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Parliamentary report highlights Sussex scientists' push for coherent approach to global sustainability goals

Evidence from the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme (SSRP) has been referenced in a new report by the House of Commons International Development Select Committee (IDC).

The report identifies failings in the Government’s Voluntary National Review of progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) describing it as selective and suggesting that it casts doubts on the UK’s commitment.

Published today, the document reflects the SSRP’s written evidence that governments are concentrating too much on individual goals and not enough on the many interlinkages among goals.  

Experts from Sussex had warned that “failure to recognise the synergies and trade-offs among the different goals will impede progress in achieving the goals and could see long-term decisions being made now that lock-in detrimental impacts for decades to come.”  

The Committee report highlights SSRP’s call for the Government to get its different departments to work much more closely on a coherent, “integrative” approach to the SDGs, both here and abroad; an approach that takes into account the obvious connections between, for example, energy, climate and health, or between food and biodiversity.

Sussex experts welcomed IDC’s recommendation to embed SDG coordination in the Cabinet Office as a positive step in this direction.

Professor Joseph Alcamo, Director of the SSRP and former Chief Scientist to the UN’s Environment Programme said: “It’s heartening that the Committee picked up the important message from Sussex academics about the need for an integrative rather than “silo” approach for reaching these all-important global goals.  It shows that the academic community also has a role to play. 

“But we are only eleven years away from the end date of the SDGs, so it’s time for the academic community to finally step up in a major way to help governments and communities implement the global goals.”

In a release published this morning, Stephen Twigg MP, Chair of the International Development Select Committee, said: "Today, the UK will present its first Voluntary National Review to the UN. This should have provided a clear indication of how far the UK has progressed towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, a global agenda which includes the most crucial challenges facing the world today, across the full spectrum of social, economic, political and environmental issues. However, we have found both the preparation and the presentation of the VNR to be gravely flawed. 

"We fear that the priority and resources committed to the VNR process - and the whole SDGs agenda - reflect a lack of engagement and understanding at the heart of, and throughout, the UK Government.

“We do welcome the progress the UK is shown to have made, and signs of some efforts made to incorporate sustainable development across government departments. But this progress has been uneven, and knowledge of the Sustainable Development Goals across Government remains limited.

“Our sincere hope is that the Government has learned important lessons from this first VNR process and that, at today’s presentation at the High Level Political Forum, will kick-start a fresh commitment to the SDGs.”


By: Stephanie Allen
Last updated: Tuesday, 16 July 2019

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