Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

28 Jul 2019

The sustainability goals we are not meeting

Posted by Michael Keating

In 2015, the world’s nations agreed on 17 sustainable development goals for the world by 2030. The goals have a strong focus on ending poverty and hunger, ensuring equity, promoting sustainable consumption and production, and protecting and managing the natural resource base of the planet.

An unofficial group of sustainability experts has produced the Sustainable Development Report 2019, a tally of how countries are doing. No country is on track for achieving all 17 goals. Nordic countries, particularly Denmark and Sweden, are top performers but even they face major challenges in implementing some goals. Even the best performers have trouble with responsible consumption and production, climate action and biodiversity protection. “Trends on greenhouse gas emissions and, even more so, on threatened species are moving in the wrong direction,” says the report. Income inequality continues and “high-income countries generate negative impacts on fatal accidents at work, typically by importing products and services from low- and middle-income countries with poor labour standards and conditions.” Half the world’s nations are not on track to eliminate poverty.

The report says market forces alone will not achieve sustainable development goals. “Directed transformations are needed to develop the technologies, promote the public and private investments, and ensure adequate governance mechanisms needed…” These transformations must have buy-in from all sectors of society or they will fail, as has already been seen in a number of countries. The report proposes six sustainability transformations:

  • Education, Gender, and Inequality
  • Health, Wellbeing, and Demography
  • Energy Decarbonization and Sustainable Industry
  • Sustainable Food, Land, Water and Oceans
  • Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • Harnessing the Digital Revolution for Sustainable Development

In September world leaders will meet at the United Nations in New York to report on what they are doing.


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