The Stockholm Resilience Center has published a new report to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Club of Rome, in which it develops the first ‘global model’ study to determine whether or not the world can meet the objectives set out in the UN Global Sustainable Development Agenda without economies being destabilised.
The results are mixed, but it’s not all bad news. Over 100,000 historical metrics since 1970 have been used to evaluate whether the 2030 goals have any chance of being implemented. At the rate of current economic development, however, both the SDGs themselves are unlikely to be met and environmental degradation is set to continue unimpeded.
Conventional economic growth suggests the implementation of renewable energy, digitization and innovation will not suffice over the long term. Poverty alleviation and other targeted policy efforts can be successful but altogether these measures will not suffice to create a sustainable planetary system.
On average, according to the model, only 10 of the 17 targets in the UN SDGs can realistically be met with the most stringent efforts, and so the only option left is to address socio-ecological changes on a global political – and business – level. Based on the analysis in the report, the following is needed:
a) much faster growth of renewable energy and electrification; emissions from coal, oil and gas must be at least halved every decade, which is both viable and profitable;
b) active redistribution of financial resources: the richest top 10 per cent should not control more than 40 per cent of national income. This would ensure a decent living standard for everyone across society and put a halt to unsustainable overconsumption;
c) Increased investment in education across all social levels, globally, particularly for women in developing countries and in health care, family planning and the provision of equal opportunities;
d) Increased productivity and sustainability across the entire food chain. Catering for food supplies for the nine billion people expected to inhabit earth by 2050 will mean a vast reduction of food waste and a change in global eating habits. Solutions are available but investments and incentives are necessary to make the required behavioural changes.
In short, business needs to take responsibility for the environmental and social consequences of economic profitability in order to reverse the current trajectory in which it will be impossible to reverse the course of climate change, according to researchers Johan Rockström (chief of the Stockholm Resilience Center and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact research), David Collste, and Sarah Cornell.
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