The SDGs aim to “ensure that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives and that economic, social, and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature.”
Inequality is one of the defining issues of this generation and requires a commensurate focus that, to date, has been lacking.
Trends toward achieving a shared prosperity have largely stalled, as the world struggles with a slowing economy and rising inequality. Progress on decent work has been slower than expected, with reductions in unemployment not matched with improvements in the quality of work. In many high-income countries, wage growth has stagnated even with low unemployment rates.
More positively, we are seeing initial examples that it is possible to grow our economies in an environmentally sustainable way. Economic prosperity and progress on climate change can be achieved together. From 1995 to 2013, 23 countries successfully decoupled economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions while also reducing their carbon footprint. At the global level, the carbon intensity of world output is falling, meaning we produce fewer emissions to generate each unit of GDP, but total emissions are still growing.
This is positive news we need to build on – and build on quickly given the scale of the challenge.
“End poverty in all its forms everywhere.”
Extreme poverty has been cut by more than half since 1990. Still, around 1 in 10 people live on less than the target figure of international-$1.90 per day. A very low poverty threshold is justified by highlighting the need of those people who are worst off. SDG 1 is to end extreme poverty globally by 2030.
“Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.”
World Pensions Council (WPC) development economists have argued that the twin considerations of long-term economic growth and infrastructure investment weren’t prioritized enough. By 2030, the target is to establish policies for sustainable tourism that will create jobs. Strengthening domestic financial institutions and increasing Aid for Trade support for developing countries is considered essential to economic development.
“Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation”.
Manufacturing is a major source of employment. In 2016, the least developed countries had less manufacturing value added per capita. The figure for Europe and North America amounted to US$4,621, compared to about $100 in the least developed countries. The manufacturing of high products contributes 80 percent to total manufacturing output in industrialized economies but barely 10 percent in the least developed countries.
Mobile-cellular signal coverage has improved a great deal. In previously “unconnected” areas of the globe, 85 percent of people now live in covered areas. Planet-wide, 95 percent of the population is covered.
“Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.”
The target for 2030 is to ensure access to safe and affordable housing. The indicator named to measure progress toward this target is the proportion of urban population living in slums or informal settlements. Between 2000 and 2014, the proportion fell from 39 percent to 30 percent. Movement from rural to urban areas has accelerated as the population has grown and better housing alternatives are available.
“Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.”
The targets of Goal 12 include using eco-friendly production methods and reducing the amount of waste. By 2030, national recycling rates should increase, as measured in tons of material recycled. Further, companies should adopt sustainable practices and publish sustainability reports.