An environment-friendly means of development is the most logical answer if we wish to survive in this universe.
The planet today faces serious socio-environmental issues that put millions of intended development benefactors at risk. Some of the most widely seen among these are the rise in global temperature, increase in pollution, depletion of natural resources, water as well as land degradation and loss in biodiversity, along with overpopulation and public health issues. As the problems only seem to be getting worse, the need of the hour calls for sustainable means of development.
An environment-friendly means of development is the most logical answer if we wish to survive in this universe. But does the implementation of such a solution mean that we would have to make compromises in our present lifestyle or our present need for development? The answer is, not quite. With our current technical advancements, we have earned the right to proceed with development, provided we move judiciously. We need to make thoughtful changes in terms of our thinking, policies, approaches, and practices, while keeping the well-being of the entire ecosystem in mind.
In 2015, the United Nations, to attain genuine transformative result in terms of environmental and social development, came out with a new normative approach called The 2030 Agenda, which lists 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) along with 169 associate targets, all integrated by an interconnected approach making all the goals unified and indivisible. With this blueprint, UN aims to achieve environmental stability, while securing human well-being. As this blueprint is shared by UN members, new partnerships are being formed with political agreements, a "never seen before" level of international cooperation.
The Kyoto Protocol treaty is one such example by which UN member countries have come to an agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions and combat climate change. In linking SDGs to their national development plans countries contribute actively towards forming partnerships with global and local governments, the private sector, institutions, civil society, and most importantly with their nationals. There are examples of providing good incentives for businesses to integrate a
cleaner and sustainable framework into their business model. Countries, such as India and China, for whom sustainable development also means maintaining a healthy GDP growth, have created new policies to reform taxes and created new economic opportunities.
An example of a commendable initiative is by the European Union, the Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). With this, the EU aims to reduce the level of emission it produced in 2005 by 21 per cent in 2020. Participation in the EU ETS has been made mandatory for all carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and perfluorocarbon producing companies. Seeing the success of this initiative, China, which is the world's largest polluter, also wants to follow the practice.
There is growing emphasis on establishing activities that improve the economy, healthcare, and infrastructure for the community, activities with which the public feels comfortable and safe in their home. For instance, In India, where healthcare is a major concern, the government through 'Modicare' is providing better healthcare solutions. With the government now in its second term of governance there is hope in achieving universal health coverage with citizens not facing any kind of financial adversity. Also, Mission Indradhanush for the immunisation of children is a worthy step to bring down childhood mortality and impact better life. As development and environment expert state establishing activities that improve healthcare, the economy and infrastructure for the community are part of building social capital which in turn leads to better social sustainable development. Live Green Toronto is an example of such a community-based programme where community members channel their ideas into actions for a brighter future.
The private sector, too, in many countries has started implementing eco-friendly solutions into their services. For example, Levi Strauss & Co has started recycling its jeans by buying back from the customers their old jeans, thus reducing environmental waste disposal. Smog Free Tower, designed by Daan Roosegaarde, is another good example of how an individual could impact climate change by introducing a futuristic solution. Similar is the initiative by footwear giant Nike by which their manufactured products which use more natural materials and in turn produce less waste keeps them ahead of their competitors in sustainability.
The car manufacturer Tesla, Inc. is another great example of a company that leads innovation and is a trendsetter in terms of innovation. The company by developing the world's first ever premium all-electric sedan was able not only to achieve great heights in terms of sustainability but also to revolutionise the world's expectations for what a car of the 21st century should be like. Eco-friendly innovation is not just restricted to international product-based companies but also being carried out by many regional and small companies across the world, such as ICICI Bank in India, Sime Darby in Malaysia, and Algoa FM in South Africa. Clearly, for many in the private sector, business can work with a sustainable outlook, and the idea of sustainability is not a challenge or a goal, but rather a business opportunity.
As per research conducted by the Business & Sustainable Development Commission, the alignment of SDGs to business strategies could create 380 million new jobs in the next 10-15 years across cities in the energy, healthcare, food and agriculture sectors. Besides this, with compiling to SDGs, an estimated US$ 12 trillion a year in business saving and revenue could be generated by 2030. Delivering SDGs could also open new market opportunities, such as mine rehabilitation and sustainable aquaculture.
No doubt attaining sustainability is not easy as society can be slow to change, policy as well as political changes can be hard to implement, and technology changes can bring either success or failure. However, it is doubtless that if we want things to improve, things would have to change, and the society would have to embrace sustainable development no matter what, because the future of not only humankind but of the entire planet and its ecosystems hangs on us. This is imperative as we move on to observe another World Environment Day and become conscious enough to demand environmental-friendly products and services.
Shankardass is a sociologist and a health and development social scientist working as associate professor, Maitreyi College, University of Delhi. Kapur is an engineer by training, pursuing masters in environment and development.