Victoria’s environmental reporting leadership showcased at the International Conference on Sustainable Development in New York

From the Commissioner
Gillian Sparkes addressing delegates at the IC-SD

It is a great privilege for Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Dr Gillian Sparkes to be presenting at the International Conference on Sustainable Development at Columbia University in New York on 26 September 2018. The forum brought together academia, government, civil society, UN agencies, and the private sector to share practical solutions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Delegates include President Carlos Alvarado of Costa Rica; New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern; UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed; University Professor, Columbia University; Director, Sustainable Development Solutions Network Jeffrey Sachs and Executive Vice President for Sustainable Development, EDF Claude Nahon.

"I am very proud to be discussing the innovative work that has been done in Victoria around the implementation of the United Nation’s sustainable development goals," said Dr Sparkes. 

"Our paper is focused on how Victoria is taking the lead on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Victoria has commenced the transition to the SDGs for state of environment reporting – reflecting our need to report on both the state of the environment and the benefits that society derives from it. The 2018 Victorian SoE report, to be released in February 2019, is the beginning of a journey to apply the SDGs and refine our understanding of how they can best be applied in the state. This is the first attempt at a State level to measure the environment against the SDGs framework and ultimately recommend actions to Government to improve social and environmental outcomes."

View the full presentation Unlocking the Transformation of the SDGs here.

The Commissioner briefed IC-SD delegates on the alignment process which began approximately 18 months ago. A pragmatic rather than a purist approach was taken. "We initially worked with a number of stakeholders including Monash Sustainable Development Institute's Dave Griggs, BehaviourWorks Australia's Liam Smith, Chair of ClimateWorks Australia, Monash Sustainable Development Institute and Co-Chair of th UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network John Thwaites (who is also presenting at the IC-SD) and the Monash Sustainable Development Institute team as well as a range of other decision makers, academia, government, industry and community leaders. We ran workshops, forums, hosted live polling and used a range of consultation methods to ensure we had a thorough consultation process. 

The Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability devised a seven-phase process of implementation so that the SDGs frame environmental monitoring and reporting in Victoria. The seven phases happened organically through the process, rather than being an initial structure for the process.

A critical message that I wanted to deliver at the IC-SD is that unlike many other practitioners, we chose to align the SoE indicators to the SDG targets not SDG indicators. 

"The SDG targets are action oriented and provide the opportunity for evolution of State of environment reporting to alignment with the SDGs," said Dr Sparkes. 

"The process we developed allowed us to map existing SoE indicators to targets while also using the SDG targets to inform new socio-economic indicators for SoE reporting. In this way we are not throwing the baby out with the bath water, we can take forward some traditional SoE indicators and also introduce new indicators – reflecting our history in reporting and the pragmatism of the SDGs to take us into the future.

"The main game for our work is rewiring the environmental monitoring and reporting system in Victoria - moving to getting the data we need not just the data that we can get to inform policy and practice – and offering a more comprehensive approach to reporting on the state of the environment and the benefits that we derive from it.

It has been an extraordinary opportunity to be amongst people from across the world working to implement the UN’s SDGs, to be immersed in an environment that is focused on science, policy and creating better outcomes for communities world wide. To be able to share Victoria’s progress during UN week in New York City is a truly humbling and wonderful experience."