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COVID-19, Climate Crisis Could Push 75-95 Million More People Into Extreme Poverty This Year: UN SDGs Report

The pandemic has also triggered increased violence against women and girls with increase in both child labour and child marriages

Representational use only.Image Source: NDTV

New Delhi: United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022, released on July 7, reveals that the convergence of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, increased fighting, and the long-term climate crisis, could push an additional 75 to 95 million people into extreme poverty this year – compared with pre-pandemic projections – and jeopardise the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for more resilient, peaceful and equal societies.

The report notes that the pandemic has wiped out years of progress made on the SDGs including eradicating poverty and hunger and improving health and education while Deaths, directly and indirectly, attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic, reached 15 million by the end of last year.

Meanwhile, the report also repeats the “code red warning” on climate change earlier issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), highlighting that rising global temperatures continue unabated, leading to more extreme weather events around the world and that energy-related emissions have increased 6 percent in 2021, reaching the highest level ever, completely wiping out pandemic-related declines.

The report reiterated that to avoid the worst effects of climate change, global greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 and then decline by 43% by 2030, falling to net-zero by 2050. However, under current voluntary National Commitments (NDCs) to climate action, greenhouse gas emissions are set to rise nearly 14% over the next decade. It further adds that an estimated 17 million tonnes of plastic entered the ocean – a number that is only expected to double or triple by 2040.

It was also found that the number of countries with local disaster risk reduction strategies nearly doubled between 2015 and 2021 – from 51, the number grew to 98 – while an overwhelming majority of 99 percent – of the global urban population was found to be breathing polluted air.

At the same time, the most vulnerable countries and populations are disproportionately impacted – including women who have lost their jobs and been burdened with more 
work at home. The pandemic has also triggered increased violence against women and girls with least developed countries struggling with weak economic growth, rising inflation, major supply-chain disruptions, and unsustainable debt, leaving in its wake, fewer job opportunities for young people, and increases in both child labour and child marriages.

In low income countries, the report reveals that the total public - and publicly guaranteed - debt service to export ratio, rose from an average of 3.1% in 2011 to 8.8%  in 2020.

“The road map laid out in the Sustainable Development Goals is clear,” stated Liu Zhenmin, UN Economic and Social Affairs chief (DESA), adding that “just as the impact of crises is compounded when they are linked, so are solutions”. The report urges that the world must now decide to deliver on its commitments to assist the most vulnerable and rescue the SDGs for meaningful progress by 2030.

It calls upon countries to emerge stronger from the crisis, and better prepared for unknown challenges ahead, which must include funding data and information infrastructure as a priority for both national governments and the international community.

“When we take action to strengthen social protection systems, improve public services and invest in clean energy, for example, we address the root causes of increasing inequality, environmental degradation and climate change,” reminded Mr. Liu.

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