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APAC Not On Track To Achieve SDG Goals By 2030; May Realise 10 % Of Target: UN Report

The region must urgently reverse its regressing trends on many SDGs to achieve its ambitions by 2030, the UN report said adding Asia-Pacific fell short of its 2020 milestones even before entering the global pandemic.

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The Asia-Pacific region is lagging behind in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set for 2030, and at the current rate the region may achieve less than 10 per cent of the targets, a UN report said on Tuesday.

As many as 829 million workers employed in the informal sector were impacted in April 2020 due to the pandemic-induced lockdown, the report noted.

There are 17 goals under the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP), targeted to be achieved by 2030.

These include no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, bio-diversity, innovation and infrastructure, and reduced inequalities, among others.

'The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region is not on track to achieve any of the 17 SDGs by 2030. On its current trajectory, the region may achieve less than 10 per cent of the SDG targets,' said the report titled 'Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report' of the UNESCAP.

The region must urgently reverse its regressing trends on many SDGs to achieve its ambitions by 2030, the UN report said adding Asia-Pacific fell short of its 2020 milestones even before entering the global pandemic.

'There is therefore an added urgency to ensure that responses to the pandemic in the region and at the national level accelerate progress toward the 2030 Agenda,' it said.

The report also talks about the impact of mandatory lockdowns and social distancing measures on data collection activities, particularly from vulnerable groups.

Unemployment increased by 15 million in the region in 2020. Compared to 2019, workers in the region lost 7.1 per cent of their labour income in 2020, equivalent to over USD 1 trillion, it said.

'In April 2020, lockdown measures impacted some 829 million informal workers in Asia-Pacific region.' Acknowledging that in the last decade, Asia-Pacific made extraordinary progress in good health and well-being, credited to partly explain its relative success in reducing the health impact of COVID-19 on its people, the report said despite these hard won gains, there are challenges in providing adequate healthcare workforce, reducing premature deaths and improving mental health.

Some subregions are well positioned to achieve a few of the goals. East and North-East Asia is on track to eradicate poverty and provide clean water and sanitation for all.

South-East Asia is on track to promote sustainable industry and innovation.

However, none of the sub-regions are on track on environment-related goals, and four sub-regions are regressing on climate action and life below water.

Making an alarming observation on regressing climate action trends and life below water goals, UNESCAP said the region is responsible for more than half of the global greenhouse gas emissions and adverse impacts of natural disasters on people and economies increase year-by-year.

'As we find our way out of this pandemic, the report suggests we must focus efforts on more equitable and greener growth,' it said.

Green house gas emissions containment measures due to the pandemic resulted in a significant reduction in the hazardous emissions with a decrease in global daily carbon dioxide emissions of 17 per cent in April 2020 compared to the year-ago period.

In Asia-Pacific, this pattern has been evident in China, India, Japan and the Russian Federation.

Environmental monitoring, including satellite data clearly indicates that air quality has improved in the first half of 2020 in many countries of the region. Data shows air pollution over northern India at a 20-year low, with New Delhi and nearby areas registering a significant 50 per cent reduction of aerosol optical depth (correlating to fine particulate matter, PM2.5 and PM10) in April.

However, the report said while the drop in carbon dioxide emissions has been significant, it was also temporary and emissions rose as soon as lockdowns were lifted.

China relaxed its lockdown earlier than other countries, and the impact is particularly evident with its emissions during April to June comparable to or higher than emissions in the year-ago same months, the report pointed out.

'Recovery measures are an excellent opportunity for us to rethink our options for development pathways that are inclusive, more resilient, and respect planetary boundaries,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana.

'As we enter the Decade of Action to deliver the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we need to reinforce our collective commitment to the SDGs and let it provide our compass for building back together, better and greener,' she said.

To build back better, governments should renew their commitments to the SDGs' monitoring framework so that recovery can accelerate a global transformation as promised by the 2030 Agenda, the report said.

The agency has also developed a National SDG Tracker tool to help the countries in the region make progress assessment on the goals.

National governments can use the tool to produce snapshots of progress towards the ambitions of the 2030 Agenda, it said. 

(PTI)