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Guarded welcome for new sustainable development goals

Wallington based charity BioRegional has given a guarded welcome to the outcome of negotiations on a new set of global goals for sustainable development. But there is still much work to do in order to produce a compelling set of goals which will carry as much weight as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Bioregionalis an entrepreneurial charity which establishes sustainable businesses and works with partners around the world to demonstrate that a sustainable future can be easy, attractive and affordable. We call our approach One Planet LivingBioRegional The Rio+20 Earth Summit in 2012 had mandated an Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to draft recommendations for a set of global goals to follow on from the MDGs. These SDGs should be genuinely “action-oriented, concise, easy to communicate, limited in number, aspirational, global in nature and universally applicable”.

The MDGs focussed attention on reducing global poverty, but did not address the root causes of unsustainable development. If we fail to transition to sustainable development in the next few decades, both environmental degradation and poverty will soar. Hence the need for a powerful and inspiring set of sustainable development goals for countries and people everywhere. On Saturday 19th July after 29 hours of continual OWG negotiations the final outcome document of 17 proposed SDGs and 136 targets was adopted by the 70 nations in the Open Working Group. These SDG recommendations now feed into formal negotiations between all UN Member States on the post-2015 development agenda.

This document includes a goal on sustainable consumption and production (SCP). This is particularly welcome to a wide range of groups, including BioRegional, which have long been campaigning to embed SCP in the post-2015 development agenda. We view SCP as crucial for progress in all nations, wealthy, poor and emerging. Today’s patterns of production and consumption remain highly unsustainable. Current economic models and lifestyles are leading to increasingly widespread over-consumption, with impacts on critical natural resources set to worsen. At the same time more than a billion people are so poor as to be unable to consume the bare minimum needed to give them dignity and a decent quality of life.

SCP means consumption and production which conserve critical natural capital, ecosystems and biodiversity for today’s and future generations and prevents dangerous climate change. At the same time, people everywhere consume enough to have the opportunity of a good quality of life on our one planet. That is what we need an effective set of post-2015 sustainable development goals to aim for.

The proposed goal 12 to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns” has accompanying targets that seek to address some of these issues including decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation, a lifecycle approach to production, sustainable management of natural resources, reducing food waste and loss and awareness raising on sustainable lifestyles. Yet the outcome document does not go far enough in tackling the issues.

One example: The private sector has a fundamental role in changing and challenging unsustainable production processes and influencing consumer habits, but there is not a strong enough emphasis on this in either the SCP goal or across the rest of outcome document. Target 12.6 only “encourage[s] companies, especially large and trans-national companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle.”

BioRegional works with private sector partners in several countries who set the bar high in their sustainability practices, so we know the real impact this sector can have on implementing SCP at the scale necessary.Taken as a whole, the 17 goals and 136 targets in the outcome document cover nearly all of the ground needed to deliver a transition to sustainable development. But many of them fail to require governments and other stakeholders to deliver real, measureable changes from business as usual.

And there are simple too many of them for the world to pay close attention. They are not yet sufficiently “action-oriented, concise, easy to communicate [and] limited in number.” BioRegional will work hard for the next 13 months to keep the issue of SCP on the table and further strengthen the proposals put forward in this outcome document. With strong support from countries including Brazil, Switzerland, Japan and others towards SCP, we hope that in September 2015 we will have the truly transformational sustainable development agenda set out in the final agreed goals.

Freya Seath, Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager, BioRegional, said: “We need to make sure that these proposed goals are not a ceiling of ambition that we work down from, but a base to build on in the negotiations over the next 13 months. There is a role for all of us to help create a set of goals that will make our planet a better place. We need to hold our governments to account, keep the level of ambition high and ensure that we do not lose the momentum needed to ensure a strong outcome in September 2015, building on the foundations that have now been laid by the OWG.”
For more information please contact Freya Seath on

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