Sustainable development goals must address threats to environment – UN officials

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) and General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic at the open working group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

14 March 2013 – United Nations officials today stressed that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are being formulated by Member States must address the environmental degradation that is threatening present and future generations.

“The eradication of poverty and promotion of health, education as well as economic and social development retain their prime importance,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the start of the open working group on the SDGs in New York.

“These challenges will need to be addressed in the SDGs, but the SDGs must go further to integrate more comprehensively environmental sustainability,” he added.

During the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) last June, countries produced a document entitled “The Future We Want,” which called for a wide range of actions, including beginning the process to establish sustainable development goals. The open working group was established to work on these goals and present a proposed list to the 68th session of the General Assembly in September.

“The SDGs should contribute to transformative change, in support of a rights-based, equitable and inclusive approach to sustainability at global, regional, national and local levels,” Mr. Ban said.

“Too often the discussions on sustainable development get stuck in emphasizing trade-offs between growth, poverty and environment,” Mr. Ban said. “Now we need to ensure that these important discussions – especially regarding a post-2015 agenda – advance economic, social, and environment objectives in a balanced and integrated manner.”

The President of the General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic, stressed that environmental issues need to be embedded in the worldviews of top diplomats and become an integral part of the SDG process.

“To safeguard the world from runaway climate change, we will need to de-couple economic growth from our dependence on carbon-based energy systems. I see no other effective option on the horizon. Continuing to build the global economy on fossil fuels would likely destroy our hopes to achieve sustainability,” he said.

Mr. Jeremic added that achieving a sustainable future will require the input not just of government but of business leaders, the scientific community and civil society.

“The deliberations of the open working group should aim to establish a new form of global engagement, whose scope may very well be difficult to grasp,” he said. “We must come together in common cause, with a single purpose: to make a universal transition to sustainability in a way that equitably addresses the needs of humanity for the 21st century.”


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