S & S Decoded: The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals

You may have heard of the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals – but what exactly are they? How did they come to fruition? Who are they designed for? How do they inform global sustainability decision making? Can we achieve them?

In this S & S Decoded, I deduce the above and examine how we can use each of the sustainable development goals as guiding principles and policy initiatives to better our people and planet.

What are the Sustainable Development Goals?

The 2030 SDG’s were originally devised by the European Union as a set of guiding principles to place emphasis on sustainable practices to benefit all those that inhabit the world and natural capital. They have since been developed by the United Nations in 2015 at the General Assembly to create a pioneering global blue print for ‘dignity, peace and prosperity for people and the planet, for now and in the future’. Devised to include 17 strategic goals with a total of 169 targets, these broad international aims are utilised as an instrument by businesses, countries and institutions alike. Beyond reaching climate targets set within the 2015 Paris Agreement the SDG’s provide a multi-stakeholder framework which modernises previous global goals and focuses on securing a safe operating space for future generations through agriculture, biodiversity, water, equality, education, investment and so much more! This framework not only informs policy decision making and target setting but for businesses, often acts as a backbone for CSR reporting and a means to devise their sustainability strategy accordingly.

Why do they matter?

Below I have summarised each goal with key facts on why they matter:

Goal 1 – End poverty in all its forms everywhere

  • By 2030 167 million children will live in extreme poverty if the world doesn’t take action to improve health and education
  • Over 700 million people (11% of the world) live in extreme poverty, living on less than $1.90/ a day
  • 30 million children are growing up poor in the world’s richest countries
  • To end extreme poverty, the total cost / year would be approximately $175 million accordingly to economist Jeffery Sachs (>1% combined income of the world’s richest countries)

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

  • A profound change of the global food and agriculture system is needed to nourish today’s 795 million hungry and the additional 2 billion increase in global population expected by 2050
  • There are nearly 800 million people who suffer from hunger worldwide (approx. 1/9 people)
  • We need an estimated $267 billion / year to end world hunger by 2030 which can be done through reinvestments

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

  • Spending $1 billion in immunization coverage can save 1 million children’s lives each year
  • Over 6 million children still die before their 5th birthday
  • Only ½ of women in developing countries have access to the healthcare the need
  • If $1 billion was spent on immunization coverage we could save 1 million children’s lives each year
  • Non communicable diseases if not tackles could cost low/mid income countries over $7 trillion in the next 15 years

Goal 4 – Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities

  • While enrolment in primary education in developing countries has reached 91%, 57 million children remain out of school
  • Over ½ children have not enrolled in school in Sub Saharan Africa

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

  • On average less than 1 in 3 senior and middle management positions are held by women
  • In 2014, 143 countries guaranteed equality between men and women but 52 yet to take this step
  • Investing in education for girls can return $5 for every dollar spent
  • Improving income generating activities for women can return $7 dollars for every dollar spent

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

  • 3 in 10 people lack access to safely managed drinking water services
  • 1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water contaminated
  • 2.4 billion lack access to basic sanitation washing services
  • Water scarcity affects over 40% of the global population
  • Over 800 children die every day due to diarrhoeal diseases
  • Extending basic sanitation services would cost $28.4 billion / year from 2015-2030 (0.10% of global product included in UN’s study)
  • Economic impact of not investing in water sanitation includes 4.3% GDP in Sub Saharan Africa/6.4% in India

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

  • If people worldwide switched to energy efficient lightbulbs, the world would save $120 billion annually
  • Under 1 billion do not have access to electricity (16/20 of those with largest deficits are in Africa)
  • We need to triple our investment in sustainable energy infrastructure/ year from $400 billion to $1.25 trillion by 2030.

