17 Goals for Sustainable Development: Our Path to a Better Future
More than 700 million people worldwide live in extreme poverty. The number of people suffering from hunger is even higher. At the same time, climate change is causing more frequent extreme weather events, threatening past development achievements. Our global daily energy consumption accounts for 60% of total greenhouse gas emissions. When the estimated 9.8 billion people live on this planet in 2050, we will need three Earths to continue our current lifestyles. These conditions have prompted the United Nations to identify the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. What exactly they entail and how the German government, the Daniel Schlegel Environmental Foundation and you as a private person (can) contribute to it, is explained in the following article.
17 goals for sustainable development
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the core of the 2030 Agenda for the United Nations. They stand for a decent life for all and for the preservation of the natural basis of our lives. In doing so, nations worldwide recognize that these two outcomes cannot occur without each other. This requires the use of all our technological, social and economic knowledge. As our demands for prosperity increase in parallel with the world's population, it is more important than ever to respect the earth's natural capacities. In this context, the motto "Leave no one behind!" is a promise to the poor and disadvantaged on earth.
Sustainable development means the development of industrialized and developing countries in an environmentally sound manner. Three aspects of development are in the foreground:
- Ecological: Conservation of resources, avoidance of emissions
- Social: Divide ressources equally
- Economic: Economic development of all states, enabling competitiveness
The starting point for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals was the 1992 UN Conference on the Environment, where the finite nature of natural resources and the associated stress limits on our ecosystems were discussed for the first time. Thus, the Sustainable Development Goals consider the principles of the UN as interrelated: economic prosperity and social stability are only possible with healthy ecosystems. At the same time, a change in the definition of development began: this no longer refers only to economic growth. Industrialized countries also have a need for development and are therefore no longer considered the ultimate role model.
On this basis, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals were decided on in September 2015. These are not binding, but all member states of the United Nations have agreed to work on implementing these goals by 2030. The actual realization in one country is important, as this motivates other states to follow suit. For implementation, the 17 goals have been divided into 169 sub-goals. These include indicators that make both the need for action for the specific goal and already realized successes measurable and comparable.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals affect us all: governments worldwide, NGOs and other institutions, society, science, business and every individual. They envision us working together to address the challenges we face. Ultimately, we all benefit from achieving the goals.
Who are the United Nations?
The United Nations, also known as UN and United Nations Organization (UNO), is an intergovernmental association recognized globally without restrictions. Created in 1945 after World War II, it represents an association for solving international problems. Initially, its overarching goals were to uphold international law, protect human rights, and ensure world peace and interstate security. Today, the UN has also set itself the task of climate protection and sustainable development.
Since 2011, a total of 193 states are members of the UN world community. Non-members are Kosovo and Taiwan, as they are not recognized by all member states, and voluntarily the Vatican.
The United Nations has locations all over the globe with headquarters in New York, Geneva, Nairobi, and Vienna.
The 2030 Agenda
As described earlier, the 2030 Agenda contains the 17 goals for global sustainable development. It is divided into five core messages:
- People: People are the central focus of the sustainability goals
- Prosperity: The goals suppport worldwide prosperity
- Planet: They also protect the Earth
- Peace: And aim for peace
- Partnership: To reach the goals, there needs to be cooperation and partnership.
These goals belong to the five core messages as follows:
- No poverty: No one should live in poverty, ensuring the basic needs of all are met.
- No hunger: global food security, sustainable agriculture.
- Health and well-being: Ensuring global access to healthcare.
- Quality education: That is, education that is inclusive, equal, and lifelong.
- Gender equality: self-determination for all women and girls.
- Clean water and sanitation.
- Affordable and clean energy: Everyone has access to it, the energy is reliable, sustainable and modern.
- Decent work and economic growth: Permanent and sustainable, so that not only the rich benefit from globalization.
- Industry, innovation and infrastructure: Provide globally resilient infrastructure by 2030.
- Fewer inequalities: Within and between countries.
- Sustainable cities and communities: These should be inclusive, safe, resilient and affordable.
- Sustainable consumption and production patterns: Our current lifestyle is putting too much strain on the planet - this should change.
- Climate protection measures: Immediate implementation.
