Billionaire Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates believes the war in Ukraine means that the chances of meeting the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) on time have been scuppered.

Speaking at the Lowy Institute on Monday, Gates said the war had distracted attention away from reaching the 17 UN SDGs—such as alleviating poverty, hunger and ensuring affordable and clean energy—by 2030. Gates has authored books on climate change, development and public health.

“The war in Ukraine will end. I certainly understand the resources being expended there, it’s a terrible tragedy. That tragedy has huge impact on developing countries the cost of food, fertilizer, you know all these things are going to kill as many people outside of Ukraine as people in Ukraine,” Gates said.

“So war, in terms of humans wasting resources to go backwards, war is top of the list and the sooner we can bring it to an end the better. The development goals, the UN set goals for 2030, the so-called sustainable development goals, we won’t achieve those goals,” he added.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was involved with creating some of the SDGs, especially in the field of health.

Using an example, Gates said: “We used to have 10 percent of all kids dying before the age of 5. That was over 10 million at the turn of the century and now that’s been cut to 5 percent of kids, less than 5 million a year. The goal we had was by 2030 was to cut that in half again and we will miss that by probably eight years and it’s because of the war.”

On the climate front, there has been stunted progress in some countries. European countries, in particular, are overly dependent on Russian fossil fuels, but due to international sanctions, they are no longer getting them from Moscow. In a bid to quickly become energy-independent of Russia, some have resorted to using mothballed coal plants to help provide their power instead of renewable energy. Coal is a major polluter.

Newsweek has contacted the UN for comment for missing the SDG target.

Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine does not look to be abating any time soon. Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing to launch a fresh offensive in Ukraine in the spring or early summer, according to one of the world’s leading military think tanks.

Since Putin launched his “special military operation” on Ukraine 11 months ago, Russia has made some territorial advances in the east and south of Ukraine, but has since lost several captured territories to counteroffensives from Kyiv.

Bill Gates in South Korea
Microsoft Corp co-founder Bill Gates delivers his speech at the National Assembly on August 16, 2022 in Seoul, South Korea. Gates said that the Ukraine war means that the world won’t likely meet the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Kim Hong-Ji/Getty