Conserving biodiversity: a 2030 story

As today is International Day for Biological Diversity it is a good time to reflect upon the progress we’ve made in conserving species, the numerous environmental pressures that threaten biodiversity, and ways forward to protect it. As the Aichi Biodiversity Targets are due to expire in 2020 international policy dedicated to biodiversity and conservation will continue under the auspices of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Providing thoughtful commentary on how to move forward in conserving biodiversity post-2020, we have produced a series of scenarios that address Goal 15: Life on Land and the Aichi Targets. They focus on:

  • Preventing species extinctions
  • Tools for predicting species distribution
  • Prioritisting species for conservation planning
  • The role of citizen science

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Universities, academics and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Dr Graham Long

Universities, globally, have a unique place in accelerating implementation of the SDGs, even as they face uneven contexts and challenges. They can play a key role in engaging youth as a force for change, and in helping to generate the knowledge, analysis and expertise needed to understand and implement the SDGs as a universal and interlinked agenda. Some recent resources and initiatives have been launched to guide universities in these areas – notably the Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s (SDSN) Guide for Universities, and the SDG Accord, an initiative to encourage universities and academics (and institutions of further education too) to publicly commit to the SDGs. Universities are talking about SDGs, too – from the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI) event on the final day of the 2017 High Level Political Forum, to my own university’s conference on this two weeks ago.

Much has been said about universities and the SDGs, but there is little research around what role academics see for themselves. To address this gap here, I draw on the preliminary findings of research I recently conducted with the help of Ana Flamind, Louise Luxton, and Dani Morgan at Newcastle University. We contacted 400 academics in developing countries to ask them about the SDGs in the context of their countries’ Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) this summer, receiving 87 responses. In this blog I want to highlight three key messages around SDGs and academics, linking the findings from this specific research to the wider picture around the role of universities.

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Partnerships essential for the UN SDGs to transform lives

Dr Alison Vipond & Brett Cherry

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“To successfully implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we must swiftly move from commitments to action. To do that, we need strong, inclusive and integrated partnerships at all levels”. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

Partnerships are vital to making the UN Sustainable Development Goals a reality for everyone across the world. This requires developed and developing nations working together on all 17 Goals, spanning environmental, social, and economic dimensions of sustainable development.  The Goals are universal applying to all countries, including the UK, which has provided leadership in helping to make the Goals an agreed global vision of what the future of our world should look like.

Newcastle University’s Institute for Sustainability recently joined the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development, (UKSSD): a network of businesses, civil society and academic organisations who are working to advance sustainable development in the UK. UKSSD’s mission is to help transform the UK into a sustainable society, by generating new partnerships, innovative solutions and providing thought leadership to achieve the Goals. The UKSSD second annual conference on 1st March 2017, focussed on the question of how we translate the ambition of the Goals into transformative action in the UK. Dr Graham Long provided an insightful introduction to how the UK is faring on the Goals – there is still a long way to go.

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Similar to the MDGs, the Sustainable Development Goals are at risk of becoming political toys

Darren Shako

The SDGs should require governments to firmly outline their targeted standards, and create policies that will inform potential funding for development. This would be necessary for not only ending world poverty (Goal 1), but ensuring the respective goals are reflected in the improvement services on the ground. This includes securing availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all (Goal 6), which is necessary for good public health (Goal 3).

Part of a blog series from Newcastle University Societal Challenge Theme Institutes giving recommendations for targets and indicators of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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Reducing inequality…in national wealth

Andrew Walton

In the current proposal for the Sustainable Development Goals, Goal 10 states the aim to ‘reduce inequality within and among countries’.  For many (good) reasons, much articulation of this goal has focused on its first component – reducing inequality between co-citizens within countries.  But it is important also to consider what should be the appropriate target for the second component.  What should be our aim and measure in reducing inequality amongst countries? My suggestion is to lessen the gap in per capita national wealth – the value of each country’s financial and physical assets.

Download policy brief on these SDGs: What does it mean to reduce inequality between countries

Part of a blog series from Newcastle University Societal Challenge Theme Institutes giving recommendations for targets and indicators of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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SDGs need to align with global policies for biodiversity

Philip McGowan

Goal 15 requires the protection of the terrestrial environment by stopping the deterioration of biodiversity, using resources wisely and restoring ecosystems where needed. Goal 14 has similar requirements for the oceans. These join a plethora of global commitments and processes intended to promote conservation and ensure a sustainable environment, and lessons suggest that they are hard to address. To avoid the SDGs becoming just another set of commitments to be met, clever thinking would help chart the course for policies and action to fill a range of these commitments and lead to genuine protection for our planet.

Download policy brief on these SDGs: Aligning the SDGs with global policies for biodiversity

Part of a blog series from Newcastle University Societal Challenge Theme Institutes giving recommendations for targets and indicators of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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