The Zero Draft. A more universal approach needed

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Derek Osborn, President, Stakeholder Forum


Everyone will have their own views on the current Zero Draft of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals and there are still further negotiations ahead before a final version emerges.

In my view the main imbalance in the current draft is that it is much stronger on the traditional development agenda than it is on the sustainability agenda. It has more to say about eradicating poverty and the priorities of the developing world than it does about human pressures on planetary boundaries and the need to transform the economies of the developed world to a more sustainable model. It does not yet give adequate expression to the Rio mandate for universal goals that will set challenging targets for all countries in the world.

Proposed Goal #1: End poverty everywhere

The very 1st goal gives eloquent expression to the crucial goal of eradicating poverty and creating pro-poor poverty reduction strategies to work towards this end. But nowhere in the document is there an equivalent call for recognition of the planetary boundaries identified by science within which we all must live, and the need to maintain a safe living space for all of humanity. There is no reference to the need for the creation or revival of sustainable development strategies for all the countries of the world, working towards the more efficient use of finite global resources and the elimination of pollution and excessive greenhouse gas emissions.

Proposed Goal #8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Goal 8 and its associated targets are too weak. There ought to be specific targets for increasing resource efficiency, particularly in the fields of energy and for all the materials that are in a critical supply situation in the world. And decoupling should be an absolute aim, not just something to be endeavoured.

Proposed Goal #9: Promote sustainable infrastructure and industrialization and foster innovation

Under Goal 9 the target of affordable access to energy for all is good. But there should be equal emphasis on reducing reliance on fossil fuels throughout these infrastructure sectors.

Proposed Goal #11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe and sustainable

Under Goal 11 there should be a target for moving towards zero-carbon housing; and another for reducing the carbon footprint of transport systems.

Proposed Goal #13: Tackle climate change and its impacts

Goal 13 looks very weak. Perhaps this is being left for separate climate change negotiations. But there ought to at least be references to the longer term goal of keeping global temperature increase to less than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

And finally there needs to be much more about governance and implementation at both the national and international levels. National strategies for sustainable development, engagement of stakeholders, national councils for sustainability, ombudsmen for the future, monitoring and reporting. All this needs to be filled in in the months ahead ready for world leaders to commit to a worthy post 2015 agenda next year.

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