Last week, my colleagues and I published a report called Sustainable Development Goals for People and Planet, which outlines what is required. We identified six universal goals for sustainable development: lives and livelihoods, food security, water sustainability, clean energy, healthy ecosystems and good governance. The next step is to define measurable targets, such as better lives for slum dwellers or reduced deforestation. Genuine progress in any of the six target areas will require a comprehensive approach, with policies that span the economic, social and environmental domains.
For example, eradicating poverty entails the provision of food, water, energy and access to gainful employment. However, providing energy to all requires governments to discontinue subsidies for fossil fuels and unsustainable agriculture. Achieving food security is impossible without agricultural systems and practices that not only support farmers and produce enough food to meet people’s nutritional needs, but that also preserve natural resources by preventing soil erosion and relying on more efficient nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers.
The Millennium Development Goals, due to expire in 2015, succeeded because they marshaled international resources and funding to address a focused set of poverty-related issues. The Sustainable Development Goals must go a step further. Like Einstein’s thought experiment, many lives depend on it.
David Griggs is director of the Monash Sustainability Institute in Australia.
Copyright: Project Syndicate