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At UN event, cooperation sought for sustainable development

By MINLU ZHANG at the United Nations | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-09-19 10:12

A light display created using drones is performed before the city skyline and United Nations headquarters as part of a campaign to raise awareness about the Amazon rainforest and the global climate crisis ahead of the 78th United Nations General Assembly and Climate Ambition Summit, in New York City on September 15, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

To advance sustainable development, the world needs regional cooperation, particularly in managing shared resources, and global challenges should be addressed through cooperation rather than conflict, business leaders and scholars said at a United Nations side event.

Jeffrey Sachs, an economist and the director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, told the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit side event on Innovation for Industrial Sustainability that comprehensive and long-term planning is critical in addressing global challenges, particularly in areas like decarbonization, sustainable resource management, and infrastructure development.

China has the most effective planning instruments in the world, particularly in its five-year planning cycles, said Sachs, and he suggested that China should share its planning expertise with the world.

He highlighted the importance of international initiatives like the Belt and Road Initiative and the Global Energy Interconnection proposal in advancing sustainable development.

"China has two really important initiatives … that should be strongly joined together.

One of course is the Belt and Road initiative, which is an excellent initiative, and I hope China doesn't in any way shy away from it even if some of the countries are facing short-term debt service problems in the Belt and Road family.

"These are short-term problems. China knows how to look to the long term, make the debt long term, don't write it off," he added.

The second is global energy interconnection, Sachs said. "China is propounding through the Chinese state grid and specifically through Geico, which is the Global Energy Interconnection development cooperation organization made by the China state grid.

"If you listen to some countries like one I happen to live in, the region's divided into blocs: pro-China, anti-China. This is ridiculous. The region hangs together because it should share energy systems of power grid and connectivity in fiber," Sachs said.

"We don't need a new Cold War or divisions or NATO in Asia or any of these ridiculous ideas," he said. "We need cooperation in Asia, and this would make a huge difference. And by the way … if China and Japan and Korea sit down and cooperate with each other, they'll realize they're the superpower of the world in green innovation."

The SDG Summit side event was co-organized by Tsinghua University, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and UN Water, supported by the Sustainable Business Leaders platform.

As an official side event of the SDG Summit, it spotlighted Chinese companies' concerted push toward net-zero goals, offering invaluable insights to global counterparts.

ANTA Group, for example, whose products draw more than 200 million global consumers, is taking the lead in accelerating and implementing sustainability practices in its supply chain and their impact on the broader consumer goods sector, according to Wu Yonghua, executive director of the board and co-CEO of ANTA Sports.

Energy-saving and carbon reduction have become the latest buzzwords in manufacturing, said Judy Fong-Yee Tu, executive director and vice-president of China Feihe.

Still, implementation remains challenging. Businesses must come together to accelerate technology breakthroughs and explore practical solutions for sustainable development, Tu said.

"We are at a crucial juncture in our journey towards achieving the 2030 Agenda. However, our progress towards most of the SDG goals has been faltering. Only 12 percent of the SDGs targets are on track; progress on 50 percent is insufficient or regressed," Li Junhua, the UN under-secretary-general for economic and social affairs, said Sunday.

Held every four years, the SDG summit represents the UN's highest level of discussions on sustainable development. This year's summit, on Monday and Tuesday in New York, is particularly significant as it marks the halfway point to the deadline set for achieving the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.

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