SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS – The Debate Gets Going

by Victor Anderson, Senior Policy Officer, Green Economy, WWF-UK

One of the key decisions at the Rio conference was the go-ahead it gave to establishing a set of goals for the world community: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Before and during Rio, some proposals were put forward about what some of these Goals should be. But the emphasis of the debate was firmly on what ought to be the process for deciding the Goals, and on whether to have them at all.

Now, however, discussions have moved on. The UN is setting up an advisory committee to make recommendations about the SDGs, and governments and other organisations are moving ahead with discussions about the specifics of the Goals themselves, and the indicators necessary to go with them. In the UK, the International Development Committee (IDC) of the House of Commons, responsible for the scrutiny of the Department for International Development (DfID), is carrying out an inquiry into the SDGs.

The Planetary Boundaries Initiative has just sent in evidence to that inquiry. The key points we’ve made are:

  • Planetary boundaries have an important role to play in deciding on the SDGs, because they highlight key sustainability issues which should be referred to in any goal-setting.
  • The major task for the world community is not the achievement of environmental goals on their own, or economic and social goals on their own, but the achievement of both sets of goals together. This has been summarised in the Oxfam “Doughnut” diagram.
  • The individual goals should be based on this principle, seeking development targets within the context of environmental limits.
  • SDGs should be thought about in conjunction with the review of the Millenium Development Goals and the setting of goals regarding climate change.
  • The SDGs must be linked to means of implementation – such as finance and legally binding agreements.

Our proposals are simply a contribution to the current stage of the debate. The SDGs themselves should be the outcome of a thorough process of review and consultation.

When our evidence to the committee becomes public we will put it on this website, and look forward to seeing what others are proposing.

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