Fresh alliance of corporate, charities, politicians celebrities has urged the UK government to use the UN's Sustainable Development Goals to guide recovery plans from the pandemic, joining a raft of other players calling for a climate-sensitive recovery to the pandemic.
A coalition of more than 150 corporates, celebrities, charities, universities, and trade associations has today urged the UK government to place the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the heart of its Covid-19 recovery plans.
An open letter, coordinated by UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD) and UN Global Compact Network UK, has called on the government to use the broad-ranging UN framework to steer a just and climate-friendly recovery from the pandemic.
"We do not need to reinvent frameworks or agreements, we can instead use the global goals as the basis for a socially just and green recovery in the UK and abroad," the signatories argue. "Together the 17 goals provide us with an internationally agreed framework, which also works at national, regional and local levels, alongside and reinforcing existing plans and commitments."
The SDGs, adopted unanimously by UN member states five years ago, set out a raft of targets designed to put the global economy on a path towards a sustainable future, including action on climate, improving health and education, and reducing social and economic inequalities.
The alliance behind today's letter - which includes executives from HSBC, Nestle, Diageo, the Body Shop, Thales, Natwest, Schroeders and the mayors of Liverpool and Bristol - stresses that aligning economic recovery with the SDGs will allow the government to balance social, environmental, and economic needs as it works towards its overarching net zero emissions goal.
"The Covid-19 crisis has shown that businesses, government, and civil society can and will work together to create lasting and positive change," the letter concludes. "We believe the SDGs should be used to establish the level of ambition for the UK's pandemic-recovery and a future that ensures all people in our country live a good life, prospering on a healthy planet."
Emily Auckland, network director for UKSSD, urged the government to ensure the recovery was "fair and just", in particular after the pandemic had "placed a spotlight" on inequality. "This does not have to be in conflict with our net zero carbon ambitions and the SDGs help us work together to create social and environmental outcomes, so all people have a happy life on a healthy planet," she said.
The UKSSD warned today that it expects the coronavirus crisis to delay already slow progress on the SDGs, which have a deadline of 2030.
Michael Izza, chief executive of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and letter signatory, touted the SDGs as an "important framework to ensure governments and businesses are pursuing the long-term public interest."
He said: "As chartered accountants we think its vital businesses look beyond profit and have a wider social purpose, and we're pleased to have so many organisations join our call to government to put these goals front and centre."
And filmmaker and UN SDG Advocate Richard Curtis said: "The breadth of support for this letter demonstrates a commitment to working with the UK government to deliver healthy lives, healthy societies and a healthy planet for everyone. We can only build back better together and I hope that the Government will use the goals to help them do this"
The UKSSD-organised letter was published the same day as more than 20 leading UK health groups urged the Prime Minister to deliver a climate-friendly economic recovery package in order to prevent a second health crisis caused by climate change and environmental degradation.
The groups, which include the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Lancet, stressed in a separate open letter this morning that the government's recovery package should maintain environmental standards, prioritise decarbonisation, invest in low carbon and carbon reduction industries and listen to the advice of health and climate scientists.
"In recovering from the pandemic we need to ensure we do not lock in a future crisis. Without rapid decarbonisation the impact of climate change to our health will be catastrophic," the letter coordinated by the UK Alliance on Climate Change argues. "But we know that the actions your Government could take to reduce emissions, like phasing out coal-generating power, increasing active travel, and building a healthier, sustainable food system, could also greatly improve and build resilience in public health and the health of our planet."
A flurry of media reports and Ministerial statements in recent days have confirmed the government is planning to put climate action at the core of its promised economic recovery plans, which are due to be announced next month.
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