Landmark study finds tackling inequality is key to realising UN goals

Landmark study finds tackling inequality is key to realising UN goals
Scientists have analysed the relationship between each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, to establish how they interact with each other.

A landmark study of the relationship between each of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has found that tackling inequality in rich countries could unlock the prize of a better and more sustainable future for all.

Professor David Lusseau, from the University of Aberdeen, and Francesca Mancini, a Ph.D. student, applied network science techniques to analyse the relationship between each of the 17 SDGs, in order to establish how they interact with each other.

Their analysis found that in , goals related to and responsible consumption are having a negative impact on progress towards many other goals, in particular equality of opportunity – i.e. giving people the power to effect positive change in these areas.

Conversely, in low-income countries the approach to sustainability, and in particular to tackling poverty, is on track to deliver on all SDGs by the 2030 target set by the UN.

The study, which is published today in Nature Sustainability, includes a recommendation for a new 'sustainability deal' that prioritises equality of opportunity in activities around and responsible consumption in rich nations, and that continues to prioritise poverty alleviation in low-income countries. The authors believe that this approach could unlock the current barriers to progress towards the 2030 target.

Professor Lusseau commented: "From their inception, there was a clear understanding that the SDGs interact but the whole picture of those interactions was murky, with conflicts emerging in some areas but not others.

"By taking a network science approach we studied the whole range of SDG interactions – which we called the 'sustainome' – to try to understand how we can prioritise goals to maximise benefits for all SDGs.

"What is clear from our analysis is that our approach to sustainability for is on track to deliver on all SDGs, but this isn't the case for high-income countries.

"There are a multitude of complex factors at play, but activities focused on climate action and responsible consumption are having indirect and negative effects on other areas, primarily those aimed at reducing inequality."

Citing one example, Professor Lusseau pointed to the high cost of electric cars as a barrier to participation in climate action – thus widening equality of in people's ability to help realise positive change. He also pointed to the need to provide skills training to create more opportunities for all in the 'green' economy.

"What is now clear is that we will not be able to achieve all SDGs in high income countries using the approaches we have used over the past 25 years," Professor Lusseau added.

"We need to place inequalities at the core of our actions to reduce consumption and change our impacts. That means a new sustainability deal to ensure that all have the same opportunities during our transition to low carbon, responsible economies."


Explore further

Five insights that could move tourism closer towards sustainability

More information: David Lusseau et al. Income-based variation in Sustainable Development Goal interaction networks, Nature Sustainability (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41893-019-0231-4
Journal information: Nature Sustainability

Citation: Landmark study finds tackling inequality is key to realising UN goals (2019, March 5) retrieved 19 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-03-landmark-tackling-inequality-key-realising.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
26 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Mar 05, 2019
By reducing income inequality I suspect they are following the Venezuela model. When everyone is eating out of dumpsters (except the UN elite, of course), then we will have less effect on climate. Cue the Green New Deal.

Mar 05, 2019
Opportunity equality is pointless if those who stand to gain the most benefit can't even show up to a free or subsidized two-week course. The digital economy transformation was barely political and highly lucrative, yet still had low interest in entry from target groups. Want to go from trailer to townhouse in 2 years? Nope, people would rather stay put and post bizarre things about dumpsters and the UN elite.

Mar 05, 2019
The biggest equality will be if UN denuclearizes terrorist state Pakistan, and aristocrat state North Korea.

The situation in N. Korea is more dangerous than that in Pakistan because Pakistan's nuclear establishment is under the control of a "somewhat democratic government". But, the day Taliban or local terrorists take over the nuclear complex, the danger is inevitable.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more