Farmers in Taveta, Kenya: Achieving the SDGs fundamentally requires decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation.
Photo: ©FAO/Luis Tato


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A new relationship between people and nature is needed, as climate change and biodiversity loss threaten progress in development, scientists say. They call for urgent, targeted action to avoid reversing the development gains of recent decades, while science must play a major role in advancing sustainable development.

The current development model is not sustainable, the first quadrennial Global Sustainable Development Report prepared by an independent group of scientists appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General finds. The report entitled “The Future is Now: Science for Achieving Sustainable Development” was published mid-September 2019 and evaluates progress on the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

The progress made in the last two decades is in danger of being reversed through worsening social inequalities and potentially irreversible declines in the natural environment that sustains us, the scientists warn. A far more optimistic future is still attainable, but only by drastically changing development policies, incentives and actions, they conclude.

The report argues that understanding the interconnections between the individual Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the concrete systems that define society today will be essential to devise policies that manage difficult trade-offs.

Need to transform key areas of human activities

Creating economic growth just by increasing consumption of material goods is no longer a viable option at the global level: Projections indicate that the global use of materials is set to almost double between 2017 and 2060, from 89 Gigatons to 167 Gigatons, with correspondingly increased levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and other toxic effects such as those from mining and other pollution sources.

According to the scientists, the world must transform a number of key areas of human activities, including food, energy, consumption and production, and cities.

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