On February 22, 2022, St. John’s University School of Law held an event to discuss critical legal issues and obstacles related to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) focused on the environment. The event consisted of a panel of experts, including one speaker from the UN Joint SDG Fund, and one speaker who is an expert in New York’s implementation of the Climate Mobilization Act.
Lisa Kurbiel, Head of the UN Joint SDG Fund Secretariat, discussed how countries are working to achieve these goals outside of United Nation’s agencies, focused explicitly on combating climate change. She touched on joint efforts by different UN agencies on the acceleration of the Sustainable Development Goals focused on the environment and how the legal community shapes and furthers these efforts. Specifically, Lisa highlighted:
- Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
- Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
- Goal 13: Climate Action
- Goal 14: Life Below Water
- Goal 15: Life On Land
Lisa’s presentation furthered by talking about Small Island Developing States; particularly, Lisa spoke about those that are extremely vulnerable due to climate change. First, Lisa highlighted the Joint SDG Fund’s work in Indonesia where there are efforts to identify how communities are impacted by climate related disasters. The Joint SDG Fund is working with the government to institutionalize social protection systems in ways that are more adaptive to disasters – like the COVID-19 pandemic. Next, Lisa highlighted Barbados where the Joint SDG Fund is working to aid individuals in finding ways to shift their economy from tourism to another income source. Due to disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism in states like Barbados have been drastically decreased and as a result, economies are beginning to fail. Therefore, a new economy must be built of a platform other than tourism. Finally, Lisa highlights Fiji and the Joint SDG Fund’s effort to improve the Coral Reefs and landfill conditions. To read more about Fiji, see our last article published https://jointsdgfund.org/article/conversation-fijian-ambassador-legal-issues-relating-ocean-clean.
In addition to the Sustainable Development Goals, conversation focused on the Paris Agreement on climate change; conversations stated hope that the United States’ reentry into this agreement would prove a pathway for a more prosperous, equitable and sustainable future. The upcoming ‘decade of action’ (2020-2030) requires significant public and private investment to bring the SDGs and goals of the Paris Agreement to life for all people, everywhere. However, finance is often not channeled towards sustainable development at the scale and speed required to achieve the SDGs and goal of the Paris Agreement. Investments in sustainable development are growing in some areas and countries, and there is evidence that investing in the SDGs makes economic sense, with estimates highlighting that achieving the SDGs could open up US$ 12 trillion of market opportunities and create 380 million new jobs, and that action on climate change would result in savings of about US$ 26 trillion by 2030.
Finally, the event concluded by answering the question: what can lawyers do to fight climate change & promote sustainability? Simply put, the panelists emphasized that climate change start with YOU. Students and individuals globally should be aware of their own carbon footprint and their actions on a daily basis. As law students specifically, law schools are so diverse in how to select your courses so choose classes that interest you. Lisa concluded the event by stating the currently the UN Joint SDG Fund has seven interns from St. John’s Law; she encouraged students to find their passions, and then pursue internship or volunteer opportunities that align with those goals.
 Business and Sustainable Development Commission (2017) . Better Business Better World; Report of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate (2018) .