UN Estimates More Than $5 Trillion Required Annually to Meet Sustainable Development Goals

Large conference room at the UN SDG summit with the UN's 17 SDG goals displayed on the walls

(Credit: UNCTAD)

by | Sep 20, 2023

UN economists have estimated that the cost of meeting global sustainable development targets will cost between $5.4 trillion to $6.4 trillion each year between now and 2030.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) calculated this value in a study of 50 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) factors across 90 countries, which covers about three-quarters of the world’s population. This figure represents an investment of about $1,179 to $1,383 per person annually.

The UNCTAD also expects the wealthiest world economies to account for 80% of SDG spending between now and 2030. If required actions are made to address biodiversity loss, lower pollution, and mitigate climate change overall, the world’s 48 developing economies will need $337 billion annually. When putting all developing economies into consideration, total yearly needs are projected to be between $6.9 trillion and $7.6 trillion.

The least developed countries will have to invest less per person than wealthy economies, but when putting these nations’ GDP into consideration, the amount of spending is still significant. The UNCTAD has previously identified a need for increased foreign direct investment toward sustainability projects in developing countries.

The UNCTAD analysis found major shortfalls in national sustainability spending trends and a need to rapidly increase funding to specific areas. Cost estimates and suggested areas for spending can help the world forge a pathway to reach the level of spending and effort needed to meet SDG targets.

UN Recommendations for Spending Allocation and Meeting SDG Goals

In order to address the massive amounts of capital needed to reach SDG goals, the UN recommends strategic allocation of resources. For instance, directing funds towards areas that address multiple SDG goals, such as education, works to improve gender equality and poverty reduction as well.

The UNCTAD analysis also emphasizes six key focus areas for transformation by way of sustainable development. This includes social protection and decent jobs, transforming education, food systems, climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, energy transition, and inclusive digitization. The recent G20 summit in India also recommended tripling renewable energy projects by 2030 as an efficient route to sustainable development.

Finally, included in the UN report is the need to address the global debt crisis as about 3.3 billion people live in countries that spend more on debt interest than on public services like health and education.

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