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Director of SSRP represents global science community at international summit on Sustainable Development Goals

Professor Joseph Alcamo at the SDG Summit in New York

The Director of the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme (SSRP) was one of just three individuals chosen to represent the world's scientific community at the summit for the Sustainable Development Goals this week.

The event, held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, was attended by Heads of State and Government to review progress in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Professor Joseph Alcamo was selected by the International Science Council to be one of the three delegates to represent the global ‘Scientific and Technological Community’ - one of nine ‘Major Groups’ in attendance.

These ‘Major Groups’ are recognised interest groups which represent civil society and cover the areas of farming, business and industry, workers and trade unions, local authorities, non-governmental organisations, indigenous peoples, women, and children and youth.

The summit took place across two days (24th and 25th September) giving Professor Alcamo a chance to meet with many delegates and civil society representatives to discuss progress on the SDGs and priorities for implementing them.

He said: “The influence of Sussex on the SDGs continues to increase as we report our findings to government and UN officials and NGOs, and work more intensely with stakeholders around the world.”

During the discussions, UN Secretary General António Guterres told attendees that the world was ‘off track’ for meeting the SDGs, citing persistent extreme poverty and high biodiversity loss among other problems.

However, in his opening speech, he also described those in academia and science as key partners in the push to meeting the goals. 

Professor Alcamo said: “The big message that came out of the summit was that progress towards the SDGs is slow, too slow, and a major reason is that the ‘single goal’ approach isn’t working.

“There’s a desperate need to implement the SDGs as a package – which is exactly what we’ve been pushing for in SSRP by trying to find the synergies and conflicts between the goals.

“Many speakers at the summit were also saying that they need more evidence to support strategies.

“This is a huge opportunity for Sussex as after just two years of hard research, the SSRP is already beginning to produce exciting new results that will contribute to setting priorities for the SDGs and ensuring that we can see real progress in the years ahead.”

At the start of the week, Professor Alcamo spoke on a panel about environmental policies and zero-carbon targets at the Labour Party Conference, arguing for alternatives to air travel and a stop to fossil fuel subsidies. Next week, he’ll also be speaking on the environment at the Conservative Party Conference. 

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By: Stephanie Allen
Last updated: Wednesday, 13 November 2019