Calls for Australia to tackle the SDGs with the same urgency as COVID-19
1 July 2020 at 6:09 pm
A new report shows Australia is struggling with sustainable development
Australian governments are being urged to tackle climate change and other environmental issues with the same successful expert-focused approach taken during the COVID-19 crisis.
The call comes on the back of new research showing Australia lagging behind other OECD countries when it comes to tackling the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but near the top with its COVID-19 response.
A new report by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) ranked Australia 37th out of 166 countries in terms of progress achieving the SDGs – below the UK (13th), New Zealand (16th) and Canada (21st).
Conversely, the report’s COVID-19 pilot index ranked Australia third – behind South Korea and Latvia – with researchers praising the nation’s “intensive public health services”.
Monash University Professor John Thwaites, who is chair of SDSN for Australia, labelled Australia’s SDG ranking of 38 last year as a “wake up call” for the nation.
Thwaites told Pro Bono News that while Australia hasn’t substantially improved on its ranking this year, its COVID-19 response offered a way forward.
“This response demonstrates that when we follow the science and commit to action, we can perform very well,” Thwaites said.
“We should learn the lessons from our good COVID response and apply the same approach to the other big challenges we face like climate change and broader environmental issues.”
The report said Australia performed poorly on SDGs around alleviating hunger, affordable and clean energy, responsible consumption and production, and climate action.
But Australia performed best in SDG 3 – good health and wellbeing – which Thwaites said was a key reason for Australia’s strong COVID response.
He said performing better in other areas required a similar level of urgency and investment.
“We need to listen to the experts. We need to invest in good research and we need to act now and not delay,” he said.
“One of the factors in Australia’s good response was quick action, and COVID has shown that there’s no turning back time with COVID.
“And similarly with climate change, if we don’t make the decisions now and act quickly, we’ll regret it later.”
However despite Australia’s strong COVID response, Thwaites warned there were still major challenges ahead.
He said the devastation of the pandemic was likely to increase poverty and inequality in Australia.
“This really makes it important that we work even harder on those goals, which we haven’t been performing well on,” he said.
“And we need to heed the lessons of this SDG index, which shows we can do much better as many other OECD countries have done.”