SDGs vital to Australia’s COVID-19 recovery
23 November 2020 at 5:45 pm
Researchers say Australia’s COVID-19 response will determine the shape of our economies and lives for years to come
Australia should model its COVID-19 recovery strategy on the sustainable development goals (SDGs) framework to help address the social fractures that have been exposed during the pandemic, a new report says.
The Monash Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI) has measured the Australia performance against 56 economic, social and environmental factors linked to the SDGs, and found the nation is at risk of failing to meet the 2030 targets on all but 12 indicators.
While Australia is performing well in health and education, it has struggled to reduce CO2 emissions, waste and environmental degradation, and failed to properly remedy cost of living pressures and economic inequality.
The report said despite nearly 30 years of unbroken economic growth, middle-class wages and incomes have stagnated in recent years.
With Australia’s traditional sources of growth from trade, foreign investment and skilled migration set to be curtailed due to COVID, researchers said new drivers of economic prosperity were needed.
MSDI chair, Professor John Thwaites, said Australia has an opportunity to create an effective, collective response to the crisis that prioritises sustainable development.
“Governments are taking extraordinary measures to respond to the social and economic impacts of the crisis, which will determine the shape of our economies and lives for years to come,” Thwaites said.
“While the impacts have been severe, there is a huge opportunity to design a recovery strategy that begins to substantially address climate change, strengthens our resilience to future shocks and ensures long-term, sustainable prosperity for Australia.”
The report notes that COVID-19 has exacerbated pre-existing social issues such as unemployment and poverty.
The pandemic has also had a disproportionate impact on women, who are more likely to lose their jobs and suffer psychological distress.
MSDI Professor Rod Glover said that COVID-19 has forced governments to more closely consider how they are supporting vulnerable people, such as those who are homeless, experiencing mental health issues or domestic violence.
“There are a lot of social fractures in our society that have come to the fore during COVID and this has really exposed the underlying weaknesses in our social support model,” Glover told Pro Bono News.
Glover said many of these cracks were hidden below the surface and were obscured by Australia’s relative economic prosperity in recent decades.
He said hopefully COVID-19 would allow policymakers and the community to reflect on the future we wanted, which is what the SDGs were all about.
“Business as usual is not going to get us there. So we’re going to need a slower and steadier conversation about the larger scale changes and shifts in our systems that are needed to get us to a position where we’d like to be,” he said.
Glover also noted there was a divide between those who want life to return back to normal post-COVID and those who want systemic change.
He said Australia’s future path needs to be an inclusive one that is accepted and embraced by the broader population.
“The challenge for our political leaders, our public service leaders and our business leaders is making those adjustments, and not shirking the reforms [needed], but realising that we have to take people with us on the journey for it to be sustainable,” he said.
The full report can be seen here.