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New report highlights the UK’s current performance against the UN Sustainable Development Goals

28 September 2022

UN Global Compact Network UK Measuring Up 2.0
UN Global Compact Network UK Measuring Up 2.0

Championing the strategic partnership between Cardiff University and Welsh Water, Water Research Institute Director Professor Isabelle Durance and Director of Environment at Welsh Water Professor Tony Harrington co-authored a chapter on water and sanitation in the 2022 report on the UK’s progress toward meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. This press release was written by the UN Global Compact Network UK who co-ordinated the multi-stakeholder process which resulted in the final Measuring Up 2.0 report.

Urgent action is needed to ensure the UK achieves the ambitious commitments it made to end poverty, inequalities, and reduce the risks of climate change and ecological decline

A new report released today (28 September 2022) has highlighted the Government’s lack of progress towards meeting its commitments to deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the UK.

It calls on Prime Minister Liz Truss to show leadership by placing responsibility for the SDGs in her own office to ensure they are fully integrated across government.

This is the second report in the series and shows the worsening state of many of the SDG in the UK, particularly those related to poverty and inequality. It highlights the significant danger of quality of life getting worse in the UK if action is not taken, particularly in light of the energy and cost-of-living crisis and of the increased risks of climate change. Highlights of the report include:

  • The UK is only performing well (green) on 17% of the targets relevant to the domestic delivery of the Goals.
  • Compared to 2018, these results suggest improvements in 23 Targets, regression in 18 Targets, and no change in 65 of the Targets which were rated amber or red four years ago.
  • Poverty and inequality continue to deepen. One in every five people are currently living in poverty and it’s estimated that workers on the national living wage will need an extra £800 this year - the difference of 13 weeks of food - to meet the cost of living.
  • Respiratory infections (aside from COVID-19) primarily impact those living in the most deprived areas and air pollution is estimated to reduce life expectancy by 7-8 months in the UK.
  • Progress has been made increasing both the scale and scope of our efforts to tackle climate change, but both government and business are missing an opportunity to use the holistic framing of the SDGs to address systemic challenges.

The report, Measuring Up 2.0, comes from the UN Global Compact Network UK, a network of over 850 organisations dedicated to driving sustainable growth through responsible business practices including the Sustainable Development Goals.

Measuring Up 2.0 is the result of a multi-stakeholder process to show the UK’s current performance against the SDGs, the opportunities and challenges ahead, and top-line recommendations for achieving the SDG Targets. More than 100 organisations and individuals have taken part, including businesses, charities, academia, and professional associations.

The project looks at each of the 17 SDGs and 169 targets and uses both existing public policy and published data to understand the UK’s performance. This wide-ranging and in-depth performance assessment has been developed as the UK Government has not undertaken its own Voluntary National Review since 2019.

As a result, the UN Global Compact Network UK believe the links between targets and the need for cross sector collaboration to tackle issues are not being considered to best effect.

In her address to the UN General Assembly last week, Prime Minister Liz Truss expressed that “[o]ur commitment to hope and progress must begin at home - in the lives of each and every citizen that we serve”.

Lord McConnell, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the UN Global Goals, said: "No one doubts that the economic and security situation facing the world is very serious, but that is a reason to use the Sustainable Development Goals as the framework for recovery, not a reason to roll back on our ambitions agreed in 2015. National and local government in the UK need to up their game, setting out clear targets and measuring their impact. We cannot afford to leave more people behind, at home or around the world."

Rachel McEwen, Chief Sustainability Officer at SSE, said: “The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are a fantastic framework for businesses to align to in the pursuit of creating value for both shareholders and society. But it's not enough just to be inspired by them – we must act on them and transparently demonstrate to all stakeholders the progress that is being made. That's why this Measuring Up report is so important”.

“Measuring Up 2.0 provides a vital assessment of the UK’s progress towards the future we want. Unfortunately, it’s not a success story yet, but there is cause for hope. The report features inspiring examples of work already being done by the business community, investors, civil society, academia, and governments to advance the Goals” said Steve Kenzie, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact Network UK. “This agenda has support across the political spectrum. With strong leadership, there is tremendous potential to mobilise the resources and deliver the change we need to achieve the SDGs by 2030.”

The report is available to download from Measuring Up.

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