"Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".
Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future, 1987
This statement is how the United Nations defines Global Sustainable Development (GSD). With the world’s population predicted to grow from six to nine billion between the years 2000 to 2050, the next few decades are set to witness significant transformations in economic growth, international relations, human development, biodiversity, human health, and social justice. As these transformations take place, the United Nations has outlined 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), designed to empower governments, businesses, and individuals to work collectively towards a prosperous future for all.
These SDGs strike a balance between the critical theoretical questions of why inequality exists, whilst also demanding an unequivocal global response through policy and practice. We might, for example, consider why UNESCO predicts that 1.8 billion people are expected to live with absolute water scarcity by 2025. What economic, environmental, and social currents have given rise to this crisis? And what practical steps can be taken to solve it?
Each SDG has a clear and measurable aim, designed to rebalance a particular global inequality, but they are all intimately link to each other. The shift towards affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), for example, cannot be achieved without considering the effect on industry, innovation, and infrastructure (SDG 9). Jeffrey Sachs, a leading voice in the movement for global sustainable development, sums this up well:
“Taken as a whole package, the SDGs are meant to orient the world in clear, specific, measurable, concise, and understandable ways to help the world to make the shift from business as usual...to a new trajectory of sustainable development.”
Jeffrey Sachs, The Age of Sustainable Development (2015) p.489.
In order to secure “a new trajectory of sustainable development”, we need inspired leaders in all sectors of the economy and society. From working in a small local conservation charity, to issuing policy advice for an international engineering firm, having a dedicate knowledge of global sustainable development has never been more pressing. To study GSD is to arm yourself with this knowledge. That journey can begin here with us at The University of Warwick.