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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Seeking Synergy Solutions: Four Thematic Reports


Read the Knowledge and Data report here.

Read the Policy report here.

Read the Finance report here.

Read the Cities report here.


Expert Reports Urge Governments to Tackle Climate and SDG Crises Together in Key Areas of Policy, Finance, Data and Cities

Four reports are being launched on 11 June by experts convened by the UN, showing how action to tackle climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals can be accelerated by addressing both crises together, notably in the key areas of policy frameworks; financial systems; knowledge and data; and cities.

Under the umbrella title Seeking Synergy Solutions, the four thematic reports, spearheaded by the Expert Group on Climate and SDG Synergy, are being launched at a special event at the climate meetings in Bonn, Germany, laying the groundwork for the 2024 global synthesis report on climate and SDG synergy, to be released in July. The Expert Group is co-convened by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) and UN Climate Change (UNFCCC), which co-hosted the launch, joined by the secretariats of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

The recommendations come at a crucial time. As pointed out in the report on Policies that Support Both Climate and SDG Action, both the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development underwent stocktaking exercises in 2023 and were found to be far off track from meeting their goals. In 2025, countries are obligated under the Paris Agreement to put forward new and ambitious commitments in the form of enhanced NDCs (nationally determined contributions), and the report urges them to use this major opportunity to better integrate the SDGs and their national priorities, to accelerate impact.

A Movement to Break Down Silos

Currently, although evidence shows that synergies could be exploited between climate action and 80% of the 2030 Agenda, only about 20 of the current 170 NDCs explicitly refer to the SDGs. The report on policies recommends ways for governments to break down institutional silos and improve coordination across ministries and departments, acknowledging that even though research shows abundant examples of the benefits of pursuing synergies, institutional fragmentation creates many barriers to translating these into practice.

The 14 experts contributing to the reports hail from think tanks and universities around the world, where the study of co-benefits derived from synergies has long been part of applied systems analysis. As shown at annual UN conferences on climate and SDG synergy, the past years have seen a growing movement of government officials and policy makers looking to apply this research, as they aim to make their climate and development work more impactful. The synergy movement is also seen as a way to help make climate action more just, equitable and inclusive, as climate change often has the worst impacts on poor and vulnerable populations, and the SDGs are focused on "leaving no one behind." References urging governments to pursue synergistic policies have been included in recent years in the communiques of the G7 and G20, as well as at the UN.

Reducing Finance Gaps through Synergies

In the report on A New Financial System to Enable Both Climate and SDG Action, the experts show how pursuing climate and development targets together can help reduce investment gaps and course correct, recognizing that finance for climate and development action is falling far short of what is needed. Despite climate finance almost doubling in the last decade, a shortfall of over USD 4 trillion in annual finance flows by 2030 remains to meet the 1.5 degree C scenario, and also more financing is moving to higher income countries, leaving the Global South under-resourced. The report notes research showing that USD 43 trillion can be gained in economic output by 2070 by aligning climate and SDG actions.

Countries are urged to develop integrated national investment plans that align finance with domestic priorities and needs, maximizing synergies. The report also recommends an increase in financial flows, with a rethinking of the criteria for development assistance to focus on the needs and vulnerability of developing countries and the support of synergistic action. Noting that "what is un-insurable is un-investable", the report also recommends assistance for debt-distressed countries in creating reinsurance schemes to maintain the insurability of communities vulnerable to floods, severe storms and other climate impacts.

Cities and Knowledge Can Help Drive Synergistic Action

Noting that cities account for more than 70% of the world's GHG emissions and are home to more than half of humanity, the expert group report on How Cities Can Act on Both Climate and SDGs recommends that a key entry point for cities is to promote solutions that reduce consumer demand for carbon-intensive goods and services. These include encouraging a shift to low-carbon transport, energy-efficient heating and lighting, and plant-based diets, all of which support a number of SDGs. The report suggests that city governments adopt concrete reforms in four sectors that have significant potential for synergies: cooling, building energy efficiency, sustainable transport and waste management.

The report on Integrating Climate and SDG Knowledge and Data for Action urges ways to overcome the fragmentation of siloed institutional structures, climate finance and sectoral training by making knowledge and data more accessible to policymakers to support synergistic decision-making and promote action. One of the main recommendations of the experts is to establish a global platform for knowledge and data to facilitate synergies between climate and sustainable development actions by: including data on vulnerability and justice issues; Improving tools such as AI; assessing investment risks and returns; building local capacity; and promoting ambitious NDCs and policies adopting synergies.

Next Steps

The reports being released build on the success of the 2023 Global Report on Climate and SDG Synergy, which strengthened the evidence base on the co-benefits of synergistic action to address a world of multiple crises. The four thematic reports will feed into the 2024 Global Report on Climate and SDG Synergy, a collaborative effort by the Expert Group and over 100 multi-stakeholder experts, which will provide a clear roadmap, guiding policymakers on synergistic climate and SDG actions. It will be launched at a special event during the 2024 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). These reports will be a major input to talks at the Fifth Global Climate and SDG Synergy Conference, to take place 5-6 September in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.