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

  • 30 Million is the number jobs required annually for new entrants to the labour market to keep up with the growth of the global working age population
  • In 2017 5.6% of global population were unemployed
  • We need 470 million jobs globally for the labour market between 2016 – 2030

Goal 9 – Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation

  • Industrialisation’s job multiplication effect has a positive impact on society. Every 1 job in manufacturing creates 2.2 jobs in other sectors
  • 1.2 billion people don’t have access to reliable phone services
  • In developing countries under 30% of agricultural production undergoes industrial processing

Goal 10 – Reduce inequality within and amongst countries

  • We cannot achieve sustainable development if we exclude any part of the worlds population
  • An estimated 69 million children under 5 die from curable causes
  • We can change this, from 2010-2016, in 60/94 countries w. data, the incomes of the poorest 40% of the population grew faster than those of the entire population

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

  • 5 billion people are projected to live in cities by 2030
  • 3.5 billion people live in cities and this will continue to grow
  • 833 million people live in slums
  • Cities occupy 3% of the lands earth but account for 60-80% of energy and create 75% of carbon emissions

Goal 12 – Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

  • If the global population reaches 9.6 billion by 2050, almost 3 planets will be required to sustain current lifestyles
  • 1/3 of all food produced (1.3billion tonnes worth approx. $1 trillion) ends up being wasted
  • Households consume 29% of global energy and contribute 21% of resultant CO2 emissions

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

  • The Paris Agreement has helped open up nearly $23 trillion in business opportunities in emerging markets for climate smart investments
  • If left unchecked, climate change will cause average global temperatures to increase beyond 3 degrees.
  • Public/private sector investment needs at least $1 trillion by 2030 to build climate resistance
  • Investments of only $6 billion for disaster risk reduction over the next 15 years would result in benefitting $360 billion in terms of avoided losses over the lifetime of the investment

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

  • Over 3 billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihood
  • Approx. 20% of the worlds coral’s have been destroyed with no hope for recovery
  • 24% of remaining reefs are under imminent risk with 26% under longer-term threat of collapse
  • The lost economic benefits from the fisheries sector are estimated to be around US$50 billion annually
  • The cumulative impact of poor ocean management practices is at least $200 billion annually
  • Scaled up actions to sustain the global ocean requires $32 billion one time public cost and $21 billion a year for recurring costs

Goal 15 – Protest, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainable manage forests, combat desertification and half and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

  • Around 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood, including 70 million indigenous people
  • Forests cover nearly 31% of our planet’s land area
  • 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood
  • Almost 75% of the world’s poor are affect directly by land degradation
  • Forests are home to over 80% of all terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects
  • Of 8300 breeds known, 8% are extinct and 22% are at risk for extinction
  • UN Forum on Forests Secretariat estimates that achieving sustainable forest management globally would cost approx. $70-160 billion per year
  • The Convention on Biological Diversity estimates $150-440 billion annually is required annually to halt the loss of biodiversity
  • Insects and pollen carriers create worth of over $200 billion per year on the global food economy
  • ¾ of the top ranking global prescription drugs contain plant derived components
  • Natural disasters that disrupt ecosystems cost the world over $300 billion annually

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

  • Peaceful, just and inclusive societies are necessary to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals
  • This includes freedom to express views, justice, tackling violence and inclusion

Goal 17 – Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development

  • Greater effort is needed to align development cooperation with country defined development priorities and results, especially in fragile countries

Final thoughts

Achieving these goals requires the involvement of all stakeholders, whether it’s us as citizens, policymakers, the private sector or the scientific and academic community. To incite change at global levels, we need to start locally acknowledging how all of our incremental actions can amount to tangible shifts and holding those in power to account to deliver the results for 2030 and beyond! Acknowledging the interlinkages between each of these goals and targets, whether its mobilizing technology, capacity building, or injecting the required financial investment, is crucial to ensure no one is left behind as the earth continues to evolve. It was so incredible last year visiting Green School Bali to see these integrated into the learning curriculum and ethos of the school! Whilst some goals are prioritized more frequently than others, all elements are mutually reinforcing and ‘to preserve the future, the right policy choices have to be made today’.

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