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Science has a lot to offer to sustainable development

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The complexity of problems related to sustainable development calls for analyses on the interlinkages between SDGs, systemic approaches and long-term scenarios. Eeva Furman (Finnish Environment Institute) explains how science has much to offer in this process.

CSR Europe interviewed professor Eeva Furman, Director of the Environmental Policy Centre at the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, about the key findings of the Global Sustainable Development Report 2019 and the role of science in tackling issues related to global sustainable development.

Key take-ways from this article:

  • Science has much to offer: analyses of interlinkages between SDGs, systemic approaches and long-term scenarios. These help to assess alternative pathways towards sustainable development.
  • The implementation of the SDGs is very much embedded into the local context.
  • Business has a key role in the development of governance of flows. Transparency, networking towards global sustainability as well as investing in sustainable innovation are key

1. What are the key learnings of the Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) so far?

Based on the latest research, the draft report raises four issues as key for the implementation of the Agenda2030. Firstly, it emphasises the importance of identifying and acknowledging the interlinkages between: the SDGs, Territories around the world, and Actors in all planning and decision making. It is crucial that all actors take ownership and commit to action – business community being one of the major actors.

Secondly, implementing the necessary major systemic transformations will require changes and innovation in: Governance, economy and finances, society, behaviour and culture, and science and technology.

Third, transformation happens through building pathways towards sustainable development. Pathways on food, energy, cities and health clarify how all SDGs are important when challenges related to these issues are tackled. Fourth, science has much to offer and in most cases, it is essential. With research capacity, it is also worth thinking out of the box.

The report will shed light on insights that are not yet reflected in the Agenda2030, as solutions to the deficiency of sustainable development in the world.

 

2. What is the role of science in this process?

Contribution from science is crucial in the implementation of the Agenda2030 and the SDG framework. The complexity of problems related to sustainable development calls for analyses on the interlinkages between SDGs, systemic approaches and long-term scenarios. These analyses help to assess and implement alternative pathways towards sustainable development.

The implementation of the SDGs is very much embedded into the local context and therefore it is important to have scientific expertise everywhere in the world. Presently, resources and skills for carrying out science are highly concentrated to the northern hemisphere. This has to change, along with the ways we do science. Local expertise on sustainable development is broader than being a researcher. Various actors, from businesses to citizens, from managers to teachers, locally, but also on other levels are needed to identify problems and interlinkages between the SDGs, and to find solutions and pathways – together with researchers in research projects and programmes.

 

3. What is the shift in focus from the previous strategy to the 2030 strategy?

The Agenda2030 brings together different strategies, such as the Millennium Development Goals as well as the Agenda2020. This means that the Agenda2030 focuses on all societal and planetary issues that are politically seen as relevant for sustainable development in all parts of the world.

The strategy does no longer only focus on ecological sustainability or developing countries. From a sustainable development perspective, every country is a developing country. Countries need to understand that to be able to reach human wellbeing, all the SDGs need to be considered, as well as co-benefits recognised, and trade-offs tackled through best possible solutions. In comparison to the previous strategies, the Agenda2030 is continuing bringing the three dimensions together. Still, it is much about making difficult choices and reaching societal transformation.

 

4. What is your key take away for businesses so far?

In the forthcoming report, the role of businesses is seen as crucial for the implementation of the Agenda2030. It is not only a question of the financial contribution needed and potentially mobilised by the business community – that cannot be underestimated – but something much broader.

The world is connected by flows of resources, material and, e.g. lifestyles, many of which are not presently well known and include elements of injustice and negative impacts on ecosystems, land use and natural resources. Business has a key role in the development of governance of flows. Transparency, networking towards global sustainability as well as investing in sustainable innovation are among the key words to remember.

 

Eeva Furman is part of the Independent Group of Scientists (IGS) assigned to produce the Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR), which will be published in September 2019. Eeva Furman and her fellow researchers professor Peter Messerli, Professor for Sustainable Development and Director of the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) at the university of Bern and professor Jean-Paul Moatti, President and Director-general of the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD) will present an update on key findings and ideas of the GSDR during the ‘Meeting of the Multi-Stakeholder Platform on the Implementation of the SDGs in the EU’ on October 11, 2018.