Why is sustainable development important?
The UN IPCC reports contain humanity’s foremost findings and insights on our planet and climate. They conclude that certain impacts of our unsustainable development are irreversible and have already begun playing out. Raging forest fires, scorching summers, prolonged droughts, flash floods, hurricanes and other climate events are becoming increasingly regular. At such times, it is unequivocally important to prioritise policies that maintain and enhance our quality of life without disturbing the equilibrium of our natural environment, aka, sustainable development. Among its clearest benefits is providing stability to our climate, which is changing too rapidly for our comfort and in the longer term, our existence.
The United Nations introduced 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) addressing good health, clean water and climate action among others, during its 2012 conference in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, as a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”. Fast-forward a decade and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has reminded us of our overdependence on fossil fuels, yet again. It is estimated that Russia supplied 40% of the EU’s natural gas in 2021 and its widespread boycott has set a global energy crisis in motion. Some UK households have seen energy prices increase by more than 80%. Sustainable development focuses on renewable energy that comes in a variety of forms and can be harnessed across different geographical settings. It helps strengthen economies and make regions self-sufficient in the long term. If we want the continuity of the human race, we must embrace sustainability immediately.
Challenges in achieving sustainable development
Political promises, climate policies and strategic alliances – we have them all and yet, global emissions are at an all-time high and our world is drowning in plastic. Sustainable development must overcome the following key challenges:
Sustainable development inherently entails the overall improvement of living conditions for all of humanity. While there has been widespread economic growth and malls in the developing world now sell the most expensive fashion brands, more than 10% of the global population lives in grinding poverty. That is above 700 million people struggling to secure their next meal and according to the UN, 1 out of 5 children are growing up in abject poverty. Social welfare needs to be prioritized over the next few decades, so we can protect the futures of those that are most vulnerable. Without that, any development is superficial, like a Rolls Royce driving down the streets of an underdeveloped town. That development isn’t inclusive or sustainable.
Poor and/or well-off, women are still not given the equality that they are owed. Although we have strong female leaders worldwide like New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern, recently retired German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the world’s youngest PM, Finland’s Sanna Marin, it is primarily and sadly symbolic. Women are still grossly underrepresented in political and business leadership roles, are subjected to sexual and physical violence even by intimate partners and the UN finds in 18 countries, husbands can legally prohibit their wives from taking up employment! The list of gender discrepancies runs long and is long-running. Sanna Marin was pictured dancing at a private party earlier this month, and it offended many men, to the extent that she had to issue an official apology. How is that sustainable or development? We say, dance and let dance.
Clean Water and Sanitation
Regardless of financial and gender identities, ALL humans require water. We are living through a water crisis unlike anything we have ever experienced and according to the WWF, over a billion people lack access to water and almost 2.5 billion are at high risk of contracting water-borne diseases like cholera, due to insufficient sanitation. Safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030 is the UN’s goal and to ensure that, the world must check its increasing aridity NOW. As current estimates stand, 2 out of 3 people will face water shortages by 2025. It is not surprising with the amount of marine plastic pollution we have indulged in, but it’s surprising that we aren’t stopping still.
These are just 3 out of several key challenges in the way of achieving sustainable development. For more information and insights, please consult the United Nations Development Programme.