An increasing number of businesses, charities and local governments are declaring climate emergencies. But a declaration only goes so far. In this blog Emily Auckland, UKSSD Network Director, explains why the Sustainable Development Goals give organisations a practical and comprehensive tool to deliver on their declaration.

We’re under increasing pressure to raise our voices in support of the climate emergency. Using our influence to show everyone that, as Greta Thunberg says, “our house is on fire” and we must act urgently.

Declaring a climate emergency helps to galvanise your audiences, but a declaration alone is not enough. Delivering on the commitment of a climate emergency declaration requires meaningful action. But where should we start?

The Sustainable Development Goals can help you act now

While not perfect, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a comprehensive plan to end poverty, reduce inequalities, and combat the climate and ecological emergency. The SDGs might not seem like the obvious choice, so we’ve drawn together five reasons to use them as you deliver your climate emergency declaration.

1. A comprehensive plan

Our lifestyles, including the products and services we deliver, result in greenhouse gas emissions. Changing these entrenched systems and patterns of behaviour is hard.

We know too that many of these systems are already broken – such as our food system which faces multilayer challenges in food poverty, malnutrition and ecological breakdown. All will be exacerbated by climate change.

The SDGs give us an opportunity to create greater value for organisations and society because they allow us to understand these systems and how we interact with them.

Tools like Science-based Targets can be used to set specific reductions targets in line with the Paris agreement, and the SDGs bring that under a strategic umbrella that explores the wider social, environmental and economic impacts of your organisation.

Together they provide us with a comprehensive action plan for the future.

2. A common language to work together

Committed to by world leaders in 2015, the SDGs are the only universally agreed and globally recognised sustainability framework. They are also the only framework to apply to all levels of society, across all geographies.

To overcome the complex causes of greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the impacts of climate change, we have to find numerous and unexpected solutions.

The more we work together, the more likely it is we’ll find solutions soon. Unifying our efforts behind the ambitious vision of the SDGs could be the greatest chance we have.

3. Holding ourselves to account

Using this common language to communicate our intentions also means we’re holding ourselves to account. We’re taking responsibility for our own actions and our role in society.

Business has long been criticised for ‘green washing’. Though this risk still exists, by declaring our commitment to the SDGs, we’re also opening ourselves up to scrutiny. Committing to something publicly means we’re much more likely to act on it.

4. The moral imperative

The weather events of the last few months remind us that deprived and marginalised communities feel the impacts of climate change more acutely. That’s true both globally and here in the UK.

The SDGs challenge us to think about the diverse lives of people from all backgrounds. If we can’t directly impact their lives, we can join the movement of organisations that support the Goals. We can openly show it’s unacceptable for anyone to live in poverty, face inequality or experience injustice.

By using the SDGs as a framework, we can also make sure that our own actions lead to a socially just transition in response to climate change because we’re forced to question whether we can do more to support people to live the best lives possible. 

5. A positive vision

We should fear climate change, but we can’t be frozen by this fear. We need to act. We need to fight for a future we can all believe in. More than anything, the SDGs give us a positive vision of a future we can focus our attention on. A future where everyone enjoys a good life and lives on a healthy planet.

Download our guide to responding to the climate emergency with the SDGs

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