SDG Index a ‘wake-up call’ for Australia
26 June 2019 at 5:06 pm
Australia is lagging well behind other OECD nations when it comes to sustainable development, according to new research that has prompted calls for all sectors to take stronger environmental action.
A report by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) ranked Australia 38th out of 162 countries in terms of progress achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Australia ranked lower than most other OECD nations including New Zealand (11), the UK (12) and Canada (22).
Monash University Professor John Thwaites, who is chair of SDSN for Australia, said this ranking should be a wake-up call showing Australia needed to make big improvements in fairness and sustainability.
“The report highlights the need for major transformations in Australia to decarbonise energy and improve the sustainability of our food production and diet,” Thwaites said.
“We like to think that Australia is the land of the ‘fair go’ but this report highlights serious inequalities.
“The proportion of seats held by women in Australia’s national parliament is lower than in New Zealand’s, and our gender wage gap is higher. Our inequality in wealth is getting worse.”
Australia measured best on SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), but suffered its worst results on SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and SDG 13 (Climate Action).
Based on trend data available, Australia – along with every other country – is not on track for achieving the SDGs by the UN’s target date of 2030.
Thwaites told Pro Bono News that Australia needs to do much more to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change.
“Australia needs to promote responsible consumption and production because the amount of waste we’re producing and our nitrogen footprint is high,” he said.
“Our energy system needs to be transformed so that we turn from a very fossil fuel dependent energy system to one that is much more reliant on reusable energy.
“We also need to have a higher priority on promoting equality, which is wealth equality but also gender equality.”
Thwaites said achieving the SDGs required action across the government, business and community sectors.
“Government needs to set the right incentives and frameworks and rules. But it’s business that’s going to push the transformation to a low carbon energy system,” he said.
“And the community sector also has a role to play… particularly in the way we relate to each other as citizens and around promoting gender equality.”
It was Nordic countries – Sweden, Denmark and Finland – that topped the SDG Index this year.
Thwaites said there was much Australia could take from their approach.
“The northern European countries show that you can be very successful economically while at the same time protecting the environment and acting on climate change,” he said.
“In fact, acting on climate change and turning to renewable energy can provide more good jobs and more economic opportunities.”