A sustainable recovery? Prioritising post-pandemic law and policy innovations to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals

The world’s Sustainable Development Goals are the global investment opportunity of a millennium.


We are living in a convergence of crises. Recent findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the World Health Organization (WHO), and other global scientific bodies highlight that humanity is reaching a critical crossroads.

Rapid and dangerous climate change is exacerbating global poverty rates, undermining access to essential food sources and threatening livelihoods for thousands of people, even as our planet’s ecosystems continue to degrade, with nearly 1 million species facing extinction. Successive waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, reaching over 44.7 million cases and more than 1.1 million deaths worldwide this month, risk a global economic contraction of 5.2 percent, further escalating poverty, according to the World Bank and UN Development Programme. The pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities – in health, wealth, and the burden of childcare borne by women – and it has created new ones, in access to ventilators and vaccines.

In response to these challenges, this policy brief, authored by Professor Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger, investigates the need to prioritise post-pandemic measures that pave a path to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The brief highlights how this can take place, by providing evidence of action undertaken in the past.

For instance, the pressing need to support SDG 13 (climate action), implement key binding international obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Paris Agreement. As one example, it looks to Canada, which is committing £1.5 billion GBP over five years towards climate action: New jobs from climate-related technologies, energy efficient innovations and building retrofits, zero emission vehicles and infrastructure; climate-related disaster impact reduction; and net zero future industries.

Countries are also working to achieve SDG 7 (access to clean, affordable energy) meeting their obligations in the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Energy Charter Treaty, as well as clean energy chapters in trade and investment agreements. The brief also highlights how economic stimulus measures can also improve food security in support of SDG 2 (zero hunger) and to protect terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity in support of SDG 15 (life on land), and supports the message of the Online Leverhulme Lecture & Distinguished Experts Dialogue: Pandemic Recovery, the SDGs and the Law. Watch online.


  • About the author

    Professor Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger, Visiting Professor

    Prof Dr Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger, DPhil (Oxon), MEM (Yale), BCL&LLB (McGill), BA Hons (Carl/UVic), FRSA, JFR, is a world-class academic legal expert and policy innovator in sustainable development. Laureate of the prestigious Justitia Fundamentum Regnorum and other international awards, she is Full Professor of International ...   Learn more

    Marie-Claire Cordonier-Segger