In the context of the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the High-Level side event ‘Beyond the SDGs – A Fresh Start for Planet Earth?’ looked at the needs, challenges and opportunities to protect the global commons, Earth's shared natural resources, on an increasingly crowded planet. Leaders from government, business, international agencies, and academia engaged in a free-flowing conversation – moderated by Thomas L. Friedman, writer and New York Times columnist – on what successful implementation of the SDGs will mean for people and the planet.
Opening the event, Jim Yong Kim, President, the World Bank, said the poor people who did not put the carbon in the air need to have access to energy. He noted that the World Bank’s priorities include: putting a price on carbon, eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, climate smart agriculture, and clean and livable cities.
L.T. Tobgay, Prime Minister, Bhutan, stressed that social inclusiveness is essential for resilience. He mentioned that Bhutan’s constitution says 65% of the country needs to be covered by forest, while 52% of the forest area is protected by law. He noted that the SDGs cast light on two emerging areas of development, environment and good governance, adding that good governance is the key to the paradigm shift towards sustainable development.
Judith Rodin, President, the Rockefeller Foundation, underlined that for every dollar invested in development over the last 30 years, one dollar was wasted in disasters. She spoke about the “resilience dividend,” explaining that one dollar invested in resilience can save four dollars. She explained that governments and stakeholders can get more value per dollar by integrating resilience. Rodin said young people have an extraordinary transformational capacity and are an important part of good governance, adding that each generation has the opportunity to change the course of history.
Johan Rockström, Director, Stockholm Resilience Center, explained that "we are at the point where we are about to push ourselves beyond the planet's boundaries, as damages caused to the climate system, the ozone layer, and the oceans can tip us out of our system." He however noted that the window is still open for the transition to a path that can keep the world in a planetary equilibrium and help it achieve prosperity within a stable Earth system. He underlined that “the SDGs are maybe the biggest decision in history,” further mentioning that the Declaration that accompanies them “truly marks a paradigm shift to sustainable development.” The problem with the SDGs, he added, is that they are rolled out as if they are understood, when actually many fail to understand that they are not a Millennium Development Goals (MDG) + agenda. The SDGs do not only complete the unfinished business of the MDGs he explained, but they are a much more complex agenda, which requires humans to reconnect with their planet.
Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson, the GEF, identified two major challenges: development is still being conceptualized in silos; and the management of global commons – oceans, air, land, forests – which do not have a market price and represent a challenge for governments. She also stressed the need for: greening the supply chain; involving stakeholders at all levels; and thinking of cities as mechanisms for governing the global goods.
Taking the floor, civil society and private sector representatives discussed issues including: climate change as a human rights issue; the role of young people in tackling climate change; and the need to transition to sustainable consumption and production patterns (SCP).