Sustainable Development Goal 13: Climate Action


Over the past few years, you may have noticed rising temperatures and more extreme weather conditions. These are symptoms of climate change, which is driven by increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Global climate finance flows, or investments to fight climate change, grew by 17% in 2015-2016 from 2013-2014. As of 2019, 75 countries sought support from the Green Climate Fund to finance national adaptation plans and other procedures. The total amount of money requested reached a combined value of $191 million, reflecting the world’s dire need to address climate change. In order to address this issue, the United Nations has set Sustainable Development Goal 13.

The Goal 

SDG 13 aims to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Targets and Indicators 

SDG 13 has three subgoals, or targets, that will help us meet SDG 13 as a bigger goal. Target 13.1 is to bolster adaptability to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in countries all over the world. Another important target, 13.3, is to improve education, awareness, and human and institutional ability to mitigate and adapt to climate change. This target centers on impact reduction and early warning. 

There are two other targets and even more indicators, which are numbers that show our progress in meeting the targets. One important indicator is the number of countries that incorporate mitigation, adaptation, and impact reduction into primary, secondary, and tertiary schooling. Hopefully, this number will grow as more countries add climate change information into their education programs, and the world moves closer to meeting SDG 13.

What’s Already Being Done

Progress towards meeting SDG 13 has been mixed. More developing countries are making plans to combat climate change and financing for climate action has increased, but more money is still being invested in fossil fuels.

Luckily, people are already combating climate change, particularly youth activists. Isra Hirsi developed an interest in social justice when she was only around 12 years old. She was moved by the story of Flint, Michigan, a city with a majority Black population, suffering a water crisis, and a proposed pipeline that was heavily opposed by Indigenous peoples in Minnesota. She participated in an environmental group at her school and went on to co-found the U.S. Youth Climate Strike. This grassroots movement fights for everyone’s right to a safe, livable future and challenges capitalism, Big Oil, and U.S. imperialism as forces that propagate climate change. 

Applying It: How Everyone Can Help

While organizations and governments must act on climate change, there are things you can do to combat it! Always turn the lights off. Get mail, news, and bills electronically. Bike or walk instead of driving. Take shorter showers, freeze leftovers, compost, and recycle. Join an organization like the U.S. Youth Climate Strike to learn how you can mobilize peers in your community. Reach out to officials and urge them to adopt strong climate change policies. You can also lobby your local board of education to make environment and climate sustainability be a mandatory part of the curriculum in your school. Though these steps may seem small, they can help the world meet SDG 13!

Think Further

  1. What is one action you can personally commit to taking to fight climate change?
  2. How does your culture talk about water or other aspects of the environment? If you don’t know, take a moment to research this and ask people in your family.
  3. The U.S. Youth Climate Strike has identified capitalism, Big Oil, and U.S. imperialism as some structures that may be stopping progress on climate change. Can you name any other structures or industries that you think also do this? Explain.


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Learn More

  1. Asmelash, Leah. “Greta Thunberg Isn’t Alone. Meet Some Other Young Activists Who Are Leading the Environmentalist Fight.” CNN. Cable News Network, September 29, 2019.
  2. “Goal 13 : Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.” United Nations. United Nations.
  3. “The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World – United Nations Sustainable Development.” United Nations. United Nations.
  4. What are some of the signs of climate change? USGS,