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Centre for Sustainable Development

Est 2000 - home of the MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

The implications of the Covid-19 pandemic for delivering the SDGs

By R.A.Fenner and T.Cernev

Futures 1128 (2021) 102726


Global responses to COVID-19 will impact on the delivery of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, creating large uncertainties just at the time efforts need to be accelerated. This paper explores how COVID-19 could impact the success of meeting the targets with priority given to four ‘foundational’ goals: SDG 1 No Poverty; SDG3 Good Health; SDG 14 Life Below Water and SDG 15 Life on Land as these are critical in maintaining a healthy human and environmental resource base on which progress towards all goals can be built.

A scenario analysis examines futures across a spectrum in which i) social and health imperatives (lives) dominate, to ii) where economic imperatives (livelihoods) take precedence. Similarly levels of international co-operation are considered ranging from international recognition of urgent global agendas to fragmentation due to the isolation of individual states around national priorities. These give rise to four scenarios: a) Global Well-being Prioritized; b) World Trade Recovers; c) Poverty Gaps Widen; and d) Earth Systems in Danger.  The likelihood of achieving the foundational SDGs in each is discussed. The paper concludes opportunities exist to refocus efforts on delivery of the SDGs but may be hampered by the competing interests of a new geopolitics.

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