As the world approaches the halfway mark for achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a sobering report reveals a dire situation. 

The report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) featuring contributions from Australian researchers, shows that just 15 per cent of the SDGs are on target.

The report states that to align with the Paris Agreement's climate objectives of limiting global warming to under 2°C, greenhouse gas emissions must shrink by 30 per cent by 2030 and by 45 per cent for the 1.5°C target, with net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

These bold changes require swift, extensive transformations.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is already faltering, is highlighted in the report. 

Extreme weather events, induced by climate change, are causing worldwide chaos, with the response falling short.

“Science is central to solutions,” says UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

The report emphasises the role of weather, climate, and water-related sciences in enhancing food production, disease anticipation, and poverty reduction.

Between 1970 and 2021, climate-related disasters led to 2 million deaths and $4.3 trillion in losses, primarily in developing nations. 

Rising global temperatures amplify extreme weather risks, with a 66 per cent probability of temporarily surpassing the 1.5°C threshold in the next five years.

However, emissions remain stubbornly high, with fossil fuel CO2 emissions rising by 1 per cent globally in 2022, and preliminary data from early 2023 indicating a further 0.3 per cent increase. 

To stay on course for the Paris Agreement goals, the report insists on emissions reductions of 30 per cent and 45 per cent by 2030 for 2°C and 1.5°C limits, respectively.

The report's overarching message is clear: every degree and every ton of CO2 reduction count in averting climate catastrophe and fulfilling the SDGs. 

It calls for immediate greenhouse gas reductions.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, says real, transformative work is imperative, urging a just transition toward a sustainable future. 

With none of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on track for achievement by the 2030 deadline, Australian scientists, appointed by the UN to assess SDG progress, stress the urgency of rethinking humanity's approach to these critical goals.

In a commentary in Nature, the researchers pinpoint three crucial areas for action: overcoming obstacles to progress, identifying feasible and cost-effective pathways to the goals, and strengthening governance. 

Of the 17 SDGs established in 2015, only two are currently on track: access to mobile networks and internet usage.

The researchers say evidence-based policy pathways tailored to different sectors and nations are needed, recognising that solutions that work in high-income countries may not be suitable for low- and middle-income nations.

They also highlight the importance of policy approaches that simultaneously address all SDGs while managing trade-offs, such as the positive impact of solar electricity subsidies on clean energy, health, and education.

Moreover, the scientists advocate for the development of criteria to assess the impact of various SDG governance processes and for researchers to support stronger national accountability on SDGs.