Opinion: New development goals - same as the old? | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 04.08.2015
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Environment

Opinion: New development goals - same as the old?

The UN's green-tinted Sustainable Development Goals are an acknowledgment of human-caused environmental pressures. That's all well and good, but is it too little, too late? DW's Sonya Angelica Diehn ponders.

So the new Millennium Development Goals are now the Sustainable Development Goals.

Meet the new goals, but aren't they the same as the old?

Not quite. The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals chart specific targets not only for economic and social development, but also for the environment.

Commitments include ensuring access to "sustainable and modern energy for all."

Through the goals, cities are to be made greener and food waste to be halved. Sustainable use of the seas is brought up, while biodiversity is also given a nod.

But building environmental aspects into efforts to improve the lives of humans not only symbolizes the mainstreaming of a global environmental consciousness. It's all part of a greater trend toward truly acknowledging that, indeed, humans are animals that depend on the environment, just as all other living things do. Not only do humans depend on the natural systems we are a part of, but we're also pushing them so far that the backlash is beginning to affect our own well-being.

Sonya Angelica Diehn, DW Environment Team Leader

Sonya Angelica Diehn heads DW's environment desk

And that is finally being felt - concretely.

Our dependence on fossil fuels is reversing human health gains made over past decades. And the severe pressure on species, like bees, is being acknowledged as having a very real economic impact.

So, the new Sustainable Development Goals have been tinted green. And, hey, the UN has even done some recycling of its own: Among the new goals are some of the old goals, like ending poverty and hunger.

Wait, the Millennium Development Goals didn't eradicate poverty and hunger?

What a surprise - I would never have imagined that a lack of any kind of binding enforcement would be ineffective.

Sarcastic comments aside - although I have always been skeptical of the effectiveness of such international resolutions, I was genuinely surprised to learn how much the Millennium Development Goals actually have achieved.

Since 2000, extreme poverty has been slashed. The delivery of medicine to the developing world has been invigorated. In some regions, child mortality has plummeted.

So having such goals, and including the environment in them, is all well and good. Hopefully, these can add to what appears to be growing momentum for political will toward action on the environment - and the climate.

But at the risk of sounding like a harbinger of doom: hopefully it's not too late.

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