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Three necessary conditions for establishing effective Sustainable Development Goals in the Anthropocene

Journal article
Authors A.V. Norström
A. Dannenberg
G.R. McCarney
M. Milkoreit
F.K. Diekert
G. Engström
R. Fishman
J. Gars
V. Manoussi
Efthymia Kyriakopoulou
K. Meng
M. Metian
M. Sanctuary
M. Schlüter
M.L. Schoon
L. Schultz
Martin Sjöstedt
Published in Ecology and Society
Volume 19
Issue 3
Publication year 2014
Published at Department of Economics, Environmental Economics Unit
Language en
Keywords Social change , Social-ecological systems , Sustainable Development Goals , Transformations
Subject categories Economics and Business, Earth and Related Environmental Sciences


© 2014 by the author(s). The purpose of the United Nations-guided process to establish Sustainable Development Goals is to galvanize governments and civil society to rise to the interlinked environmental, societal, and economic challenges we face in the Anthropocene. We argue that the process of setting Sustainable Development Goals should take three key aspects into consideration. First, it should embrace an integrated social-ecological system perspective and acknowledge the key dynamics that such systems entail, including the role of ecosystems in sustaining human wellbeing, multiple cross-scale interactions, and uncertain thresholds. Second, the process needs to address trade-offs between the ambition of goals and the feasibility in reaching them, recognizing biophysical, social, and political constraints. Third, the goal-setting exercise and the management of goal implementation need to be guided by existing knowledge about the principles, dynamics, and constraints of social change processes at all scales, from the individual to the global. Combining these three aspects will increase the chances of establishing and achieving effective Sustainable Development Goals.

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