- Life under water: Oceans and seas are the basis of life, so we must preserve and use them sustainably.
- Life on land: Includes the protection, restoration and sustainable use of ecosystems and biodiversity.
- Peace, justice and strong institutions: Peaceful and inclusive societies, sustainable development. All people have access to justice, globally there should be effective and accountable institutions at all levels.
- Strong international partnerships to achieve the goals: Collaboration is essential to achieving the goals.
Climate protection measures in Germany
In Germany, the 17 global sustainability goals serve as a guideline for domestic and foreign policy. They are thus firmly anchored in the German sustainability strategy.
The German government wants to implement the 2030 Agenda in three ways:
- Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in Germany
- Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in other countries where Germany still stands in the way of this
- Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in other countries with which Germany has partnerships.
Who is responsible for sustainability policy in Germany?
The Federal Chancellery is responsible for the German sustainability strategy. Implementation is steered by the State Secretaries' Committee (the state secretaries of all federal ministries) and recommended by the German Council for Sustainable Development. The latter also implements its own projects that promote sustainability.
In addition, in Germany, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Sustainable Development in the Bundestag actively promotes sustainability.
Germany has also drawn up six principles to guide its sustainable development:
- Sustainable development should consistently guide all decisions in all areas in Germany.
- As an industrialized country, Germany assumes international responsibility for sustainable development.
- Preserving natural livelihoods.
- Encouraging a sustainable economy.
- Maintaining and strengthening an open, socially oriented society.
- Advancing sustainable development through education, science and innovation.
In 2017, 63 specific goals were written to implement these principles and reflect the progress made.
Several goals were added in 2021:
- Women in leading public positions
- Fathers' participation in parental benefit
- Expansion of broadband internet
- Access to cultural heritage
- Soil protection
So-called off-track indicators indicate the areas in which the German sustainability strategy is not on track yet. These currently include equal educational opportunities, energy consumption in transport and the loss of biodiversity.
The Daniel Schlegel Umweltstiftung ft. Sustainable Development Goals
The 2030 Agenda outlines a bright, fair and sustainable future. Unfortunately, expert opinions bring us down to earth. They are pessimistic that Germany will be able to implement the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. This primarily affects Goals 12 and 13, i.e. sustainable consumption and production, as well as climate protection measures.
This is where the Daniel Schlegel Umweltstiftung comes into play. With our diverse projects, we are helping to ensure that the following goals will soon be a reality.
We promote the spread of renewable energies in terms of environmental policy, for example by supporting the "Klimawende von unten" initiative, the work of GermanZero on a climate-friendly set of laws, and the lawsuit against the Datteln 4 coal-fired power plant.
For the tenth sustainability goal, rich countries should support poorer ones. For example, our project in Uganda counteracts poverty, disease and food shortages locally. Our establishment of a tree nursery in Cape Verde also improves the quality of life for local residents. In Germany, the Daniel Schlegel Environmental Foundation is committed to social justice by providing rental houses from the foundation's portfolio for the socially disadvantaged.
To keep cities livable, we need to improve air quality and provide affordable housing. We are promoting this by planting trees in cities, for example in Berlin and Lukavac (Bosnia and Herzegovina), and by supporting the legal action of Deutsche Umwelthilfe e.V. to ensure environmentally friendly traffic. In addition, the foundation offers rental houses at moderate prices.
To achieve Goal 13, the greenhouse effect and the effects of climate change must be reduced. This is supported by our sponsorship of the lawsuit against the Datteln 4 coal-fired power plant and the Umweltinstitutes München. Furthermore, trees help to filter greenhouse gases from the air. For this reason, we are committed to planting trees in a variety of ways, such as in the El Silencio Nature Reserve in Colombia or on the Hochmeisterplatz in Berlin.
Nature and animals, as well as fields and forests, need protection in order to preserve biodiversity and enforce Goal 15. This is where many of our projects come in. For example, we are creating habitats and healthy ecosystems in a swamp area in Rwanda, in Havelland in Brandenburg, and in the Romanian primeval forest.
