The Transforming Australia Platform has released an update on progress towards the SDGs, measuring country performance against 56 SDG-related indicators.
In 2018, Australia launched an online SDGs platform for tracking national progress towards the 2030 Agenda. The platform was developed by the National Sustainable Development Council, a body of experts from the Australian government, business, the research community and civil society.
The Australian Government has not set an implementation agenda, including targets, to achieve the SDGs.
The 2020 report, produced by the Monash Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI), applies the latest indicators, which aim to better understand how COVID-19 affects Australia’s ability to meet SDG targets. “The authors found that Australia is on track to meet just 12 targets by 2030 – one in five assessed targets. The rest, ten need repair, 11 need breakthrough, and 23 get off track.
The report notes that the Australian Government has not set an implementation agenda, including targets, for achieving the SDGs. Cameron Allen, MSDI and the United Nations Network for Sustainable Development Solutions (SDSN), noted that targets “set national priorities and levels of ambition, provide investment clarity and certainty, and encourage a shift from short-term to long-term thinking”. Without them, Australia is stuck in effective planning for its future, explains Allen.
Despite performing well in education and health, the report found that the country was “failing to reduce CO2 emissions, waste and environmental degradation,” as well as economic distress and inequality. Regarding the specific effects of the pandemic, the report shows that:
- This exacerbates existing trends, such as increasing unemployment, poverty and psychological distress;
- It has shut out the country’s traditional sources of growth, including trade, foreign investment and skilled migration, meaning Australia will “produce a new driver of our own economic dynamism”;
- This has seen an increased level of trust in the public and trust in the federal government; and
- This threatens to create pressure to reduce environmental protection and climate action if the country takes a single focus on economic recovery.
Among other findings regarding the analysis of SDG indicators for Australia, the report notes that:
- Wealth inequality has increased significantly;
- Women are more likely to lose their jobs and experience the psychological distress associated with the pandemic, and domestic violence is increasing;
- Australians are living longer but are fatter and, since the pandemic, drink more alcohol;
- The prison population has increased by 32% since 2006;
- Life expectancy for Indigenous people remains well below the national average, and Indigenous Australians make up more than 27% of the prison population, while just over 3% of the Australian population;
- Australia’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have decreased only slightly since 2000 and little progress has been made since 2013. Australia is far from being on track to meet its 2030 emissions target in line with the Paris Agreement to keep global warming well below 2 degrees;
- Australia’s per capita material footprint is one of the highest in the world – more than 70% above the OECD average – and growing; and
- Hard coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef has declined, and trends in threatened species have worsened since 2000.
In the two areas that have made positive progress, the total forest area has continued to increase since 2008 after a period of decline. More than five million hectares of planting are needed by 2030 to meet climate targets. And the share of ASX200 companies that submit adequate sustainability reports has increased substantially since 2008.
The report was launched by Nicole Bradford of the Australian Superannuation Fund Cbus Super, who said the SDGs are “an increasingly important framework for large investors” as they consider the communities in which their members will retire.
The Transforming Australia website includes a data dashboard, interactive charts and explanatory videos in addition to the 2020 report. [Transforming Australia] [Monash University press release] [Publication: Transforming Australia SDG Progress Report: 2020 Update ]