The “Planet” SDGs underpin the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
The “Planet” SDGs underpin the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has brought a more holistic way of looking at development issues, recognizing that “social and economic development depend on the sustainable management of our planet’s natural resources”. Indeed, natural capital stocks and ecosystem service flows underpin all human activities toward achieving the SDGs.
Planet (6, 12, 13, 14, 15)
Agriculture is the world’s leading driver of ecosystem change in the world, and is at the same time most affected by these changes. Currently we are responding to global food supply demand by increased use of ecological inputs affecting life on land (SDG 15), life below water (SDG14), climate change (SDG13), and clean water (SDG6).
About half of agricultural land is degraded, costing nearly USD 66 billion per year in terms of ecosystem service loss for land productivity, such as nutrient cycling, genetic diversity, pest control and pollination. Over the next 25 years, land degradation could reduce global food productivity by as much as 12 per cent, leading to a 30 per cent increase in world food prices. Indeed, the conservation and sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems and promoting resilience and quality of soil (SDG15) forms the basis for food security and nutritional diversity for present and future generations. Propagating a virtuous circle of food security and ecosystem conservation will also greatly increase the agricultural sector’s resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters (SDG 13). At the same time, this would support the agricultural sectors’ capacity to combat climate change, currently accounting for around one-fifth of the global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Similarly, healthy coastal and marine resources (SDG14) are pivotal for food security and nutritional diversity. Currently, more than 30% of fish stocks which are estimated to be harvested beyond the biologically sustainable levels. Also, as a result of fertilizer and pesticide runoff, ‘dead zones’ are increasingly observed at the mouths of river systems. This is closely interlinked to promoting sustainable water management (part of SDG6), with 70% of global freshwater used by agriculture.
In conclusion, achieving a world where food is sufficient, safe, affordable and nutritious will require an integrated agenda to deliver upon the Planet SDGs. Target 15.9 –integrating the value of ecosystem and biodiversity values into decision making– is an enabling factor to connect the dots between the different goals and targets.
The successful implementation of target 15.9 will lead to investments in input-neutral yield growth, transforming both specialized (high-input) industrial agriculture as well as underperforming smallholder and subsistence farming. A shift in consumption patterns, including reduced food loss and waste (SDG 12) may drive food security and nutritional diversity (SDG2) and many other SDGs. Indeed, research shows that shaping people’s diet choices towards less-animal sourced food (SDG12) may be a most effective mean to achieve multiple goals. Overall, the economic benefits of improving diets are estimated to reach between 1–31 trillion US dollars by 2050, which is equivalent to 0.4–13% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
People (2,3,4), Dignity (1,5) and Justice (16)
Feeding a growing and richer world population (SDG2) without degrading the planet’s resources and environment will support the attainment of many other goals. Immediate gains in reducing poverty in all forms (SDG1) can be achieved by reducing food security concerns and investments in the “productive assets of the poor”, such as soil, forest, fish, agro-biodiversity and water. Similarly, sustainable agricultural systems will mitigate conflicts and migration (SDG16) caused by stress on water and land. Ensuring healthy lives (SDG3) requires a broadened focus onto shaping people’s diets choices that provide low-input food for healthy lives. Currently, the impact of malnutrition on the loss of productivity and health care spending are estimated at US$3.5 trillion a year (5 percent of global GDP), largely above the global economic impacts of for example smoking and terrorism. Also, intensive research and training across the value chain to mainstream sustainable practices (SDG4) and closing the gender gaps in terms of agricultural inputs (SDG 5) will positively impact on food and nutrition security.
Prosperity (7, 8, 9, 10, 11)
Our future prosperity depends upon whether we are able to increase food production in harmony with nature while using the food we grow effectively for nutritious, varied and safe diets. The agricultural sector is the world’s biggest employer with one in three of the world’s active labour force working in the sector. This illustrates the agricultural sector’s fundamental role in promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all (SDG8). Mainstreaming labour intensive and productive farming systems is also pivotal to reduce inequalities (SDG 10) by creating income generating activities for rural poor. Also, technological and institutional innovation (SDG 9) can drive agriculture productivity without additional inputs from natural resources. Furthermore, a wise use of biofuels reduces pressures on the level and the volatility of agricultural commodity prices (SDG 7), while the cultural heritage of agro-ecosystems can enhance economic, social and environmental links between urban and rural areas (SDG11).
Partnerships between ecological, agricultural and economic communities in the areas of trade, technology and innovation sharing, green finance, food aid, and development cooperation will increase policy coherence (SDG 17).