The UN’s sustainable development goals need to be renamed – here’s why

15 July 2020

The UN’s sustainable development goals need to be renamed – here’s why


In 2015, the United Nations (UN) announced the Sustainable Development Goals 2030; 17 goals aimed at fostering ‘peace and prosperity for people and the planet’. While we agree with the overall objectives the term ‘sustainable development’ shouldn’t be used and actually confuses the cause. Here’s why.

According to; “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.”

The 17 goals are; no poverty, zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, responsible production and consumption, climate action, life below water, life on land, peace, justice and strong institutions and, lastly, partnerships for the goals.

A case for changing the name of the Sustainable Development Goals 2030

As far as a vision for the future goes, they’re pretty hard to argue with. But the issue comes with the word ‘development’. The goals should simply be called ‘Sustainability Goals 2030’, not ‘Sustainable Development Goals 2030’.
The ecological definition of sustainability originated with the Brundtland Report in 1987, which describes sustainable development as development that satisfies the needs of the present without adversely affecting the conditions for future generations.
However, not all of the UN’s goals fit this definition, due to the fact that they are human endeavours or aspirations, not actionable goals. Take ‘reduced inequalities’ or ‘good health and wellbeing’ for example. These are simply goals to be more sustainable – they are not sustainable development goals.

Sustainable development goals would be the tangible, physical developments, which will ultimately make an aspiration a reality.

Take goal seven, ‘affordable and clean energy’, for instance. That’s a noble aspiration that we, of course, believe in. But the sustainable development goal would be to build more wind, solar, and other clean energy sources to make it possible.

A new definition for sustainable development

While this might seem a trivial distinction it’s an important one. Sustainable development is now a large part of the economy and confusing it with less actionable goals could be counter-intuitive to the cause. People need tangible solutions, not just lofty goals.

When it comes to the definition of sustainable development, a lot has been learned in the 30+ years since Brundtland’s definition and perhaps a better definition would now be:

“Development which maximises the use of all available natural resources such as wind, sun and water incorporated in building sustainable infrastructure, while carefully and efficiently minimising waste and enhancing the environment, all achieved with positive economic outcomes, whilst continuing to address the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

We believe that redefining and enhancing the sustainable development definition provides the public with a more tangible, understandable and actionable message.

Join the People’s Sustainable Revolution

At The Global Warming Solution, we make it easy. By helping us build renewable energy projects you are directly contributing to reducing greenhouse gases and creating a sustainable future so you know your money is going towards a solution that will work.

By making our goals clear, concise and actionable we endeavour to create a sustainable revolution that people can rally behind. City by city, country by country, together we make a difference.

Written by: Roger Bain


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