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Six steps to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

07/16/2018, JRC

The World in 2050 (TWI2050) initiative last week launched the report 'Transformations to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals' at the United Nations High Level Political Forum in New York. This report sets out six key transformations that will enable the world to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Three years on from the adoption of the 2030 Agenda (which sets out the 17 SDGs that aim to ensure a more sustainable future for everyone), we still have a long way to go to achieving these Goals. The TWI2050 report argues that the global transformation is still possible, but requires strong political commitment and immediate and ambitious action.

The JRC is among the more than 60 authors of the new TWI2050 report, which outlines the major challenges facing humanity with respect to achieving the transformative changes toward a sustainable future. Rather than projecting into the future, the report describes the challenges from a ‘backcasting’ perspective, namely what needs to be done now and in the immediate future to steer the international community, in a cooperative way, toward achievement of the 2030 Agenda and good life for all on a healthy planet beyond 2030.

Six key transformations

The report presents six key transformations needed to achieve the SDGs in a manageable way, based on the major drivers of societal change, including human capacity, consumption and production, decarbonisation, and the digital revolution. These are:

  1. Sustainable development is a societal rather than an environmental challenge. Substantial advances in human capacity are needed through improvements of education and healthcare – resulting, among others, in higher income and better environmental decisions.
  2. Responsible consumption and production cut across several of the other transitions, allowing us to do more with fewer resources – we need to adopt a circular economy approach and reduce demand.
  3. It is possible to decarbonise the energy system around 2050 while providing clean and affordable energy for all – including through energy efficiency, more renewables and electrification.
  4. Achieving access to nutritional food and clean water for all, while protecting the biosphere and the oceans, requires more efficient and sustainable food systems – for example by increasing agricultural productivity and reducing meat consumption.
  5. Smart cities: Transforming our settlement patterns will benefit the world population and the environment– such as through ‘smart’ infrastructure, decent housing and high connectivity.
  6. Digital revolution: Science, technology, and innovation need to support sustainable development. Much depends on the way the world will put the Information Technology revolution to use – continuing present trends or inverting them by asserting societal control over them.

The World in 2050 (TWI2050) initiative

The World in 2050 (TWI2050) project recognises that all SDGs are interlinked and have knock-on effects on each other. A global interdisciplinary research initiative, it aims to develop pathways toward sustainable futures based on a science-based, integrative approach to addressing all 17 SDGs that builds on their synergies and benefits while alleviating their trade-offs.

The TWI2050 partnership is made up of the 60 international, academic, and non-governmental science and policy institutions (including the JRC) that make up the TWI2050 partnership, which is led by Professor J. Sachs (Columbia University), Professor N. Nakicenovic (IIASA) and Professor J. Rockstrom (Stockholm Resilience Centre). It aims to provide the robust scientific evidence for transformational and equitable pathways towards sustainable development, which will help policymakers best implement the SDGs.

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