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20.4 A long-term vision: selected targets and indicators


A range of challenges exist when interpreting SDG targets and related indicators with regard to their values. Assessing future developments and potential pathways for achieving all SDG targets is not possible because of limited data and time. Furthermore, such an analysis is limited by the scope of the existing scenario literature and the integrated assessment models that these studies are built on (see Chapter 21). A selection of targets should thus be made. Next to the challenge of selecting targets, many environment related SDG targets are broadly defined and/or phrased in non-quantitative terms (Lucas et al. 2016). In order to assess pathways towards achieving the environmental dimension of the SDGs, the selected targets need to be quantitative, requiring clear indicators accompanied by target values.


The grouping of SDGs in Figure 20.1 was used to select and organize the SDG targets. Quantitative targets from related MEAs and the scientific literature (science-based targets) were used to quantify these targets, where relevant. The selection is centred around the so-called food-water-energy nexus, focusing on the challenges addressed by, and linked to, the SDGs on food and agriculture (SDG 2), water (SDG 6) and energy (SDG 7). The selection puts natural resource use at the centre (sustainable consumption and production), linked with social objectives concerned with people’s access to these resources and related health impacts (human well-being), and environmental objectives related to the quality and quantity of environmental resources required for or impacted by human use (natural resource base). The selected SDG targets for human well‐being (Table 20.1) and the natural resource base (Table 20.2) are endpoint targets, aiming for a healthy planet with healthy people. The selected SDG targets for sustainable consumption and production (Table 20.3) are effort- or activity‐ related targets that are relevant to achieving the endpoint targets.


The selected targets addressing the natural resource base link to the five environmental themes discussed in Part A of GEO-6 (air, biodiversity, oceans, land and freshwater), supplemented by climate change. Furthermore, the targets link to a range of GEO-6 cross-cutting issues (see Chapter 4), most prominently health, climate change, energy, and food systems. Chemicals, and waste and wastewater are two other GEO-6 cross-cutting issues, identified as issues of global concern and addressed under multiple SDGs. There is a general lack, however, of future chemicals and waste flow studies and scenarios in the scientific literature (see Box 21.1). Therefore, chemicals, and waste and wastewater are not discussed as separate issues. More in-depth analysis of these two issues in the context of the SDGs can be expected in UNEP’s upcoming Global Chemicals Outlook II and Global Waste Management Outlook, to be released in 2019.


For each target selected, one indicator (and where relevant, two) is selected to track progress. In the context of the SDGs, the United Nations General Assembly adopted an SDG indicator framework that consists of 232 indicators (United Nations 2017). Each indicator is being developed in order to provide


accurate and reliable data from now until at least 2030. UNEP is the custodian agency for several SDG indicators related to water (SDG 6), sustainable consumption and production (SDG 12), conservation and sustainable use of ocean resources (SDG 14) and of terrestrial ecosystems (SDG 15) (United Nations 2018). In addition to being custodian agency for these SDG indicators, UNEP is involved in most other SDG indicators that have an environmental dimension. The selected indicators link as much as possible to these globally agreed indicators.


It should be noted that the selected indicators are meant to track progress at the global level and that they are not always relevant at the national or subnational scale. Moreover, many indicators, especially those related to sustainable consumption and production and the natural resource base, cover only part of what the goals and targets try to accomplish. For air quality in cities, for example, the proposed indicator tracks progress for only one kind of air pollutant (i.e. fine particulate matter [PM] of diameter less than 2.5 µm and 10 µm; PM2.5


and PM10 ) –


yet there are several others, with some interacting with each other (e.g. ozone, volatile organic compounds, sulphur dioxide etc.). With respect to health, only one indicator was selected (the under-five mortality rate), which only partly reflects the interconnectedness of planet, society and human health that the SDGs, and GEO-6, are trying to represent. Focusing on a single indicator to track progress for such targets should thus be done with care. To keep the analysis focused however, a limited set of targets is selected to cover, as much as possible, the food-water-energy nexus, while the selected indicators are based mostly on the official SDG indicator set.


Next to the indicator and target levels presented in Tables 20.1, 20.2 and 20.3, additional indicators are used in Chapters 21 and 22 to discuss future development of the respective targets, including relevant underlying developments, as well to discuss the potential of specific measures and important synergies and trade-offs across these measures and the selected targets.


20.4.1 Human well-being


For human well-being, five SDG targets are selected (Table 20.1). Overall, the SDGs express a strong commitment, both quantitatively and qualitatively, to eradicating poverty and improving human well-being. Among other relevant issues, they aim to end all forms of poverty, including ending hunger, and to achieve access for all to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, modern energy services, health care, education, work, housing and more.


Despite the centrality of human health to the GEO-6 theme of Healthy Planet, Healthy People, only one target (3.2) and one indicator (3.2.1, under-five mortality rate) has been selected for the scenario analysis. Under-five mortality is generally seen as a good indicator of quality of life, is influenced by numerous environmental determinants, is strongly related to other targets selected for human well-being. And the SDGs set a quantitative target for 2030. Scenario projections, although limited, also exist in the scientific literature that link future developments in under-five mortality to underlying environmental risk factors (see Section 21.3.6). The under-five mortality rate also has


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476 Outlooks and Pathways to a Healthy Planet with Healthy People


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