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SDGs need to avoid environment-development trade-offs

Jul 25, 2015

According to a new, the Sustainable Development Goals will sustain only if they are underpinned by a secure foundation of natural capital.

New Delhi: Efficient use of the available natural resource and minimizing the wastage should be the driving point of the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals, says a new report.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 goals and 169 targets to be achieved by 2030, form the core of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

The report states that the SDGs process has the opportunity of inaugurating a new era of policy-making that makes a reality of the simultaneous integration of economic, social and environmental imperatives.

Dwelling on the natural resource perspective of growth, the study advocates that increased efficiencies of resource use in production on systems along with reduction of wastes and unnecessary consumptive patterns (Sustainable Consumption and Production-SCP) are necessary for sustainable development.

The report titled ‘Policy Coherence of the Sustainable Development Goals’ recently released by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and developed with support from global think tank Development Alternatives (DA) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), highlights the need for an understanding of the nexus between components of the natural resource system and the natural and socio-economic ecosystems.

The report urges to find ways for meeting human development needs through environmental conservation at different levels and scales.

The report calls for promoting synergies and avoiding environment-development trade-offs among the Goals through a comprehensive analysis of natural resource and socio-economic system interactions.

Emphasizing on the integrated nature of the SDGS, the report appeals to the global community to not address each goal in a siloed manner. The study urges that SDGs should design policy strategies that address clusters of goals in such a way that policy actions are able to realize multiple targets across different goals.

Zeenat Niazi, Vice President, Development Alternatives, said that that SDGs offer an opportunity to set in place a national strategy for sustainable resource management across sectors.

“Lasting economic and social improvements will only be achieved if they are supported by a secure foundation of natural capital,” she said.

Niazi said that the SDGs would provide a chance for promoting the development and promotion of models of economy that enhance the value generated from each unit of resource. “We need to change mindsets from ‘grow-now clean-up later’ to ‘clean growth’. Also, country strategies will need to take into consideration the complex socio-economic and governance of resource access, as well as access to benefits accruing from resource consumption in an equitable and just manner,” she said.

In the next 20 years, more than 3 billion people are expected to enter the middle class (as measured by income levels and consumption patterns) in addition to the 1.8 billion today. These growing trends will greatly intensify the global extraction and use of resources, which based on current trends is expected to reach 140 billion tons annually by 2050 (UNEP, 2011), putting enormous pressure on the Earth’s natural resources and environment.

More than half the population of South Asia — home to more than 44 per cent of the developing world’s poor is rural and directly dependent on land-yielding natural biotic resources for their livelihoods, while rapid urbanization magnifies demand for energy and mineral resources that compete for the same land.

To maintain the momentum of the MDGs process after its completion, SDGs were proposed in 2012 at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). The UN General Assembly subsequently set up a process involving extensive consultation worldwide, to lead to the adoption of SDGs, which would guide international action towards sustainable development from 2015 to 2030.

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