Sustainable development goals under threat? Multidimensional impact of COVID-19 on our planet and society outweigh short term global pollution reduction

Abdul Qadeer, M. Anis, Zeeshan Ajmal, Kelly L. Kirsten, Muhammad Usman, Rivoningo R. Khosa, Mengyang Lui, Xia Jiang, Xingru Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call on all nations to accomplish 17 broad global development goals by 2030. However, the COVID-19 pandemic presents a challenging period in human history, causing large-scale impacts on society and the environment as governments shift priorities and divert funding in response to this pandemic. Through a literature survey and data acquirement from various international organizations (e.g. United Nations and European Space Agency), this manuscript is intended to provide critical insights into the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the SDGs. We briefly describe this pandemic's positive and short-term effects on the environment, followed by a critical evaluation of its potential long-term impacts on the environment, society, and the SDGs. On the basis of COVID-19 effects, the SDGs are classified into three categories: directly-affected SDGs, indirectly-affected SDGs, and a stand-alone category. The COVID-19-induced lockdowns and restrictions resulted in a short-term decline in environmental pollution and greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions, providing valuable data for climate advocates and researchers. These positive impacts were essentially temporary due to the synchronized global response to the pandemic. The halted focus on the progress of the SDGs greatly impacts the global green transition to a healthy and sustainable world. COVID-19 threatens to impede the progress toward a prosperous, environment-friendly, and sustainable global development in multiple ways. These multi-dimensional threats have been critically evaluated, along with a description of potential solutions to curtail the adverse effects of COVID-19 on the SDGs. Considering the limited data regarding the impacts of the pandemic on the SDGs, diverse collaborative studies at the regional and global levels are recommended.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103962
JournalSustainable Cities and Society
Early online date22 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • Multiple effects
  • Sustainable development goals
  • Climate
  • Environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Transportation
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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