“Our planet is broken” This was the warning issued by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
In a speech titled ‘State of the Planet’ delivered last December, he stated that humanity was waging a “suicidal” war on the natural world.
The Covid-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc around the globe by destroying lives and economies.
This makes it even more critical that all countries, and of course we in Sarawak, pay more attention to our environment.
The United Nations has been rolling out numerous initiatives to slow down the destruction of our environment and making tremendous efforts to convince governments and individuals to revive it.
Among the many initiatives, the key initiative was the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1992. From this United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Unced), Agenda 21 was adopted and efforts made to implement its objectives, especially via local government mechanisms.
It was via this initiative that the Local Agenda 21 section was set up in Miri City Council with its many initiatives, such as ‘Say No to Plastic Bags’ and ‘Say No to Styrofoam”.
This was followed up in 2010 by the United Nations Millennium Declaration in New York with its eight goals. This committed nations to reduce extreme poverty and set out a series of targets with 2015 as a deadline. These have come to be known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Subsequently, in 2015, Agenda 2030, also known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was adopted to continue from the MDGs at the UN Sustainable Development Summit.
These are a set of 17 goals for a better world by 2030. The goals from one to 17 are 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, Industry Innovation and Infrastructure, Reduced Inequalities, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Climate Action, Life Below Water, Life on Land, Peace Justice and Strong Institutions, and the 17th goal, Partnerships for the Goals.
It is important to note that all these goals centre around the core concepts of people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership as should the policies of all governments in all aspects of their activities.
However, the unexpected situations created by Covid-19 last year is impacting the commitments and also undermining the 17 SDGs. SDGs initiatives have been slowing down or halted due to reallocation of funding and also lack of attention.
Despite the onslaught by the pandemic, a conscious decision and clear cause of action must continue to further prevent compromising our commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Particular attention by our national leaders needs to paid to SDG3 (Health and Well-Being), SDG4 (Quality Education), SDG8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG12 (Consumption and& Production) and SDG13 (Climate Action).
Focus on these will help to speed up the recovery of our nation in a sustainable manner.
While the long-term impact of the pandemic on society is unclear and hard to measure, pursuing the SDGs will make our nation more resilient to further negative impacts in the future and ensure faster recovery time.
Worldwide the new Agenda 2030 has come across as more relevant and while more challenging is also considered doable.
It is satisfying to see that some organisations in Sarawak have embraced the SDGs wholeheartedly. One such organisation is Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) and I would hope its approach can become a benchmark for others here at home.
Miri City Council has also upgraded its LA21 section into the SDG section to incorporate and facilitate the 17 goals.
The Sarawak government’s strategy of ‘leave no one behind’ is also a good policy and has been pursued during these challenging times. The ‘Bantuan Khas Sayangku Sarawak’ aid policies completely fit into the SDG2 (zero hunger).
Our political leaders must further consider enhancing current recovery approaches to incorporate all SDG goals to safeguard our nation’s long-term future.
There are of course many short-term issues that need to be resolved such as containing the spread of the pandemic in this current third wave, ensuring economic recovery and new employment opportunities.
Ultimately the warning given by Guterres must be listened to seriously. He had further stated in his speech that “Nature always strikes back, and is doing so with gathering force and fury”.
We have to take note that pandemics are also part of nature.
If you delve deeper, our lack of care for the environment is essentially a war with ourselves and our children’s future.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.