“Sustainability – Looking beyond 2030”: UNU-EHS and Bonn Alliance for Sustainability Research start new event series

UNU- EHS and the Bonn Alliance for Sustainability Research are launching a new series of interactive workshops and dialogue formats to pave the way for scientific contributions to a “Looking beyond 2030” perspective in sustainability.

The series will begin with an expert workshop on “Revisiting Sustainability” in July, 2021, in which key members of the Bonn-based community engaged in the sustainability field are invited to discuss the theoretical and practical frameworks in sustainability science and policy. The series was developed as part of UNU-EHS’ emerging initiative Wellbeing, Sustainability and Equity (WiSE) Transformation and invites thematic engagement in future-oriented sustainability.

The idea to look beyond 2030 stems from the UN’s Agenda 2030 and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were developed in 2015 to create a better world by 2030, by ending poverty, fighting inequality and addressing the urgency of climate change. But while being widely respected as a great achievement of the international community of States that has done much to include different voices, the Agenda has faced criticism from different sides, for example for being dominated by “Northern” and “Western” paradigms. This dominance results in concerns about insufficient inclusion of other worldviews and approaches, such as voices of indigenous populations, and the inability to incorporate other internationally relevant frameworks such as the Agenda 2063 of the African Union.

It has often been claimed that science did not have a strong enough voice in the negotiation process towards the 17 SDGs of the UN Agenda 2030. At the same time, sustainability science is now playing a prominent role in universities and think tanks worldwide. But sustainability science has a complex job to do: It needs to bring together economy, nature and society, as well as a variety of actors and interests, which means it operates in a field of tension between different social discourses and value systems. At the same time, it needs to be practical and actionable and cooperate with the private sector, policy makers and civil society. It is structured less by disciplines than by concrete problem settings, and thus requires an understanding beyond historically developed “scientific” disciplinary boundaries.

2030 is not far away, and there will still be work to do after the expiration of the agenda. In order to be ready for a “post 2030” agenda, we need to think early about improving existing frameworks and tools, for a system change to incorporate previously neglected themes, perspectives and voices. More importantly, we should explore new ways of thinking about sustainability and the pathways to achieve them. To contribute to this process is the goal of this new series. Further information can be found here.

The series was developed in the framework of WiSE Transformation, an emerging initiative at UNU-EHS in cooperation with the Bonn Alliance for Sustainability Research that seeks to develop holistic data and policy models to weigh all dimensions of well-being, sustainability and equity for decision makers. It acknowledges that for a long time economic factors, and especially the Gross Domestic Product, have been used to measure the quality of our life, which has led to a perspective that was frequently neither sustainable nor equitable. The goal of WiSE Transformation is to bring together a broad range of interdisciplinary scientific expertise necessary to understand the interface between well-being, sustainability and equity, and to work towards a globally inclusive narrative. Further information on WiSE Transformation can be found here.

*An article by UNU-EHS.