UN: Global Sustainable Development Report – Prototype

UN: Global Sustainable Development Report – Prototype
:: Global Sustainable Development Report – Prototype (PDF) [165 pages]
:: Summary (PDF) [27 pages]
Sustainability science emerged as a new inter-disciplinary endeavour around the year 2000. In 2012 alone, more than 40,000 authors from 2,200 cities around the world published some 150,000 articles on sustainable development – six times more than ten years before. However, to-date, there exists no global sustainable development report that comprehensively looks at global progress and the future outlook in a truly integrated way, taking into account the range of perspectives in different scientific communities across the world.

The Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR), requested by Governments at Rio+20, is the first and only comprehensive, global report on sustainable development.

The present prototype global sustainable development report is the result of a collaborative effort of more than two thousand scientists and 50 staff from 20 UN entities from all world regions. The report illustrates a range of potential content and discusses potential overall directions for the Global Sustainable Development Report.

The report maps sustainable development assessments and related processes, and identifies key remaining challenges: to eliminate poverty and hunger; to feed, nurture, house, educate and employ the global population; to ensure peace, security and freedom; and to preserve the Earth’s basic life support systems.

The report sketches an alternative sustainable development pathway for the future. It shows that, if we significantly adjust our current patterns of consumption and production, we can help build a more sustainable world in 2050.

The report also identifies a range of estimates of total, global investment needs to achieve global goals and commitments.

The report identifies lessons learnt from national, regional and global case studies of the climate-land-energy-water development nexus. It takes an integrated approach that looks at clusters of issues and their inter-linkages rather than specific sectors or topics…

Summary [sample sections]
4. Review of progress from 1950 to 2013 [p.7]
The challenge is to eliminate poverty and hunger; feed, nurture, house, educate and employ more than nine billion people; secure peace, security and freedom; and preserve the Earth’s basic life support systems.

The report looks at three generations into the past (1950-2013) and two generations into the future (until 2050). The challenge is to learn from what we have tried in the past, in order to put our societies and economies firmly on the path to sustainable development by 2050. The report takes an integrated approach that looks at clusters of issues and their interlinkages rather than specific sectors or specific topics.

Sustainable development trends and progress
Historical progress towards sustainable development has been mixed. Some progress has been at the expense of worsening trends in other respects.

The world has managed to feed, nurture, house, educate and employ on the order of an additional 800 million people every decade from 1970 to 2000, and even 1.1 billion people in the 2000s. In the past 12 years alone, we have built cities for 770 million people (equivalent to 93 New York cities), more than in any decade before. These are enormous achievements.

Today’s world GDP is more than ten times larger than in 1950 and average per capita GDP is four times larger. Yet, we have not managed to employ our much greater wealth and technological capacity to eliminate poverty and hunger. 850 million people go hungry today, a number which has hardly changed over several decades. There are two hundred million more slum dwellers today than twenty years ago.

The unabated rise in the scale of materials consumption has increased global environmental, social and economic pressures. There is increasing evidence that we are jeopardizing several of the Earth’s basic life support systems. Countries and people trapped in persistent poverty have probably suffered most from these impacts. And future generations will most likely face much greater challenges to meet their own needs.

Progress has been mixed towards achievement of goals or commitments in 19 SDG-relevant focus areas [p.9]
Initial discussions of the UN Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) considered 19 focus areas as potential areas for future SDGs. These have now been narrowed down to a fewer number of areas with a view to the OWG’s finalizing its report by the end of July 2014. An analysis of the initial 19 focus areas, a number of which build on the MDGs, suggests that progress towards goals or commitments in 11 of the 19 focus areas is off-track, in 4 shows limited or mixed progress, and in another 4 shows good progress or early achievement (poverty eradication; food security and sustainable agriculture; water and sanitation; and health). Clearly, the level of progress depends, inter alia, on the level of ambition of the goal or commitment in the first place. Early achievement of a goal might reflect faster than foreseen progress or an inadequately ambitious goal. For example, it is doubtful whether the target of improving the lives of 100 million slum dwellers was sufficiently ambitious, given the rate at which the population of slum dwellers has expanded since 1990.