Interdependency of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement

Nearly after a year of signing of both the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change, countries are now moving from negotiations to planning phase for implementation of the commitments. While the negotiations and global commitments for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change have happened in two separate negotiation forums, the inter-linkages are quite evident.

The climate targets inform and aim to influence the development pathway of countries. Climate change will impact our agricultural systems, water availability, health status, biodiversity and forest ecosystems and therefore the strategies for adapting to climate change will be closely associated with respective goals in these sectors (SDGs 2, 3, 6, 14, 15). Actions for mitigating climate change should be taken in high carbon emitting sectors like energy, industrial processes, transportation, etc. and therefore will have implied linkages with Goal 7, 9, 11 and 12 on energy, industries, urbanisation and sustainable consumption and production patterns respectively. The Sustainable Development Goals also dedicate one of the Goals i.e. SDG 13 on combatting climate change. One of the targets of SDG 13 is to integrate climate change in development planning.

This article explores the link of Sustainable Development Goals with climate targets committed in the Paris Agreement. The article further looks at the implications of these inter-linkages on the planning, financial flows, tracking of SDGs and climate targets in India.

WRI Study Explored Inter-dependency of Multilateral Commitments

The World Resources Institute’s (WRI) study on the alignment of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) and the Sustainable Development Goals observed that INDCs align with at least 154 of the 169 targets at a global level (Northrop et al, 2016). This shows the vastness of the climate action targets in terms of mitigation and adaptation to cover the SDGs by providing enormous support. In particular, poverty alleviation, energy, agriculture and land use, forestry, infrastructure and cities and human settlements are among the closest in terms of alignment between the INDCs and the SDG targets.

The indicators of SDGs can also help measure the progress on the climate report card. As suggested by David Waskow and Leo Horn-Phathanothai that the “indicators on integrating climate action across sectors are of particular relevance to linking climate and sustainable development objectives.” (Horn-Phathanothai and Waskow, 2016)

Indian Context

To explore the linkages in SDGs and climate targets, this article explores two examples: SDG 7 (Energy) and the mitigation target of India’s INDCs. (See Figure 1)

India’s nationally determined contribution has set itself a target of 40% non-fossil-based power capacity by 2030 which would result in at least 200 GW of new renewable power capacity by 2030. With approximately 900 GW of estimated renewable energy potential from commercially exploitable sources and favourable economic conditions, these targets can be met as long as financing and policy barriers and demand-side challenges are overcome. The choice of energy mix will decide the extent to which India achieves its climate targets. The choice of energy mix and the transition of the current energy production will also impact the estimated 300 million Indians who do not have adequate power supply, which is one of the focuses of SDG 7. The choices of industries in their power generation and efficiency will impact the use and source of electricity. Similarly, fostering innovations and greening our industries (SDG 9) and the production choices (scale, technology) will impact the production and use of energy and hence impact our climate targets.

The energy mix that India chooses will contribute to the emissions from the country, which the country is going to track on the targets set at the Paris Agreement. But energy production also utilises other natural resources like water, land and material in accordance to the scale and technology used to produce energy. The approach that India takes (life-cycle preferably) will impact the sustainability of production in the long run with respect to these resources. For instance: use of heavy metals for making solar grids and use of water for hydro-electric energy production. The first can come in conflict with the balanced land and terrestrial systems (SDG 15) and the water balance and availability in the country (SDG 6), which indirectly affects other goals like agriculture (SDG 2) and sanitation (SDG 6). Further, the scale and technology of energy production not only impacts the environment but also impacts the jobs created or destroyed in the process (SDG 8). In this way, the choice of renewable energy production will have to measure the people’s benefits from the new production systems for renewable energy.

Implications on interconnected-ness of SDGs and Paris Agreement

• Integrated Development Planning
NITI Aayog in India has been entrusted with the role to coordinate ‘Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’. Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) has already undertaken a parallel exercise of interaction with the ministries to evolve indicators reflecting the SDG goals and targets. The responsibility of planning, action and reporting on the progress on SDGs has been entrusted to state governments of the country. States have been given the task to propose their plan to NITI Aayog and report on its status for review of progress.

In the area of climate change, climate change adaptation and mitigation in India is implemented by its subnational units i.e. the States. These policies are translated down from the national level. The State Action Plans are based upon the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) prepared by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. States are at different trajectories in implementation of their SAPCC.

• Integrated Financial Flows
As compared to the commitments, there isn’t an equally ambitious plan to finance and get the resources to reach the goals of Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement on climate change. Another aspect of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and climate finance is that these are looked at as distinct. Currently, the focus of climate sensitive ODA to developing countries is mostly on narrow climate mitigation/ adaptation projects rather than achieving climate resilience on SDG targets (Steele, 2015). There should be a mechanism to focus international public finance on climate resilient SDGs to enhance resilience rather than specific adaptation/mitigation programmes.

• Tracking Composite Progress
Indicators need to be deviced such that they are appropriately encompassing climate and SDG targets. Since the indicator exercise for SDGs is in process and we have tangible numbers to track on Climate agreement, it is critical to see, what indicators contribute in what proportion to the achievement of climate target and vice-versa. An example with one of the INDCs is elucidated in Figure 1.


With the new commitments in place, it is essential that India must bring them together. It is critical that the States integrate their climate plans – SAPCCs (that contribute in achieving INDCs) and the SDG plans in their annual planning and budgeting exercise. An integration at the planning level will allow, for instance, to ensure that while choosing renewable energy choices for INDCs, one also takes into account jobs created/destroyed in the process and whose demand does the produced energy caters to. There are multiple areas of convergence for India as it can use the launched Skill India, Make in India, education initiatives to move towards achieving it’s developmental and climate targets. By finding a strong synergy and integrated approach to climate action and sustainable development, India will fulfill its undertaking of both the multilateral agreements from last year.

Syed Abdul Aziz Ishaqi Farhan
Anshul S Bhamra


Horn-Phathanothai, L. and Waskow, D. (2016). COMMENTARY: Making the Links Real. [online] World Resources Institute. Available at:
• Northrop, E., H. Biru, S. Lima, M. Bouye, and R. Song. 2016. “Examining the Alignment Between the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions and Sustainable Development Goals.” Working Paper. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute.
• Paul Steele. 2015. Development finance and climate finance: Achieving zero poverty and zero emissions. IIED Discussion Paper. IIED, London.

1 India has signed and ratified the Paris Agreement, therefore it is no longer “INDC” rather “NDC”. Considering uniformity, we have used INDC throughout.

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