Johan Rockström, Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, explains why we must redefine sustainable development and develop Sustainable Development Goals that link poverty eradication to the protection of Earth’s life support.
Following up from recent UN meetings on the definition of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a group of international scientists have published a call in Nature, arguing for a set of six SDGs that link poverty eradication to protection of Earth’s life support.
They argue that in the face of increasing pressure on the planet’s ability to support life, out-dated definitions of sustainable development threaten to reverse progress made in developing countries over the last decades.
“Ending poverty and safeguarding Earth’s life support system must be the twin priorities for the Sustainable Development Goals, says Rockström, co-author of the Nature article.
The six goals
The new set of goals — thriving lives and livelihoods, food security, water security, clean energy, healthy and productive ecosystems, and governance for sustainable societies — aim to resolve this conflict. The targets beneath each goal include updates and expanded targets under the MDGs, including ending poverty and hunger, combating HIV / AIDS, and improving maternal and child health.
But also a set of planetary “must haves”: climate stability, reducing biodiversity loss, protection of ecosystem services, a healthy water cycle and oceans, sustainable nitrogen and phosphorus use, clean air and sustainable material use.
Co-author Dr. Mark Stafford Smith, science director of CSIRO’s climate adaptation research programme in Australia says:
“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 global transition to a sustainable lifestyle. But the link between these two aims must be more coherent”.