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Sustainable Development Goals Need Science

United Nations, Mar 21 2013 (IPS) - Scientific experts from developing and developed countries participating in the Open Working Group (OWG), established  last January,  gathered in New York City to deliver their early deliberations on the way science can impact on the UN’s proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

One of the outcomes of the Rio +20 summit in Brazil last June was to launch a set of new SDGs.

“We are in a new era, approaches that worked in the past will no longer work in the future,” said Professor David Griggs, Director of the Monash Sustainability Institute and chief executive officer (CEO) of ClimateWorks Australia.

He explained that development and environmental issues can no longer be dealt with separately because of the way humans affect their environments and that “we need to deal with those issues in an integrated way.”

“We need to find ways to harness rapidly acquired knowledge, we need to find new way to organise ourselves and we need to use science to ground our goals in reality,” said Charles Perrings, Professor of Environmental Economics at Arizona State University.

He explained that science and technology now permit to model consequences of policy options in a much better way than it did 10 years ago and that well-framed SDGs  “can help us understand the world as an integrated whole.”

“We are currently thinking and acting on a sectoral basis, but  we need to think an integrated system,” said Youba Sokona, Coordinator of the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC)  at  the UN Economic Commission for Africa. (ECA)

Norichika Kanie, an associate professor at the Graduate School of Decision Science and  Technology, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan and Senior Research Fellow at United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies explained that in order to create SDGs,  there is a need for  an interface between science and policy and more interactions between scientists and policy makers.

“In order to address the goals sustainably, particular goals must have longer time-frame,” he added, calling for different time-frames depending on the goals.

Within the scientific field “natural and social sciences have to work together like never before,” said Nikhil Seth, Director of the Division for Sustainable Development at the UN’s  Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

“Scientifics have a very large role of capacity building” said Claudia Ringler, Deputy Division Director of the Environment and Production Technology Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute, about the ways to reach SDGs.

“Paradoxically, the poor countries have much more opportunities to be on a sustainable path,” said Sokona about the fact coming from less developed state, poor countries can start build a sustainable path from the beginning without dealing with a big former unsustainable heritage.

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