United Nations taking a “step change” with the Sustainable Development Goals

UN envoy says SDGs mean it is looking beyond traditional aid model

The United Nations is having to make a “step change” to finance the Sustainable Development Goals, says the UN Envoy for the SDGs.

Speaking at a high-level conference on the sustainable economy organised by the German government, Macharia Kamau, Special Envoy for the SDGs to the President of the General Assembly and Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN, told delegates that the UN has to move beyond its traditional ODA (official development assistance) aid model.

“It’s clear we’re not going to finance the SDGs with ODA, we need a broader range of partners,” he said. “The SDGs are not a UN paradigm built around ODA.” While he still saw ODA as a ‘levering tool’, the new approach was something “unimaginable 10-15 years ago”.

“The UN is having to make a step change in how it operates to finance the SDGs. We were pretty clueless, I can tell you.” He also explained that the UNEP Inquiry into a Sustainable Finance System has helped to give it the confidence to look beyond ODA.

He was speaking at the PAGE (Partnership for Action on Green Economy) conference, a ministerial-level event in Berlin.

The meeting featured a robust keynote address from Jeffrey Sachs, the economist who is Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, who attacked President Donald Trump over climate policy, calling him an “idiot”.“This is a fight for the future, it’s a brawl,” Sachs said. “They gave the State Department to Exxon for God’s sake! Why? Because it’s real money.”

He went on: “Don’t argue with them about facts, it’s not about facts anymore, it’s about money.” He called for a ‘global green politics’ and for unity among those who believe in sustainability: “We had better be together on this.”

German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said Germany, which is hosting the G20, made the point that the country “wants to send a strong message” with a G20 climate and energy action plan, building on the work of China’s recent G20 presidency. She said the aim is to ensure that global finance flows are geared to the Paris Agreement: “We want to make further progress during our G20 presidency.”

Elsewhere at the event, Lars Andreas Lunde, State Secretary of the Norwegian Ministry for Climate and Environment, stressed the need for the removal of fossil fuel subsidies and called for a rethink of our current economic model, saying: “We need to move from a linear economy to a circular economy.”