edie explains: Sustainable Development Goals

Earlier this week, the UN agreed on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will frame its policies and agenda over the next 15 years. What are they? How will they be funded? And how will they impact the UK?

Earlier this week, delegates from 193 member states at the UN headquarters in New York signed off on a 30-page agreement titled 'Transforming our world: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development'.

The draft document features 17 goals and 169 smaller targets, including pledges to protect the world’s oceans, improve water management and the energy system, and take urgent action on climate change. The overarching aim of the document is to 'end poverty'.

What are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals?

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Goal 8:  Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries

Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*

Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

When will the Sustainable Development Goals be implemented? 

The draft is scheduled to be formally adopted at a UN meeting in New York on 25-27 September. The UN says it expects more than 150 world leaders to attend.

If approved, implementation of the sustainable development agenda will begin on 1 January 2016.

What’s changed from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)?

A key change according to WWF, is the recognition of the “interlinkages between the sustainability of the environment, economic development and poverty eradication”.

The old goals included no mention of economic development for example, which is widely accepted to be one of the best way to alleviate poverty.

The MDG’s also included one just reference to the environment, a pledge to “ensure environmental sustainability”, while the new agenda contains nine separate goals that refer to the environment or sustainability.

How much will this cost to achieve?

The UN estimates that the cost of achieving the SDGs will be about $ 3.3-4.5 trillion a year.

Where that money will come from is less clear. A UN finance for development (FFD) conference in Addis Ababa in July was meant to provide a framework for funding, but the final agreement was described as ‘tragic’ by green groups, with no major steps taken.

Civicus, a global network of civil society organisations, said at the time: “We are disappointed that the FFD process has neither yielded new resources to fund the investments needed to end poverty nor taken meaningful steps to address problems in the international financial system.”

It is accepted that the private sector will have to play a huge role in financing the goals.

How does the UK Government feel about this agenda?

The Government has yet to release an official statement on the newly agreed goals, but there is speculation it is not overly pleased with the number of targets.

In September last year David Cameron voiced a preference for no more than 12 goals, preferably 10.

Referring to the proposal for 17 goals and 169 targets, Cameron said: "There are too many to communicate effectively. There’s a real danger they will end up sitting on a bookshelf, gathering dust.”

Where can I find out more? 

The UN's finalised text for adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals can be found here.

The new Sustainable Development Goals will be discussed in mch greater detail at edie's Sustainability Leaders Forum in November. The one-day event in London offers a unique opportunity for businesses to consider the long-term challenges that lie ahead and consider how new business models, innovations and collaborations can help to future-proof operations.

Register to attend the Sustainability Leaders Forum here.


| sustainable development | water | green policy


Water | Energy efficiency & low-carbon
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