developed countries (LDCs) to access global markets and build their capacity for statistical development.
ESCAP Executive Secretary Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana said the report’s findings “sound the alarm for the region to urgently foster sustainable use of natural resources, improve the management of chemicals and wastes, increase its resilience against natural disasters, and adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change through integrated policies.” [ESCAP press release] [ESCAP press release on virtual launch] [Report landing page] [Publication: Asia and Pacific SDG Progress Report 2020] [ESCAP guest article on key messages of 2020 report] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on 2019 report]
This indicator requires defining the two components of population growth and land consumption rate.