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Three necessary conditions for establishing effective Sustainable Development Goals in the Anthropocene

Albert V. Norström, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden
Astrid Dannenberg, The Earth Institute, Columbia University, USA; Dept. of Economics, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
Geoff McCarney, The Earth Institute, Columbia University, USA; School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, USA
Manjana Milkoreit, School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, USA
Florian Diekert, Dept. of Economics, University of Oslo, Norway; NoRMER/CEES, Dept. of Biology, University of Oslo, Norway
Gustav Engström, The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, The Royal Swedish Academy of Science, Sweden
Ram Fishman, Dept. of Economics, George Washington University, USA
Johan Gars, The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, The Royal Swedish Academy of Science, Sweden
Efthymia Kyriakopoolou, Dept. of Economics, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
Vassiliki Manoussi, Athens University of Economics and Business, Greece
Kyle Meng, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, USA
Marc Metian, Radioecology Laboratory, IAEA Environment Laboratories, Monaco
Mark Sanctuary, The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, The Royal Swedish Academy of Science, Sweden
Maja Schlüter, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden
Michael Schoon, School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, USA
Lisen Schultz, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden
Martin Sjöstedt, Dept. of Political Science, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-06602-190308

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Abstract

The purpose of the United Nations-guided process to establish Sustainable Development Goals is to galvanize governments and civil society to rise to the interlinked environmental, societal, and economic challenges we face in the Anthropocene. We argue that the process of setting Sustainable Development Goals should take three key aspects into consideration. First, it should embrace an integrated social-ecological system perspective and acknowledge the key dynamics that such systems entail, including the role of ecosystems in sustaining human wellbeing, multiple cross-scale interactions, and uncertain thresholds. Second, the process needs to address trade-offs between the ambition of goals and the feasibility in reaching them, recognizing biophysical, social, and political constraints. Third, the goal-setting exercise and the management of goal implementation need to be guided by existing knowledge about the principles, dynamics, and constraints of social change processes at all scales, from the individual to the global. Combining these three aspects will increase the chances of establishing and achieving effective Sustainable Development Goals.

Key words

social change; social-ecological systems; Sustainable Development Goals; transformations

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087