Events during the first few weeks of 2014 have sketched the outline for an extremely busy and challenging year for the international sustainable development policy making community.
As most people were still adjusting to writing “2014” as the date, the UN General Assembly's Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) convened for its seventh “stocktaking” meeting. Delegates at the 6-10 January meeting in New York, US, addressed key issues including human settlements, transportation, climate change, sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and chemicals. As our Earth Negotiations Bulletin analysis from the meeting highlights, the discussion of these issues brought into focus challenges related to the Rio+20 instruction to define universally applicable goals. Delegates presented options and questions, ranging from whether to identify universal goals with differentiated targets and indicators on human settlement issues, whether and how the developed countries could “take the lead” on issues that have historically been treated “differentially,” such as SCP, and how to avoid “renegotiating” issues for which extensive multilateral processes exist, such as climate change, while incorporating historically differentiated responsibility for this challenge. The eighth and final stocktaking meeting of the OWG will convene the first week of February, following which five negotiating sessions and additional informal meetings of the OWG will focus on elaborating universal SDGs that also meet Rio+20's other instructions: they should be concise and easy to communicate.
The week after OWG-7 kicked off the 2014 sustainable development meeting calendar, government and other representatives gathered in Geneva for the tenth plenary session of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO-X) and the third GEO Ministerial Summit. Speakers there highlighted the importance of data for policy makers, and the challenges in collecting, modeling and translating data for policy making, including at the global level.
Over the last few days, the fourth session of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Assembly convened in Abu Dhabi, UAE. It was preceded by the Africa Clean Energy Corridor High-level Meeting on 17 January, and is being followed by the World Future Energy Summit, which is taking place from 20-22 January 2014. In addition, the IRENA Renewable Energy Jobs Conference will take place on 21 January. Each of these events is seeking to set the agenda for the renewable energy community, with a communique identifying ways to help move the Africa Clean Energy Corridor project forward and decisions taken regarding the IRENA work programme and budget and other activities.
The list of upcoming meetings in this issue of Linkages Update identifies a number of additional, annual events that help set the year's agenda, including the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2014 and the 14th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit: Attaining Energy, Water and Food Security for All. We will be watching for the emergence of a narrative for 2014 from these and other upcoming events, and the challenges that the sustainable development policy making community must address.