Eliminating inequality and the threat of climate change key to new UN development goals

June 17, 2014
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Overcoming inequality and slowing global warming are imperative for achieving a world free from poverty and suffering, says an Oxfam report released today. “Making it Happen: Oxfam’s proposals for the Post-2015 Framework” comes ahead of the UN’s Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG) meeting in September.

As the era of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) comes to a close, two major injustices continue to undermine the efforts of millions of people to escape poverty and hunger: inequality and climate change. In 2015, the world has the opportunity to change that.

Inequality and climate change must be in the agenda

Economic inequality and climate change are addressed in the first draft of the Open Working Group’s proposed post-2015 goals, notes Oxfam. But binding commitments on these issues must be accepted as essential parts of the new agenda.

These goals are at risk of being cut from the final draft. They must remain, and include ambitious targets to reduce income inequality so that the income of the top 10 per cent is no more than that of the bottom 40 per cent, and to limit global warming to 1.5ºC.

“We strongly urge member states to fully support two goals on inequality and climate, with clear and ambitious targets. Millions of lives could be transformed if a bold new set of goals are agreed in September 2015 and then backed up at the UN climate talks in Paris. These agreements could lead to a more equal world, without the scourge of poverty and climate change, but only if they are resolute” said Oxfam’s Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima.

Coping with extreme inequality and working toward sustainable development

Increasingly, the voices of the poorest people are not being heard due to the growing power of those with the most wealth and influence. To help address this, Oxfam is joining those such as former Chief Economist to the World Bank and Nobel Prize winner, Joseph Stiglitz, in advocating the standalone goal to eradicate extreme economic inequality by 2030.

Oxfam's paper sets out overall proposals for the post 2015 framework, including goals on gender inequality, universal health coverage and education, and financing for development.

While there is widespread agreement that the new framework must support sustainable development, this must be translated into a bolder agenda. Oxfam is calling for the new framework to include a standalone goal on climate change plus goals on food and water for all, as well as targets throughout the framework to promote climate-resilience and low carbon sustainable development. These measures will help prioritize the need to keep global warming below 1.5ºC, and to address inequalities in access to resources, while living within our planetary boundaries. Since climate change will worsen the harm that conflict and disasters inflict, a goal to reduce global risks to sustainable development should also be included.

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Notes to Editors

  • The UN Open Working Group on the SDGs (OWG) will be discussing a ‘Zero Draft’ at their June meeting in New York. The current draft contains 17 goals and numerous targets – the final version is expected to contain no more than 12. The Zero Draft includes standalone goals on economic inequality and climate change
  • Oxfam supports the target to eliminate extreme economic inequality proposed by Stiglitz to reduce income inequality in all countries such that the post-tax income of the top 10 per cent is no more than the post-transfer income of the bottom 40 per cent. (J. Stiglitz and M. Doyle (2014) ‘Eliminating Extreme Inequality: A Sustainable Development Goal, 2015–2030’, Ethics & International Affairs, 20 March 2014.

For more information

Melanie Gallant
Media Relations Officer
Oxfam Canada


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