Key Comments on the Zero Draft of the Post-2015 Outcome Document
Institute for Sustainability, Newcastle University
Overall comments on the text
As a community of cross-disciplinary researchers, the Institute for Sustainability feels that a crucial, positive aspect of the zero-draft document is the recognition, first, of the ‘deep interconnections and many cross-cutting elements across the new goals and targets’ (para 9, p. 3) and also, second, that the challenges of sustainable development ‘are interrelated and call for integrated solutions’ (para 13, p. 3). In our specific comments on the paragraphs below, our overarching aim is a draft that expresses and emphasises these interlinkages in a more thoroughgoing way.
Specific Comments by Paragraph Number
- In paragraph 15 (p. 3 – 4) the vision for the SDGs is described. This paragraph lacks any reference to the ambitions set out in Goal 11, for example in Target 11.1. Whilst it is recognised that this provides only examples of the world to which we aspire, ‘a world of adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services’ should be added. This would reflect the ambitions set out in not only Goal 11, but also Goals 6 and 7.
- Paragraph 24 (p.5) refers to the adoption of policies to increase modern energy provision. The terms ‘modern energy’ is not defined and as such does not necessarily entail low-carbon energy. It is important to ensure that modern energy supplies draw from low carbon sources in terms of not only combatting climate change (paragraph 27, p. 5) but also environmental sustainability and public health, and their associated economic impacts as a result of the air quality issues associated with fossil fuel sources of heat and electricity. To this end we recommend referring to modern and sustainable energy provision, reflecting the language of Goal 7 and the need for transition to low carbon societies. In the development of the indicator framework for Goal 7 it is important that an indicator for Target 7.3 should address country-specific business models to increase and deliver energy efficiency.
- Currently, paragraphs 25 and 26 make insufficient reference to the importance of biodiversity. Paragraph 25, for example, could add: “…recognizing the fundamental role of biodiversity in providing these goods and services.” paragraph 26 could note the impact of urban activities and development not just on climate change, but also global biodiversity.
- Paragraph 26 (p. 5) refers to ‘more efficient use of water and energy’ but is clear that in order to tackle the impact of these services on the planet and its ecosystem we should aim to be ‘more efficient and transparent in both the provision and use of water and energy’. For example, If we are to ‘ensure available and sustainable drinking water and sanitation for all’ as stated in Goal 6, we will need to guarantee provision of access to safe water and sanitation infrastructure even for the large share of the world population that cannot afford to pay the full cost of these services. With respect to ‘modern energy’ and the aspirations of Goal 7, the goal focuses on global access to sustainable energy supply whilst the largest energy demands come from cities. To balance supply with demand requires digitally-enabled solutions to providing sustainable energy. In making the low-carbon transition, cities will not only be able to increase energy efficiency, but reduce air pollution, improve public health and well-being, and create new forms of economy based on innovation.
- Paragraph 26 (p. 5) could specifically reflect the inequalities suffered by low-income urban dwellers. These are people that often face issues of urban poverty, food insecurity along with lack of access to energy, water and sanitation. In incorporating such language, paragraph 26 (p.5) expresses the aspiration of the – interlinked – Goals 1, 2, 6, 7 and 11.
- Reflecting the importance and under-representation of biodiversity, Paragraph 27, which addresses environmental degradation as well as climate change, should commit to timely achievement of the Aichi targets on biodiversity.
- Paragraph 29 (p. 6) recognises the intrinsic value of diversity, culture and sport as enablers of sustainable development. However, it is clear that culture also acts to influence the means by which the goals and targets should be implemented. For example, with reference to Goal 7, we must be careful in assuming that all people of all cultures want the same type of access to affordable and reliable energy. ‘Energy for all’ should be attuned with local cultural values and needs of individual countries.
- In paragraph 37 (p. 7) an emphasis is placed on ‘the critical importance of engaging all relevant stakeholders in implementation of the new Agenda. Governments and public institutions will work closely in this regard with national parliaments, local authorities, international institutions, business and the private sector, civil society, academia, philanthropic organizations, voluntary groups and others.’ However, rather than ‘working closely’, Governments and public institutions need to collaborate to find local, integrated solution to global problems. Indeed, all relevant stakeholders need not only to engage but should also be encouraged to collaborate. In this way the agenda will be genuinely inclusive, avoiding the exclusion of – or creation of – marginalised groups. Similarly paragraph 7 of the MoI section, p. 22 should read ‘successful implementation will also depend on the resources, knowledge, ingenuity and collaboration of business, civil society, the scientific community, academia, research institutions, philanthropists and foundations, parliaments, local authorities, volunteers and other stakeholders.’
- Paragraph 39 could usefully highlight the vital role of the scientific community in developing indicators and realising a ‘data revolution for sustainable development’. UN Resolution 67/290 resolves (in para. 20) to “strengthen the science-policy interface”, commits to “enhancing evidence-based decision-making at all levels”, and “ongoing capacity-building for data collection and analysis”. These commitments could be reflected in para 39 (and also in the section on follow up and review – see below)
Review and Follow-up Section
- Paragraph 9: Resolution 290 committed to reviewing ‘implementation of sustainable development commitments and objectives‘ (para. 8). However, the current proposal aims only to review ‘progress’, and this commitment should be changed to reflect the stronger wording of Resolution 290. This weakening from the more concrete “implementation of commitments” is significant, and undercuts the evidence-based, policy-guiding value of follow up.
- Added wording in Paragraphs 12-14 should reinforce the content of resolution 67/290, para 20 on strengthening the ‘science-policy interface’ and committing to ‘evidence-based decision-making.’
- Paragraph 3: The interlinkages between Goal 16 and the multi-level system of follow up and review should be reflected in the section on follow up and review. In particular, targets 16.6 and 16.7 apply to institutions and decision-making processes at all levels. Prima facie, the same commitments should apply to the institutions and processes that constitute the multi-level follow up and review mechanism. This could, for example be reflected in new wording for paragraph 3, principle 3c: – as an example: “3c: They will be responsive, inclusive, participatory and transparent, supported by an enabling environment…”(wording taken from goal 16 – 16.6 and 16.7)