The UN World Economic & Social Survey was published on Tuesday, and among other findings it notes that environmental sustainability is under threat, with accelerating growth in global greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) reaffirmed commitment to sustainable development and adopted a framework for action and comprehensive follow-up. The World Economic and Social Survey 2013 serves as a valuable resource looking towards translating the outcome of Rio+20 into concrete actions.
Key takeaways from the survey include:
- The world is faced with challenges in all three dimensions of sustainable development—economic, social and environmental. More than 1 billion people are still living in extreme poverty, and income inequality within and among many countries has been rising; at the same time, unsustainable consumption and production patterns have resulted in huge economic and social costs and may endanger life on the planet. Achieving sustainable development will require global actions to deliver on the legitimate aspiration towards further economic and social progress, requiring growth and employment, and at the same time strengthening environmental protection.
- Sustainable development will need to be inclusive and take special care of the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable. Strategies need to be ambitious, action-oriented and collaborative, and adapt to different levels of development. They will need to systemically change consumption and production patterns, and might entail, inter alia, significant price corrections; encourage the preservation of natural endowments; reduce inequality; and strengthen economic governance.
- The World Economic and Social Survey 2013 aims towards contributing to the deliberations on sustainable development with a focus on three important cross-sectoral issues: sustainable cities, food security and energy transformation. While the entire range of thematic areas identified for action and follow-up in section V of the outcome document of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, entitled “The future we want” (General Assembly resolution 66/288, annex), cannot be covered comprehensively in this Survey, highlighting three of the cross-sectoral issues may hopefully contribute to the addressing of sustainable development challenges in the follow-up to the Conference.
With regard to energy transformation in particular, significant investments will be needed in technological innovation and adaptation, supported by efficient technology transfers and cooperation at the regional and international levels. The design of sustainable energy systems as part of national development strategies calls for capacities and skills that are not abundant in many countries of the world. Building such capacities will enable countries to undertake transformative energy plans that would otherwise be considered completely out of reach.