New research shows that the growing environmental and material footprints of consumption and production could prevent the world from achieving several of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Sustainability usually delivers knock-on benefits that make it more attractive to investors. Take, for example, how clean water generates not only revenues but also health to people.
But a new study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said that responsible consumption and production rarely packs the synergies of other sustainable practices, suggesting those interested in a green future need to think of new incentives for people to change how to make and buy things.
The study found that trade-offs are necessary to adopt sustainable consumption and production – foregoing meat, for example, in order to cut down on one’s carbon footprint.
“It turns out that in general, synergies outweigh trade-offs for most sustainable development goals, or SDGs, and countries,” said the study’s lead author, Prajal Pradhan, in a press release. “However, one SDG stands out as being in partial conflict with a number of other goals – that is responsible consumption and production.”
Perhaps if sustainability delivered sufficient benefits, more people would accept the trade-offs associated with altering production and consumption, the scientists added.
“Our study shows that the SDGs are much more than just a collection of targets, but a system of synergistic re-enforcement,” said study co-author Wolfgang Lucht, chair of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research’s Earth System Analysis. “While no single SDG has the power to transform the world alone, the whole set of SDGs together does.”
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