21 January 2019

#SDGsinAcademia: SDG Hub for Goal 13

As part of the ongoing campaign on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) carried out by the United Nations, the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) series #SDGSinAcademia profiles the new SDG Hubs for each one of the Goals in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

21 January 2019 - This week our #SDGsinAcademia series features the University of Zurich (Switzerland), a member institution of United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), that has been chosen as the SDG Hub for Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

About the Hub:

The University of Zurich (UZH) is Switzerland's largest university. Founded in 1833, UZH was Europe's first university to be established by a democratic political system. Made up of seven faculties covering some 100 different subject areas, UZH sets priorities in research and teaching by considering the needs of society. In addition, UZH strives to promote sustainable procurements, foster efficient energy consumption, and takes other steps toward achieving a sustainable campus in order to reduce the environmental impact of its operations.

What is this Hub doing about Goal 13? 

Through its research and teaching, UZH has contributed over the years in several ways to the targets listed under the SDG 13 on Climate Action. Improving education and capacity building in climate change adaptation, impact reduction and early warning are topics at the core of research and teaching of several members of the Department of Geography. The professorship for Political Economy and Development at the Department of Political Science covers issues of climate change mitigation in developing countries, climate change adaptation, the negotiation processes under the UNFCCC and the interlinkages between climate and energy policy.

Issues of responsibilities and climate justice are researched at the Center for Ethics and the Department of Communication and Media Research looks at how the topic of climate change is communicated to the public and opinion leaders. The Center for Financial Networks and Sustainability is engaged in exploring the concept of climate stress tests of the financial system. The university-wide research program on global change and biodiversity has generated state of the art research on the interactions and feedbacks amongst global change drivers (one of which being climate change) and their impacts on humans and ecosystems.

Four senior researchers from two different departments have been involved as Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) lead authors in the working group I, II and III of the fifth and sixth assessment cycle. The university has produced several peer reviewed publications which have fed into IPCC assessment and special reports. Researchers have regularly taken part in COP negotiations and contributed to climate policy with projects, policy reports and science briefs.

Due to established capacities and knowledge in climate change, a group of researchers from both the University of Zurich and the ETH Zurich created an informal network for “Interdisciplinary Climate Research”, to engage academics in systematic exchanges in research and teaching activities. The network currently includes 50+ members from several departments and a broad range of disciplines. In the past few years the network organized interdisciplinary climate colloquia for young researchers, produced a special issue on climate justice in interdisciplinary climate research and coordinated outreach events and workshops.


The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018 reviews progress in the third year of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It has an overview that presents highlights of progress and remaining gaps for all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), based on the latest available data, and examines some of the interconnections across Goals and targets.

This is the overview provided in the Report about Goal 13:

The year 2017 was one of the three warmest on record and was 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period. An analysis by the World Meteorological Organization shows that the five-year average global temperature from 2013 to 2017 was also the highest on record. The world continues to experience rising sea levels, extreme weather conditions (the North Atlantic hurricane season was the costliest ever recorded) and increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases. This calls for urgent and accelerated action by countries as they implement their commitments to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

  • As of 9 April 2018, 175 Parties had ratified the Paris Agreement and 168 Parties (167 countries plus the European Commission) had communicated their first nationally determined contributions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat.

  • In addition, as of 9 April 2018, 10 developing countries had successfully completed and submitted the first iteration of their national adaptation plans for responding to climate change.

  • Developed country Parties continue to make progress towards the goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion annually by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions.


The following resources provide general information about the SDGs:

  • This is a comprehensive research guide from the UN Library in Geneva listing resources about each one of the Goals, including books and articles (some of which are fully available on line free of charge), UN documents such as resolutions and reports, and additional resources.

  • The SDG Fund has created this online library featuring over 1,000 online publications. The publications are categorized by the Goals they represent, geographical regions and by authors, to facilitate searchability. Each publication also has a short summary attached to it which helps with keyword searches.

  • This selection of tools is an initiative supported by UNDP, UN-HABITAT and the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments, which offers concept notes, papers, case studies, compilation of best practices and guides providing contextual and practical information about the SDGs.

  • This guide, entitled “Getting Started with the Sustainable Development Goals”, is intended for stakeholders and designed by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) to serve as an initial basis for implementing the SDGs.

  • SDSN also developed this guide, entitled “Getting Started with the SDGs in Universities”, to help universities, institutions of higher education and the academic sector in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific to accelerate their contributions to the SDGs by providing practical guidance and examples to inspire further action.

You can learn more about the SDG Hubs at the UNAI website.  

Is your institution a member of UNAI and conducting activities and initiatives around Goal 13? Contact us at academicimpact@un.org to tell us about your work and let us connect your university with the SDG Hub! Working together we can make the 2030 Agenda a reality!