Integrated and simultaneous implementation of the SDGs will enhance benefits across the board, says International Resource Panel
IndiaCSR News Network
NEW YORK/Paris: As the world prepares to adopt a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UNEP’s International Resource Panel (IRP) cautions that unless prudent natural resources management becomes an integral part of policy packages, the SDGs will not fulfill their fundamental purpose — of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and addressing all aspects of sustainable development.
According to the IRP’s new report, entitled ‘Policy Coherence of the Sustainable Development Goals: A Natural Resource Perspective’, sustainable prosperity for current and future generations requires the maintenance and restoration of ecosystem health.
The IRP also cautions that policies to achieve the goals must be designed and implemented in an integrated way to maximize the progress towards all the SDGs and – ultimately – towards the overall goal of ending extreme poverty.
With a projected world population of more than 9 billion people in 2050 and rapid economic growth across developing and emerging economies, demand for natural resources, especially raw materials, is expected to continue to rise strongly. Against this background, increasing resource efficiency is an important factor in delivering environmental and climate protection, employment, social benefits and sustainable green growth.
IRP Studies show that the annual global extraction of materials increased by a factor of 8 during the 20th century and by 2009 we were extracting 68 billion tonnes of resources compared to around seven billion tonnes in 1900. Due to declining ore grades, depending on the material concerned, about three times as much material needs to be moved today for the same ore extraction as a century ago, with concomitant increases in land disruption, groundwater implications and energy use.
Pressure on biotic resources has also escalated. More than 20 per cent of cultivated land, 30 per cent of forests and 10 per cent of grasslands are degrading at a rate that undermines the ability of critical ecosystems to replenish themselves. Up to 25 per cent of the world’s food production may be lost by 2050 due to climate change, land degradation, water scarcity and other issues—yet, we continue to waste one-third of the food we produce each year.
“The core challenge of achieving the SDGs will be to lift a further one billion people out of absolute poverty and address inequalities, while meeting the resource needs – in terms of energy, land, water, food and material supply – of an estimated 8 billion people in 2030, ” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director.
“The fulfillment of the SDGs in word and spirit will require fundamental shifts in the manner with which humanity views the natural environment in relation to human development. For the SDGs to achieve maximum impact they must be implemented coherently, across all goals. There are major opportunities for synergies between goals, to ensure that progress towards one goal strengthens the fulfillment of others, and addresses resource constraints or conflicts which could limit progress towards others,” he added.
All 17 of the proposed SDGs will imply competition for resources, while progress towards 12 of them is directly related to the sustainable use of resources, including land, food, water, energy, and materials. The IRP’s new report assesses the interlinkages, synergies and trade-offs among natural resource-related SDGs that decision-makers must take into account in formulating policies for their implementation.
The report’s modelling demonstrates that if the SDGs on energy, food security and climate change are addressed by sectoral polices, there will be potential trade-offs between food systems, biodiversity, climate mitigation, nutrient pollution and freshwater use.
As such, progress should be made on all SDGs together, as an integrated, coordinated package, understanding the different goals, their resource requirements, managing the synergies and mitigating the trade-offs. Further, if policies are combined with sustainable consumption and production measures and implemented within a system of environmental and social safeguards, achievement of the combined goals is more realistic.
“Achieving the social and economic progress envisaged in some SDGs requires the simultaneous investment in natural capital envisaged in others” stated IRP Co-Chair and former European Commissioner for the Environment, Janez Potocnik. “Pursuit of the former and delaying action on the latter will not work. This implies a radical transformation in how policy-makers prioritise issues relating to the use of natural resources and the environment”.
Progress towards the SDGs related to food security, energy production and water and sanitation, for example, all depend on the same land systems that are subject to conservation strategies aiming to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Shifts in production systems that address structural inefficiencies, resource productivity and resource conservation strategies will reduce pressures on land, water and energy to meet the targets of food security, energy access, water security and climate resilience only to a limited extent. Policies addressing the demand-side, such as consumption patterns, will also be required.
tural resources over the whole life-cycle. The Panel’s reports have been used by and referred to by international organizations, national governments, think-tanks and research organizations, academia, industry and civil society, in their discussions and planning for new policies that take into consideration resource efficient and sustainable consumption and production.
Created in 1972, UNEP represents the United Nations’ environmental conscience. Based in Nairobi, Kenya, its mission is to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UNEP’s Division of Technology, Industry and Economics – based in Paris – helps governments, local authorities and decision-makers in business and industry to develop and implement policies and practices focusing on sustainable development. The Division leads UNEP’s work in the areas of climate change, resource efficiency, chemicals and waste and the green economy.
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