What Does It Take to Achieve a Sustainable Future?

What does it take to achieve a sustainable future? The UN’s Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Global Sustainability’s final report, released on January 30, thinks that transparency is needed. Yes, you read that correctly. The Panel’s report thinks that by making both the cost of action and inaction transparent “political processes can summon both the arguments and the political will necessary to act for a sustainable future.” The report tackles major issues, including food, water, energy, climate change, population trends, and gender equality.

In 1987, the UN World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) released a report commonly known as the Brundtland Report. The Panel’s report, which includes 56 recommendations from the 22-member panel, is both a reflection of the Brundtland Report, and an attempt to figure out why sustainable development has not been fully realized.

“The long-term vision of the Panel is to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and make growth inclusive, and production and consumption more sustainable, while combating climate change and respecting a range of other planetary boundaries,” the report states. “In light of this, the report makes a range of recommendations to take forward the Panel’s vision for a sustainable planet, a just society and a growing economy.”

The report lays out priority areas for action, which include:

  • Delivering on the fundamentals of development: international commitments to eradicate poverty, promote human rights and human security and advance gender equality
  • Advancing education for sustainable development, including secondary and vocational education, and building of skills to help ensure that all of society can contribute to solutions that address today’s challenges and capitalize on opportunities
  • Creating employment opportunities, especially for women and youth, to drive green and sustainable growth
  • Enabling consumers to make sustainable choices and advance responsible behavior individually and collectively
  • Managing resources and enabling a twenty-first century green revolution: agriculture, oceans and coastal systems, energy and technology, international cooperation
  • Building resilience through sound safety nets, disaster risk reduction and adaptation planning

Policy action is needed in a number of key areas, according to the report, including creating an “incentive road map that increasingly values long-term sustainable development in investment and financial transactions.” Other key areas cited in the report are:

  • Increasing finance for sustainable development, including public and private funding and partnerships to mobilize large volumes of new financing
  • Expanding how we measure progress in sustainable development by creating a sustainable development index or set of indicators

UN Secretary-General says report has far-reaching implications

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon believes that the report has “far-reaching implications” since it grapples with “some of the most complex and serious issues we face.” Speaking during the report’s launch in Ethiopia, Ban Ki-moon said, “Both science and economics tell us our current path is unsustainable.” He added that both ecosystems are under stress, and economies are faltering. “The human appetite for resources keeps growing.”

“It is fitting that we meet in Africa where the challenges of sustainable development are starkest and the opportunities the greatest,” Ban Ki-moon said of the site of the report’s launch.

In June, the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development will occur. Ban Ki-moon thinks that the report will serve as “valuable input” for the conference.

Photo credit: UN.org website

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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