Leave No-One Behind: Australia and the 2030 Agenda

Since 1972, the human environment and the shift to more sustainable patterns of development have been a growing focus for the UN. Australia can help to lead the way.

By United Nations Association of Australia

Sustainable Development

Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Human Environment (1971-12-20) by UN PhotoUnited Nations Association of Australia

UN Conference on the Human Environment, 1972

Under the leadership of Maurice Strong, this was the first worldwide UN meeting to consider 'man's surroundings.' Its aim was to build political consensus on preserving and improving the environment for current and future generations. An Australian delegation was in attendance.

United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) Meets at Stockholm (1972-06-12) by UN Photo/Yutaka NagataUnited Nations Association of Australia

The Stockholm Conference, 1972

The UN Conference on the Human Environment highlighted the links between poverty alleviation and environmental protection. Led by Peter Howson, Australia's first Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and Arts, Australian delegation members A.I. McCutchan (L) and S.W. Gentle (R) discuss an issue at the Second Committee.

United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), 3-14 June 1992 (1992-06-04) by UN Photo/Michos TzovarasUnited Nations Association of Australia

The Rio Conference, 1992

At the ‘Earth Summit’ three key documents were agreed: the ‘Rio Declaration’ setting out 27 principles to balance economic development with environmental protection, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Here, Roslyn Joan Kelly, Minister of State for the Arts, Sport, Environment and Territories, Australia (C) signs the Framework Convention. 

United Nations Welcomes Third Millennium with Lights (1999-12-28) by UN Photo/Eskinder DebebeUnited Nations Association of Australia

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), 2000-2015

The UN kicked off the new millennium with a bold to-do list: eight goals to end poverty and tackle inequalities in health, education and sanitation. Australia was one of 189 countries that endorsed these goals and co-chaired the MDG Advocacy Group. Although not fully met, the MDGs demonstrated the power of shared targets to focus resources and build global momentum.

UN Observes World Environment Day (2007-06-05) by UN Photo/Devra BerkowitzUnited Nations Association of Australia

Momentum builds on global environmental challenges

Bindi Irwin (C), eight-year old daughter of the late Australian conservationist Steve Irwin, marks World Environment Day at UN Headquarters in New York with a melting ice statute of a polar bear, flanked by UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro (L) and Terri Irwin (R).

Prime Minister of Australia Ratifies Kyoto Protocol (2007-12-12) by UN Photo/Evan SchneiderUnited Nations Association of Australia

Australia ratifies the Kyoto Protocol, 2007

Under former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Australia continued its efforts to address climate change by committing to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and set binding reduction targets. Ending in 2020, the Kyoto Protocol will be replaced by the Paris Agreement.

Rio+20 Conference Opens in Brazil (2012-06-20) by UN Photo/Eskinder DebebeUnited Nations Association of Australia

Rio+20: The Future We Want, 2012

Rio+20 was the largest event in UN history. Member states including Australia renewed their commitment to the three dimensions of sustainable development—environmental protection, social improvement and economic growth—paving the way for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Sustainable Development Goal Blocks (2019-09-23) by UN Photo/Manuel EliasUnited Nations Association of Australia

People, planet, peace, prosperity and partnership, 2015

The 2030 Agenda addresses the economic, environmental and social aspects of development. It sets out 17 ambitious goals to end poverty and hunger, deliver good health, education and jobs, meet basic needs, ensure equality and inclusion, and protect the environment by 2030. Australia argued strongly for standalone goals for economic growth (SDG8), peace and good governance (SDG16), oceans (SDG14), and gender equality (SDG5).

Australian Environment Minister signs (2016-04-22) by UN Photo/Rick BajornasUnited Nations Association of Australia

Australia signs the Paris Agreement, 2016

Former Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt commits Australia to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to keep global warming 'well below' 2 degrees Celsius. As well as transitioning to low-carbon energy, we need to adapt to the impacts of climate change and build resilience.

Australia's Report on the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (Voluntary National Review) (2018) by DFAT/Jordana AngusUnited Nations Association of Australia

Australia's first Voluntary National Review, 2018

Australia delivered its first progress report on the SDGs at the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July 2018. In the same year, a senate inquiry into the SDGs made 18 recommendations for improved implementation of the Global Goals in Australia.

Secretary-General Visits Tuvalu (2019-05-17) by UN Photo/Mark GartenUnited Nations Association of Australia

UN Secretary-General observes impact of climate change

In 2019, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Tuvalu, Australia’s Pacific neighbour on the frontline of climate change. Observing local adaptation and resilience efforts, he reaffirmed UN commitment to global carbon neutrality by 2050 to limit the increase in temperature to 1.5 degrees.

Black Summer (2019) by Naomi van LeeuwenUnited Nations Association of Australia

Australia's Black Summer 2020

This creative take on SDG 15: Life on Land recalls the disastrous NSW bushfire season in early 2020. It was a winner of UNAA NSW's 'Creativity4SDGs' competition and highlights the alarming impact a warming climate will have on our native plants and animals.

The Perpetual Pelican (2019) by Hristina TsingasUnited Nations Association of Australia

Biodiversity under threat

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) each recognise that human wellbeing and economic prosperity go hand-in-hand with protecting and conserving nature. Yet biodiversity is under threat and Australia has one of the highest extinction rates in the world.

Can you spot the hidden SDG icons in this beautiful artwork celebrating Australian flora and fauna?

Dog Tooth Tuna (2019) by David DayUnited Nations Association of Australia

Closing the loop on Australia's waste

Australians love their beaches. SDG 14 represents Life Below Water and aims to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.” But right now we’re on track to have more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050. We need to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Sustainable Development Goal 3 - Good Health and Well-being (2019-04-05) by UN Photo/Manuel EliasUnited Nations Association of Australia

A Decade of Action until 2030

With only 10 years left to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals and build back better from COVID-19, it is more important than ever for Australians to step up and do their bit. 

How will you contribute to the SDG Decade of Action?

Discover more about how Australia seeks to be a good neighbour and responsible global citizen.

Credits: Story

Created by the United Nations Association of Australia (NSW) to celebrate 75 years of the United Nations and the untold stories of Australia's involvement, in collaboration with the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and New South Wales Government agency Multicultural NSW, using photographs supplied by project partners and sourced from UN Photo.

With special thanks to the UNAA UN75 curation team:
Tahnia Alludin
Maddie Gilholme
Luke Raisin
Sahera Sumar
Andrea Spencer-Cooke

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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