Peace, Conflict, National Security, Climate Change

Millennium Development Goals and Climate Change Action

The Millennium Development Goals MDGs

The MDGs are eight development goals against poverty that all 192 UN Member States have agreed to achieve by 2015. Achievement of the MDGs and mitigation of climate change are intertwined, as discussed in this article. The graph on the right shows the huge number of people living on less than $1.25 per day (1.4 billion people in 2005).


Here are the eight Millennium Development Goals MDGs  

  • Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger
  • Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
  • Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women 
  • Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality Rate
  • Goal 5: Improve maternal health
  • Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  • Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development

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MDG and Climate Change

Climate change presents significant threats to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, especially those related to eliminating poverty and hunger and promoting environmental sustainability. An increasing body of evidence are pointing to the disproportionate negative impact climate change will have on the poorest countries who, ironically, have contributed least to the problem. 

Climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of severe weather events. Poor countries lack the infrastructure necessary (e.g. storm walls, water storage) to respond adequately to such events. Diseases such as malaria are likely to have wider ranges, impacting more people in the poorest regions of developing nations that are already most affected by such diseases. Changing rainfall patterns could devastate rain-fed agriculture...


The MDGs and Climate Change (Germanwatch report)

  • This is a long and excellent report. See especially Exhibit 5: Illustrative list of climate change adversely impacting MDG attainment, page 10.

Climate Change Impacts on the Achievement of the MDGs

  • Global Call Against Poverty (GCAP) and Global Campaign for Climate Action (GCCA) report. The UN's Non-Governmental Liaison Service says of the report: 'Climate change arguably poses the greatest threat to reducing poverty, advancing global development, and realizing human rights the world has ever seen...The report highlights: “in too many contexts, climate change is still a footnote to MDG implementation.” '

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Progress in the MDGs

From the UN: Given the proliferation of UN Conferences and commitments, it’s important to understand why the Millennium Goals are unique in many powerful ways:

  • They represent a compact between all the world’s major economic players. Poorer countries pledged to improve policies and governance and increase accountability to their own citizens; wealthy countries pledged to provide the resources. Since the commitment to achieve the goals comes from the highest political levels, for the first time, entire governments are committed to their achievement—including the trade and finance ministers who hold the world’s purse strings. And major international financial institutions—the World Bank, the IMF, the regional development banks, and increasingly, the membership of the World Trade Organization—have made explicit that they will be accountable for achieving the Goals too.

  • The Goals are clearly achievable. Some have even argued that they are not in fact millennium, but ‘minimum’ development goals. We believe that to set the bar any lower than this would be morally unacceptable. Individual Goals have already been achieved by many countries in the space of only 10-15 years.

Keeping the promise: united to achieve the Millennium Development Goals

  • This UN document says: Addressing climate change will be of key importance in safeguarding and advancing progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (page 26).

Progress towards reaching the goals has been uneven. Some countries have achieved many of the goals while others are not on track to realize any (Wikipedia).

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Post-2015 Development Agenda

The Post-2015 Development Agenda refers to a process led by the United Nations (UN) that aims to help define the future global development framework that will succeed the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

HERE is the report “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development,” which sets out a universal agenda to eradicate extreme poverty from the face of the earth by 2030, and deliver on the promise of sustainable development. The report calls upon the world to rally around a new Global Partnership that offers hope and a role to every person in the world.

In the report, the Panel calls for the new post-2015 goals to drive five big transformative shifts (excerpts):

  • Leave No One Behind. After 2015 we should move from reducing to ending extreme poverty, in all its forms. 

  • Put Sustainable Development at the Core. We have to integrate the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainability.  We must act now to slow the alarming pace of climate change and environmental degradation, which pose unprecedented threats to humanity.

  • Transform Economies for Jobs and Inclusive Growth. A profound economic transformation can end extreme poverty and improve livelihoods, by harnessing innovation, technology, and the potential of business. 

  • Build Peace and Effective, Open and Accountable Institutions for All. Freedom from conflict and violence is the most fundamental human entitlement, and the essential foundation for building peaceful and prosperous societies.  

  • Forge a New Global Partnership. A new spirit of solidarity, cooperation, and mutual accountability must underpin the post-2015 agenda.  It should include civil society organizations, multilateral institutions, local and national governments, the scientific and academic community, businesses, and private philanthropy.


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The UNMDG Conference in 2010

With only five years left until the 2015 deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, UN Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon called on world leaders to attend a summit in New York to accelerate progress towards the MDGs. See HERE.

The plenary sessions can be watched on the web HERE.
You can retrieve the speeches under VIDEO ON-DEMAND HERE.
HERE is the video of a side event with an excellent description of practical problems and solutions for realizing the MDGs, including the private sector co-operating with governments and NGOs; a written description is HERE.
From the IISD here is a picture of the conference proceedings at the UN:

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Reference documents for MDGs

Reports from the MDG UN Website

IISD bulletins on MDGs and climate change at the MDG Summit 

  • POLICY FORUM ON BIODIVERSITY, ECOSYSTEMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE ... Christina Figueres, Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, noted that, if climate change is left unchecked, it threatens to undermine thirty years of advances in development... See HERE.
  • Climate Vulnerability and Its Impact on MDGs, a side event by Bangladesh on Sept 21, is reported HERE.

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History - the Millennium UN Declaration (2000)

Historically, the Millenium Development Goals arose from this Millennium UN Declaration 55.2, a resolution adopted in 2000. Here it is.

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Video on the MDG by Gillian Sorensen

Gillian Sorensen is senior advisor at the United Nations Foundation, see HERE.


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UnitedNationsOffice, U. (2013). Millennium Development Goals and Climate Change Action. Retrieved from