SDG #12 Ensuring Sustainable Management
By Shani Asokan Ceylon Today Features
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 goals that were agreed upon by all United Nations (UN) Member States at the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Summit as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. SDG 12 aims to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. A driving force of the global economy, worldwide consumption and production rely on the use of our natural environment and resources in ways that continue to have disastrous impacts on the planet. Any economic and social progress in the last century has been accompanied by environmental degradation. This has endangered the very systems on which our future development and survival as a human race depend upon. Thus, sustainable consumption and production and Goal 12 is about doing more and better by using less. It is also about separating economic growth from environmental degradation, increasing resource efficiency and promoting sustainable lifestyles.
Sustainable production and consumption can contribute substantially towards poverty alleviation and a transition to lowcarbon and greener economies. To achieve economic growth and sustainable development we must reduce our ecological footprint by changing the way in which we produce and consume goods and services. In order to achieve this goal, we must efficiently manage our shared natural resources, and safely dispose of toxic waste and pollutants. Industries, businesses and consumers must be encouraged to reduce waste and recycle as much as possible. Developing and lesser developed countries must be supported in moving towards more sustainable patterns of consumption by 2030.
Current facts and figures
A large portion of the world population still consumes far too little to meet even their basic needs. Yet, a significant amount of food is wasted each year. That is, 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year, while almost two billion people go hungry or undernourished. Another two billion people are overweight or obese. In 2019, over 38 million children under the age of five were overweight or obese. The food sector accounts for over 30 per cent of the world’s energy consumption and 22 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions, largely from the conversion of forests into farmland. Less than three per cent of the world’s water is drinkable. Of this, 2.3 per cent lies frozen in the Antarctica, Arctic and glaciers. Thus all of humanity relies on 0.5 per cent of this water for all of our fresh water needs. Yet, we pollute waters in rivers and lakes faster than nature can recycle and purify. Today, more than one billion people still do not have access to fresh water. Though water is technically a free resource, the infrastructure needed to deliver it to human settlements is expensive. Excessive use of water where it is available also contributes to global water stress. By far, agriculture is the largest water consumer, accounting for 69 per cent of annual water withdrawals globally.
This is followed by industry that accounts for 19 per cent and households that account for 12 per cent. Despite technological advances that have introduced and promoted energy efficient practises, energy use still remain high and continues to grow. By 2020, energy use in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) grew by 35 per cent. The most rapidly growing area of energy consumption is transport, followed by commercial and residential use. Households consumer 29 per cent of global energy and contribute to 21 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions. Between 2010 and 2019, global e-waste generation grew continuously, while e-waste recycling increased at a significantly slower pace. In 2018, global fossil fuel subsidies amounted to about US$800 million, which was more than double the estimated subsidies for renewable energy.
Goal 12 targets
The main target of Goal 12 is to implement the 10 year framework of programmes of sustainable consumption and production. To achieve this, all countries must take action, with developed countries taking the lead, and supporting developing countries by taking into account their development and capabilities. Goal 12 aims to by 2030, achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources. It aims to halve global food wastage per capita at retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains. It also aims to, by 2030, find environmentally sound management solutions of chemicals and all other waste in accordance with international framework.
This includes significantly reducing pollutants released to the air, water and soil. It also includes finding ways to stop inefficient use of fossil fuels and other resources that increase carbon emissions. By 2030, Goal 12 aims to substantially reduce waste generation through practices of prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse. This includes encouraging companies, especially large and transnational companies to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate including sustainability information into their reporting cycle. Moreover it includes promoting and encouraging sustainable practices among the general public. Goal 12 aims to increase scientific research and development in developing countries to help them move towards more sustainable patterns of production and consumption.
The impact of the pandemic
Though the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disastrous impact on all sectors of our world, it has also provided us with an opportunity to build recovery plans that will reverse current trends in production and consumption to ones that put us on a trajectory towards a more sustainable future. The current crisis provides us with a way out; an opportunity for profound systemic change to a more sustainable economy that is beneficial for both people and the planet. The pandemic has highlighted the gaps in our systems and revealed the single fundamental issue that underlies all the problems we are faced with: human needs are unlimited but the planet we live on has limited capacity to satisfy them all. To move towards a sustainable future, we must understand the limits to which we can push nature and create our framework for our future in accordance with it. COVID-19 has not been kind to our world. It has decimated our economies and our societies. However, it can also be a catalyst for social change. Join us next week for a discussion of SDG 13!