Frequently Asked Questions
Questions and answers on Sustainable development
- What is sustainable development?
- What are the Millennium Development Goals?
- What is the UN Millennium Project?
- What is the Commission on Sustainable Development?
- How is the environment incorporated in sustainable development?
- What is the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment?
- What is MNP’s Sustainability Outlook?
- Can climate change policies contribute to sustainable
What is sustainable development?
The report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, ‘Our Common Future’ (WCED, 1987), established the link between environment and development, and laid the basis for the use of the term ‘sustainable development’. Here, sustainable development was defined as “Development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Applying the concept of sustainable development resulted in Agenda 21, which can be seen as a first attempt to formulate an international action program combining economic and social development with the protection of the environment. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are commonly accepted as the framework for setting goals and monitoring development progress, were defined in 2000.
What are the Millennium Development Goals?
At the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000, 189 world leaders unanimously adopted the Millennium Declaration, pledging “We will spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which more than one billion of them are currently subjected.” The Declaration led to the articulation of eight specific Millennium Development Goals, to be achieved between 1990 and 2015:
- Halving extreme poverty and hunger.
- Achieving universal primary education.
- Promoting gender equality.
- Reducing child mortality by two-thirds.
- Reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters.
- Reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases.
- Ensuring environmental sustainability.
- Creating a global partnership for development.
What is the UN Millennium Project?
1. What is the UN Millennium Project? The UN Millennium Project is an independent advisory body commissioned by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to develop a global plan for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. The Project is directed by Prof. Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University and based at UNDP headquarters in New York. The Project presented its findings to the Secretary-General in January 2005. The release of the report, Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals, will be the first in a series of major global initiatives on the MDGs in 2005, culminating in a high-level summit of the General Assembly on the Goals in September 2005.
What is the Commission on Sustainable Development?
1. What is the Commission on Sustainable Development? The Commission on Sustainable Development - also known as CSD - was created in December 1992 to ensure effective follow-up of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED - also known as the Earth Summit), in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where world leaders signed the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity; endorsed the Rio Declaration and the Forest Principles; and adopted Agenda 21, a 300-page plan for achieving sustainable development in the 21st century. CSD's role has been to ensure effective follow-up of UNCED; to monitor and report on implementation of the Earth Summit agreements at the local, national, regional and international levels. The CSD is a functional commission of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), with 53 members. A five-year review of Earth Summit progress took place in 1997 by the United Nations General Assembly meeting in special session. In 2002, a ten-year review was held at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa.
How is the environment incorporated in sustainable development?
The definition of sustainable development recognizes the importance of the environment by emphasizing conservation and enhancement of the resource base and merging environment and economics in decision-making. The importance of the environment is reflected in the framework of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), where one of the MDGs directly focuses on environmental issues. However, this MDG of ensuring environmental sustainability is poorly elaborated. Recent research of MNP concludes we are not on track in achieving environmental sustainability. It is shown (using recent FAO and IEA business as usual scenarios) that if the current trends are continued, environmental conditions will further deteriorate and exert an increasing impact on development efforts.
What is the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment?
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) was called for by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2000 in a report to the General Assembly entitled “We the Peoples: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century”. Initiated in 2001, the objective of the MA was to assess the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and the scientific basis for actions needed to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of those systems and their contribution to human well-being. The MA has involved the work of more than 1,360 experts worldwide, including experts from MNP. Their findings on the condition and trends of ecosystems, scenarios for the future, possible responses, and assessments at a sub-global level are set out in technical chapters grouped around these four main themes. The MA concluded humans have made unprecedented changes to ecosystems in recent decades to meet growing demands for food, fresh water, fiber and energy. Among the outstanding problems identified by the MA are: the dire state of many of the world’s fish stocks; the intense vulnerability of the 2 billion people living in dry regions to the loss of ecosystem services, including water supply; and the growing threat to ecosystems from climate change and nutrient pollution. The loss of services derived from ecosystems is a significant barrier to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty, hunger, and disease.
What is MNP’s Sustainability Outlook?
From an ecological perspective, MNP supports the political and societal debate on economical, ecological, spatial and social qualities of society. The Sustainability Outlook was prepared at the request of the state secretary for the Netherlands Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment. It is meant as a contribution to the public debate on sustainable development –and is surely not the last word. To obtain a picture of societal values a survey of the Dutch population was conducted. The survey indicated that both the choice for a certain quality of life and people’s opinions on how this quality should be allocated were derived from the same value orientations. The survey revealed that less than 10% of the Dutch population prefers the achieving society. In other words, more than 90% prefer a world view in which solidarity and regional issues have a place. Moreover, to assess sustainability, the risks associated with mobility, energy and food supply have been identified and described. Most risks are worldview dependent, like a deep trust in technology in a market-oriented world versus a great rely on international institutions like the UN in a global solidarity world. These risks impose a threat to meeting targets considered important in each worldview. The Sustainability Outlook, therefore, concludes that a successful strategy of achieving sustainability must be based on a combination of different elements like credible governance, a simultaneous management of technology development and behavioral change, a support for global agreements like the Kyoto Protocol and consideration of regional interests in global trade agreements. Yes; by exploring the opportunities for a non-climate policy track to integrate climate concerns into other policy areas, i.e. ‘mainstreaming climate change’. These policies can be implemented at local, national and various international levels. A recent analysis, covering five policy areas, i.e. poverty, land-use, security of energy supply, trade and finance and air pollution and health, shows considerable potential for addressing climate change through actions that can be taken to realize primary policy objectives in other policy areas. For example, there is potential for synergies in air pollution and climate change policy, especially in the technological measures taken, because the main causes of both air pollution and climate change lie in burning of fossil fuels. Policy harmonization was found necessary to capture synergies, but fully integrating the two policy areas was not considered viable because the time scale and location of impacts, and effects of measures will make the formulation of common goals and targets almost impossible.
Can climate change policies contribute to sustainable
Yes; by exploring the opportunities for a non-climate policy track to integrate climate concerns into other policy areas, i.e. ‘mainstreaming climate change’. These policies can be implemented at local, national and various international levels. A recent analysis, covering five policy areas, i.e. poverty, land-use, security of energy supply, trade and finance and air pollution and health, shows considerable potential for addressing climate change through actions that can be taken to realize primary policy objectives in other policy areas. For example, there is potential for synergies in air pollution and climate change policy, especially in the technological measures taken, because the main causes of both air pollution and climate change lie in burning of fossil fuels. Policy harmonization was found necessary to capture synergies, but fully integrating the two policy areas was not considered viable because the time scale and location of impacts, and effects of measures will make the formulation of common goals and targets almost impossible.