Green Cities

Sustainable Development Goals Powered by a New Force

In conjunction with Pope Francis’s “historic address” to the United Nations today, the international group has unveiled 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This new framework marks the strongest effort yet to end global poverty and combat climate change. The plan targets the five key areas in which change is most greatly needed: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership. Over the next 15 years, the UN hopes to make great strides in these areas in order to create a more stable, habitable, and equitable planet. Previously, the UN’s 2000 Millennium Development Goals focused on stopping the spread of HIV and providing worldwide access to education, along with halving world hunger rates. This year, the goals are being updated to reflect the changes in the geopolitical climate that call for a renewed focus on reducing food shortages, as well as new attempts to combat climate change around the globe. Specifically, according to their website, the United Nations strives to “end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions… protect the planet from degradation, … ensure all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives, … foster peaceful societies, and mobilize the means to implement this Agenda.” These new ideas should shape worldwide political policy for the coming 15 years. In order to make this vision a reality, both the pope and the UN hope that they will be able to unite groups of diverse backgrounds, including interfaith, environmental, and social justice organizations. In other words, the goal of the Summit, the pope’s speeches, and other events worldwide is to depolarize the issue of climate change and develop solutions to combat the issue. The plan sets up a 15-year framework of check-ins, goals, reviews, and other metrics in order to determine whether countries and the world as a whole meet the SDGs. However, some experts expressed concerns about whether these goals are comprehensive enough as they fail to recognize the impact of political power on most of the goals described in the plan. In the words of Pope Francis, these SDGs are “solemn commitments, however, … not enough, even though they are a necessary step toward solutions.” The goals outlined, by themselves, will not create any meaningful change.  Although the framework created by the UN, coupled with the pope’s call to action, provide a great starting point, the plan requires extensive cooperation by governments and citizens around the world in order to succeed. These goals will provide a structure for the climate talks in Paris this November and December, where more concrete agreements and rules can be implemented. Today’s summit is an excellent first step in the right direction, but the fight against the planet’s most pressing problems is far from over.   Liam Spurr, Intern