Reference: David Griggs, Mark Stafford-Smith, Owen Gaffney, Johan Rockström, Marcus C. Öhman, Priya Shyamsundar, Will Steffen, Gisbert Glaser, Norichika Kanie, and Ian Noble.(2013)
Sustainable development goals for people and planet. Nature, 495: 305-307. (21 March 2013)
“Climate change and other global environmental threats will increasingly become serious barriers to further human development,” says lead author Professor David Griggs from Monash University in Australia and former vice chair of the World Climate Research Programme. Humans are transforming Earth’s life support system – the atmosphere, oceans, waterways, forests, ice sheets and biodiversity that allow us to thrive and prosper – in ways “likely to undermine development gains”, he added.
Co-author Professor Johan Rockström, director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre said, “Mounting research shows we are now at the point that the stable functioning of Earth systems is a prerequisite for a thriving global society and future development.”
The team asserts that the classic model of sustainable development, of three integrated pillars – economic, social and environmental – that has served nations and the UN for over a decade, is flawed because it does not reflect reality. “As the global population increases towards nine billion people sustainable development should be seen as an economy serving society within Earth’s life support system, not as three pillars,”says co-author Dr. Priya Shyamsundar from the South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics, Nepal, and IGBP scientific committee member.
The researchers say that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set to expire in 2015, have helped focus international efforts on eight poverty-related goals. However, despite successes in some areas – the number of people living on less than one dollar a day has been more than halved – many MDGs have not been met, and some remain in conflict with one another. Economic gains, for example, have come at the expense of environmental protection. Politicians are struggling to link global environmental concerns with addressing poverty. Therefore, “Building on the experience of MDGs, the post 2015 development agenda should more accurately address governance, as the successful making and implementation of SDGs will depend to a great extent on governance arrangements” says Professor Kanie.
Co-author Dr. Mark Stafford Smith, science director of CSIRO’s climate adaptation research programme in Australia said: “The key point is that the SDGs must genuinely add up to sustainability. The SDGs have the potential to lock in the spectacular gains on human development that we have achieved in the past two decades and help the globe transition to a sustainable lifestyle. But the link between these two aims must be more coherent”.
The new research is linked to Future Earth, a new international research programme designed to “develop the knowledge required for societies worldwide to face challenges posed by global environmental change and to identify opportunities for a transition to global sustainability.” Several authors are closely involved in developing this new research programme. This paper is an early example of the solutions-oriented work that Future Earth will undertake, with interdisciplinary teams of scientists coming together across international borders to help solve sustainability problems.
“Ultimately, the choice of goals is a political decision. But science can inform what combination of goals can achieve a sustainable future. And science can identify measurable targets and indicators,” said Dr Stafford Smith.
Ending Poverty Requires Tougher Environmental Goals, Scientists Argue. Huffington Post (Alister Doyle), 21.03.2013
Scientists Propose a New Architecture for Sustainable Development. New York Times (Andrew C. Revkin), 21.03.2013
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