The 15 authors of the report Our Future is Now made an alarming evaluation of the pathways that we are collectively following relatively to the SDGs.
As we already recalled in a previous post, for some SDGs, we are really going backward.
Worse, the sustainability of the development proposed by the SDGs is seriously questionable. Let’s just quote the report:
Recent assessments show that, under current trends, the world’s social and natural biophysical systems cannot support the aspirations for universal human development that is embedded in the Goals.
No country is yet convincingly able to meet a set of basic human needs at a globally sustainable level of resource use. This is illustrated in [the opening figure of this post], which shows the status of countries according to the extent to which they are meeting social thresholds – that is, minimally acceptable levels of individual and social well-being along multiple dimensions –, while transgressing biophysical boundaries – that is, multidimensional assessments of environmental impact.
If we want to achieve Agenda 2030, all countries shoudl be, on average, in the upper left quadrant. It’s easy to see that we are far from it. And we are not currently on a path to go there:
It is clear that a business-as-usual scenario will not achieve many of the Sustainable Development Goals and may not even be a guarantee against backsliding.
The currently available evidence shows that no country is on track in reconfiguring the relationship between people and nature in a sustainable manner. All are distant in varying degrees from the overarching target of balancing human well-being with a healthy environment.
So, are we definitely doomed, and should we stop trying to do anything ? No, of course. But it won’t be easy, and we must be ready to change our ways.
There is reason for hope: human well-being need not depend on intensive resource use. One study found considerable variation in levels of biophysical resource use across countries that had successfully crossed identified social thresholds – a number of countries had done so while staying within biophysical boundaries.
Indeed, there were best-case examples for almost all of the social thresholds, which demonstrate that it is possible to advance human development within the sustainability limits of impacting nature.
In order to accelerate progress in that way, a more integrated approach that addresses multiple goals simultaneously is needed, rather than narrow, sectoral approaches that focus on one or an excessively narrow subset of goals at a time. The more efficient – or even the only – way to make progress on a given target is to take advantage of positive synergies with other targets while resolving or ameliorating the negative trade-offs with yet others.