Wildopeneye admires the intelligence evident in “Sustainable Development Agenda Revisited” – the Full Lecture by Achim Steiner, new head of the United Nations Development Program as filmed at the STEPS Centre Annual Lecture, University of Sussex, 15 May 2017. His speech has imbued me with a renewed sense of hope for human civilization.

I began by watching the shorter excerpt that focused specifically on the sustainable development goals and so impressed was I by Steiners’ perceptive insight and clarity of expression that I felt compelled to view the whole message. I’m very glad that I did, as his full speech serves to ground the sustainable development agenda in the real world context and presents the sustainable development goals not as a set of biblical-style Mosaic “commandments” but starting points in a new research-based socio-economic development paradigm which aims to improve “human wellbeing and social equity while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcity“.  Excellent, say I! I like that balance of priorities.

Having emerged from the financial crisis 0f 2008 Steiner identifies the challenges that the world now faces including: Climate Change. Novel Biotechnologies, Inequity, Oil Prices, Antibiotic Resistance, Air Pollution, Migrant Crises, Political Upheaval, Emerging Viruses, Nuclear Proliferation, Terrorism, Cybersecurity, Financial Instability, Environmental Disasters etc. and he notes how countries have reacted to instability and drawn together to produce cooperative agreement at the Paris talks, the most significant since the Montreal Protocol that curbed Ozone depletion. The OECD nations are now firmly involved in sustainable development.

He positively articulates the challenge for development as “rethinking the economy” not defining progress simply in terms of expansion of GDP, i.e. economic growth. He emphasised the preference for  more inclusive, informed ‘choice’ over imposed ‘trade-offs’ such as the dam developments that in past decades caused lots of misery in some rural areas and destroyed traditional ways of life to benefit electrification of certain cities.

We can expect unprecedented  transition management in the path to ecological society and he emphasised the economic benefits of transition to the Green Economy with trillions of dollars in benefit derived from intelligent planning and resource use in identified sectors of the global economy.

Steiner asks us to pay particular attention to how China is greening its economy because the Chinese are now outward looking and committing their economy to ecological transition and there’ll be many lessons as humanity corrects its market failures not just in the profit and loss sense but also in the environmental sense.  The speech is rich in supportive data but is relatively free of jargon or other barriers to understanding and well articulated.