Climate Change, Poverty, And Pandemic: Is It Time To Recalibrate The SDGs?

Climate change and poverty are like two sides of the same coin. We must address them together because if we fail one, we fail the other as well. But what happens when a pandemic like COVID-19 strikes? This pandemic has revealed the fundamental weaknesses of our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the global system.

Today, our world is dealing with a crisis of monumental proportions. The vicious, novel coronavirus is wreaking havoc across the globe, destroying lives and ruining livelihoods.  The primary impacts of the pandemic in the loss of human lives is distressing, but the secondary impacts on the global economy, on livelihoods, and on sustainable development prospects are even more alarming.

In the view of this crisis, a session on ‘Climate Change, Poverty, and Pandemic: is it time to recalibrate the SDGs’ was held on June 26, 2020, by MIT World Peace University, Pune.

The list of eminent speakers for this session was as follows:

  • Kartikeya Sarabhai
    Director, Centre for Environment Education (CEE)
  • Sant Baba Balbir Singh
    Seechewal (Eco Baba)
    Padma Shri, Chairman
    Nirmal Kuteya Seechewal, Jalandhar
  • Saurabh Gupta
    Founder and Director – Earth5R
    Member-OECD Roundtable on cities and regions for the SDGs
  • Dr. Gufran Beig
    Scientist-G and program director

The agenda of the discussion was to bring out the points we are lacking in our system and what changes can be brought to lessen the impact of this pandemic with respect to climate change and poverty.

The issues of the gap between the rich and the poor which could be a reason for the outbreak of this pandemic and why achieving the SDGs is important was also discussed.


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 goals, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015. The SDGs are a call for action by all countries – poor, rich and middle-income – to promote prosperity while protecting the environment. 

They recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs including education, health, equality and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and working to preserve our ocean and forests.

The agenda of these 17  SDGs are to build a better world for people and planet by 2030

Earth5R’s founder, Saurabh Gupta, mentioned his experience with professionals in global companies who did not know about SDGs or Circular Economies. 

The question that arises is that are these 17 sets of SDGs implemented on the ground level? This highlights the fact that citizen participation is very necessary for the implementation of any policy or goal.


While talking about how this pandemic has affected our informal sector tremendously, Kartikeya Sarabhai, one of the eminent speakers told us about various sustainability goals and how these are important in combating the pandemic, such as:

  • Goal 1: No Poverty and how by putting additional efforts we can implement nationally appropriate protection systems to achieve substantial coverage of the poor and vulnerable.

  • Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities and how by citizen participation we can have sustainable human settlement planning and management in all  countries.
  • Goal 4: Quality Education and how by ensuring equal access to all we can achieve affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education. 

Training of rural youth under the Jalsetu project on the use of digital platforms is one such Sustainable Rural development project for quality education.

  • Goal 13: Climate Action and how integrating climate change measures into national policies can strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards.

He also enlightened the audience about the ‘International Solar Alliance’, an alliance of 121 countries (Suryaputras) launched and initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi which has its headquarters in Gurugram, India

International Solar Alliance focuses on the utilization of solar energy and switching to a low carbon growth path. Sarabhai also made a remarkable comment on the carbon footprints saying, “Increase your handprint (an action towards sustainability) and decrease your footprints.”


A collateral impact of the COVID-19 is seen in the improved air quality and reduced CO2 emissions of some of the most polluted Indian cities with people being able to breathe clean air after a long time. 

An interesting point was put across by Dr. Beig regarding Ozone healing and how COVID 19 is a silver lining for air pollution.  He described how the reduction in pollution has led to 360 fewer deaths – a drop of 25% – in the US from illnesses related to pollution like asthma, lung diseases, and heart diseases.

Saurabh Gupta pointed out how the consumption of non-recyclable plastics has increased in this age as more people are opting for packaged food and takeaways but with pandemic, self sustainability is on the rise as more people are eating home cooked meals and avoiding outside products.

However, this trend is not likely to be long-lasting as emissions are likely to be back to pre-corona levels in a few month’s time, once the virus threat mitigates.

Only if we are motivated to become more eco-friendly in our daily lives, be more resourceful and carry our new habits into the future, we will be able to have positive environmental impacts that can go a long way to help the environment.  


At Earth5R, we work on the ideology that no government, no agency, no NGO can alone do what citizens can do collectively by just sharing some of their time and attention to the important issues that affect the planet

ACT (Action, Collaboration, and Transformation) Global project of Earth5R introduces a fresh perspective on ‘Sustainable Development’ which emphasizes collaborative citizen-led initiatives.

These sustainable and eco-friendly practises include,

  • Solid Waste Management
  • Educating and Promoting circular economy systems
  • Promoting renewable energy like solar
  • Urban Gardening
  • Afforestation

and more.

In the past year, Earth5R has brought together citizens, rag pickers, and local recyclers to create a niche of a community-based circular system.

Earth5R has also developed an ambitious Green Citizen Model which aims to make India sustainable by engaging citizens, volunteers, marginalized communities, governments, and corporates into a comprehensive sustainable development program.

The Green Citizen Program is based on four pillars: Sustainable Ecosystems, Sustainable Buildings, Sustainable Communities, and Sustainable Businesses.

The Green Citizens Project of Earth5R is aligned with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the UN.


Earth5R is an environmental organization from India with its head office at Mumbai. It works with the NGO sector, Companies and helps them conduct environmental corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs across India. Earth5R specializes in circular economy based projects. Earth5R also offers short term and long term environmental courses.

Earth5R’s Global Sustainability Hub is a cross-sector and cross-country collaboration in pursuit of UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is an excellent opportunity for governments and the private sector to engage with communities, use Sustainability-based models to drive economic changes, and create social and environmental impact.

Reported by Harsha Nath, edited by Riya Dani