To realize Goal 16, all people must be able to live in peace, have equal rights, and have basic needs met. The Daniel Schlegel Environmental Foundation extends this goal to future generations: The environmental aspect of all our projects promotes a livable future on this planet so that the basic rights of future generations are secured. By threatening our livelihoods and resources, climate change also threatens peace. Therefore, implementing environmental protection measures helps to minimize future conflict potential.
In order to implement the global sustainability goals, cooperation is needed. So we enter into partnerships with communities in our city and other countries, with institutes, climate protection organizations, schools, etc.
Click here for an overview of our partners in the fight for environmental conservation.
To achieve the 17 Global Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations emphasizes the role of the individual. We can all do our part. Here you will find an overview of the possible 'To do's' per sustainability goal. With this quick check, you can also calculate your carbon footprint to get an idea of where you can start.
In addition, the UN has drafted the following ten tips that everyone can use to contribute to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals:
- Save energy at home: This is the best way to contribute to the conservation of resources. And saving energy is possible everywhere in the household, e.g. when boiling water, washing laundry, lighting, heating, ... On this page you can collect helpful and easy-to-implement ideas.
- Walk, bike or take public transportation: In good weather, walk or hop on a bike and enjoy the fresh air and beneficial exercise. In bad weather, get on public transport and use the time to finally read the book you have been wanting to read! Nature and your health will thank you.
- Eat more vegetables: Another aspect that is doubly positive - for nature and health. Livestock farming has an immense impact on climate change. It also uses vast tracts of land to grow animal feed that could otherwise easily feed all the world's starving people. By basing your next meal on vegetables, fruits, legumes and grains, 8 of the 17 goals come closer.
- Travel: Taking the train instead of the plane on your next trip emits 90% less CO2 each way. It may help to remember that only 11% of the world's population flies regularly. Using this incredible privilege more consciously can achieve several sustainability goals at once.
- Food waste: More than a third of our food ends up in the garbage can. More than half of this could be avoided. The idea that there is enough food for everyone and that no one should have to go hungry provides an incentive to be more frugal with our food. You can trust your sense of smell instead of blindly looking at the best before date. Via EtePetete or TooGoodToGo you can become a food saver or contribute to the goals 1, 2, 6, 8, 12, 13, 14, and 15 with small tricks, e.g. by buying only half loaves of bread so that it doesn't go bad before you eat it.
- The three R's: Reduce, Repair, Recycle. This tip speaks for itself, can be applied to anything and is very effective.
- Go with renewable energy for your household: If solar panels are not an option for your roof, you can look into changing your energy provider and getting renewable energy.
- Choose an electric car: You'll contribute to better air quality and fewer greenhouse gases.
- Go for organic products: This tip does not exclusively mean more expensive organic products. Regional and seasonal vegetables from your nearest farmer are usually cheaper than the mango flown in from India and the environmental impact is much lower. In addition, you can rely on good working conditions and your body gets exactly the vitamins it needs in the appropriate season. With the help of seasonal calendars, you can find out which fruits and vegetables are in season. In addition, to support the goals of the core message "People", look for the Fairtrade sign (see seal below).
- Make some noise! You can apply this idea by signing petitions, talking to friends and family, sharing environmental contributions, or going to demonstrations. For example, you can find an overview of the strike dates of Fridays For Future here.
You can read more about how you can support our cause to create a livable planet in this article about adopting trees. In addition, the UN has created an app that provides more tips and allows you to document and track your activities. Lastly, there is the option to donate to projects that help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. By supporting Welthungerhilfe for example, many of the goals can be achieved for people. Donating to WWF advances all of the goals in the Planet category. And on our own donation page, you can select the exact project you want your donation to go to.
All in all, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals are incredibly important to ending current emergencies. They envision improvement for people, prosperity, planet, peace and partnerships, and call on the entire world to work together for a fair, sustainable future. The German government has incorporated the UN Sustainable Development Goals into its sustainability strategy. However, more effort is needed here to make the goals a reality by 2030. The Daniel Schlegel Environmental Foundation is also committed to this by supporting and implementing globally holistic projects. With the help of a few actions, you can make your contribution and make the earth a better place.
Visit us on Instagram, where we'll keep you up to date with climate news, fascinating fun facts about nature and other tips.
We would also be happy if you share the article on your social channels:
Blog article written by Emily Waltermann