Transforming Australia: SDG Progress Report

Event
John Thwaites stands on a podium with a large slide behind him displaying the sustainable development goals

The team from the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Victoria attended the Committee for Economic Development Australia launch event ‘Transforming Australia: Sustainable Development’ event in Melbourne on September 5. The event coincided with the launch of the National Sustainable Development Council’s SDG Progress Report. Council members and sustainability leaders including John Thwaites, Chair of Monash SDIAustralian Council of Superannuation InvestorsLouise Davidson; MonashSDI’s Rod Glover and CitiGroup chair Sam Mostyn discussed the progress towards implementing the United Nations’ #sustainabledevelopmentgoals (#SDGs) and what they mean for community, business, policy and importantly as highlighted by Sam Mostyn, our children.

John Thwaites was frank about Australia’s environmental position at the CEDA event. “Australia has a huge challenge with the environment. Big challenges with climate change, biodiversity and threatened species – in many ways environment is our achilles heel,” he said. “We don’t seem to be able to understand how to grow our economy and protect our environment.” John and the panel guests were clear that we can do better if we collaborate across the silos of government. “Business and government must work together, in partnership (per Goal 17) to solve problems, every level of government has a role to play,” he said.

He also briefed the audience on Australia’s lack of progress against the emissions targets in the Paris agreement. Australia is off track, according to Thwaites. “Commentators are saying we’ll hit Paris targets but that’s misleading – we’ll meet the electricity sector component of the target only but overall we are off track to meet the Paris target,” he said. “The electricity sector is on track but the other 70% isn’t likely to be even close to being on track.” Thwaites also cited increasing transport and industry carbon emissions and a lack of action to reducing these, as a key reason Australia is not on track to meet Paris target of 26% reduction. Sam Mostyn reminded the audience that her daughter is 18 years old now and will be 30 in 2030 – as a leader that is what she thinks about - the 2030 legacy for our children.

The Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Victoria has been working with Professor Thwaites and MonashSDI for the past couple of years developing pathways to implement the #SDGs, formally launched in January 2016, in environmental reporting in Victoria. “John has been a pioneer introducing the sustainable development goals into policy not only in Victoria and Australia but globally,” said Dr Gillian Sparkes. “The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide business, government and civil society with a compelling framework for future growth that is socially fair, environmentally sustainable and economically prosperous.”

The Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Victoria is establishing reporting on the #SDGs at a sub-national level through State of the Environment reporting. “To our knowledge, this is the most comprehensive effort in Australia by a public sector agency to measure the environment at a state-level, against the SDGs framework and ultimately recommend actions to Government to embed the SDGs in environmental reporting in Victoria and improve social and environmental outcomes,” said Dr Sparkes. “The ongoing SDG project is not only an exercise in improving State of Environment reporting – it is part of a broader reform agenda to challenge conventional reporting and raise awareness of emerging international best practice.

“I congratulate John and the National Sustainable Development Council on the leadership that they have taken regarding the SDGs and look forward to collaborating into the future, both here and in New York at the International Conference on Sustainable Development at Columbia University later this month. Finally I must also commend John and @MonashSDI for the outstanding digital site SDG Progress Report that they have created.

Further reading:

The Conversation: Australia’s UN report card: making progress, could do better on inequality and climate