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Which SDGs are the most important

United Nations General Assembly formulate 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, it designed to serve as a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future” (UN) But it is not realistic to achieve all 17 goals in the short term, we must prioritize some of them. As we begin to decide which goals should be achieved first, we must consider the interactions between these SDGs, and the process of achieving one SDG needs to have a positive impact on the others. These prioritized goals must be strongly interconnected to the other SDGs, which will make us much more efficient in addressing different global issues. Jeff Waage and Christopher Yap provide a practical way to determine the interconnectivity of different SDGs by categorizing these 17 SDGs into 3 levels: well-being, infrastructure, and natural environment,  with infrastructure-level goals often being the tool for achieving the other two. (Waage & Yap) Based on this consideration, we should reach goals 9 and 7 at the infrastructure level first, because these two are highly relevant to almost all other goals. Achieving the former is an indispensable prerequisite for achieving many other goals while achieving the latter can greatly improve the efficiency of achieving other goals.

Goal 9 aims to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. Building reliable, sustainable infrastructure, such as transportation networks, energy systems, and water supply networks, on a global scale is an essential foundation for humanity to eliminate poverty and hunger, provide clean water and modern energy, and achieve economic growth. Poor countries desperately need to have reliable infrastructure, which allows local people to maximize their economic potential, enables businesses to expand operations, and boosts commercial activity. This will create a virtuous circle that will make people more willing to participate in the market, thus generating more GDP and tax revenue for the local government. The wide-ranging benefits of building infrastructure in poor areas are evident in the World Bank Group’s assistance to projects in Mindanao. Conflict-affected communities in Mindanao are among the poorest in the Philippines, suffering from poor infrastructure and a lack of basic services. With the support of the World Bank and the Philippine government, Mindanao has made significant progress in improving its infrastructure from 2010 to 2016. Cleaner and safer public markets and terminals were established, along with a large number of new roads, bridges, and nearly 10,000 water connections. The spillover effects of this project have been tremendous, providing tens of thousands of people with access to clean water, improving public services for approximately 2 million people – half of whom are women – and indirectly enhancing educational opportunities and contributing to local economic growth through increased connectivity. (World Bank) In the case of Mindanao, It is apparent that in addition to the SDGs mentioned earlier in this paper, local gender inequality, limited educational access, and inadequate health services have been indirectly improved through the construction of infrastructure.

Achieving Goal 9 requires more than building resilient infrastructure. It necessitates promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization as well as fostering innovation on a global scale. By combining these two elements, we can make maximum progress toward our goals in a healthy and sustainable way. This approach stimulates creativity and innovation while creating a system that can turn ideas into reality. This will undoubtedly facilitate technological progress as well as help other SDGs make progress. These set a viable framework for both infrastructure development and the restoration of manufacturing operations in the post-pandemic era.

Goal 7, focuses on ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. Access to modern energy is a fundamental human need, however, currently “more than 760 million people around the world lack access to electricity, and over 2.6 billion people lack access to clean cooking facilities.” (UN)  Addressing Goal 7 is therefore an urgent priority. Moreover, Goal 7 is similar to goal 9 in that they can mutually reinforce multiple other SDGs, prioritizing goal 7 can also facilitate efforts to tackle other global issues, serving as a catalyst for progress in achieving multiple SDGs.

The consequences of lack of access to energy are severe, greatly impeding economic growth and development, limiting access to education and health care, and contributing to poverty and inequality. Addressing this issue is critical to the vision of “No One Get Left Behind.

In impoverished areas, limited access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable modern energy can lead to a lower quality of life and isolation from the wider world. Making access to electricity can improve living standards and create new opportunities for people living in these areas. This makes the provision of modern energy services a key element in the fight against poverty. Ethiopia’s electrification program, supported by the World Bank Group, is a very good example. In 2017, the World Bank disbursed a $3.75 million loan to Ethiopia to support the country’s national electrification program. It helped connect one million households to the electricity system and bring reliable electricity services to education and health facilities. This program has had a significant positive impact on a wide range of development indicators, including health, education, food security, gender equality, livelihoods, and poverty reduction. (World Bank)

In developed regions, access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable modern energy is crucial for the transition towards sustainable and low-carbon cities. This is particularly important for the promotion of green transport systems and sustainable urban planning, which require large amounts of cheap, clean energy. To achieve this, the development of renewable energy systems, such as rooftop photovoltaic systems may be necessary. (Frontiers)

There are still a large number of people who believe that Goal 13, “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts,” should be the first option we consider achieving for reasons of immediacy. The consequences of climate change are already evident, with record-breaking temperatures, extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters. (UN) Admittedly, the climate crisis is indeed time-sensitive, as underscored by the January 2020 publication in BioScience, ‘World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency.’ Endorsed by over 11,000 scientists worldwide, the statement warns that ‘the climate crisis has arrived’ and calls for an “immense increase of scale in endeavors to conserve our biosphere to avoid untold suffering due to the climate crisis.” (Ripple et al.) The warning that the world should immediately address the climate problem to avoid the potential for dire consequences in the future has become a staple of the scientific community in recent years. However, addressing climate issues is not incompatible with achieving goals 9 and 7; rather, they are both important tools for addressing the climate crisis. Promoting sustainable industrialization is the also goal that countries are striving for after the 2015 Paris Agreement, which balances economic development with environmental protection. (UN) This requires a reform of traditional industries, a gradual move away from the use of fossil fuels, and a reduction in carbon emissions. In this case, the presumed use and development of renewable energy will address both Goals 9 and 13, which is an essential part of Goal 7. The United Nations has highlighted the remarkable progress made towards Goal 7 in The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022, with renewable capacity per capita increasing by 57.6 percent since 2015. (UN)

The negative impacts of COVID-19 have narrowed our options, emphasizing the need to prioritize goals that can have the greatest impact on human society.  Goals 9 and 7 are decisive for achieving most of the remaining goals. The former lays the foundation for achieving most of the SDGs and is thus a prerequisite for their success. On the other hand, the latter acts as a catalyst for the other goals, and prioritizing its achievement can significantly enhance the efficiency of reaching the rest of the SDGs.

Reference

“SDG Indicators.” United Nations, United Nations, https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2022/.

“Climate Action – United Nations Sustainable Development.” United Nations, United Nations, https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/climate-action/.

“Overview.” World Bank, https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty/overview#3.

“Renewable Energy Systems for Sustainable Cities.” Frontiers, https://www.frontiersin.org/research-topics/21066/renewable-energy-systems-for-sustainable-cities.

Ripple, William J, et al. “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 5 Nov. 2019, https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/70/1/8/5610806.

Waage, Jeff, et al. “Governing Sustainable Development Goals: Interactions, Infrastructures, and Institutions.” Thinking Beyond Sectors for Sustainable Development, 2015, pp. 79–88., https://doi.org/10.5334/bao.i.

World Bank Group. “Access to Energy Is at the Heart of Development.” World Bank, World Bank Group, 18 Apr. 2018, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2018/04/18/access-energy-sustainable-development-goal-7.