Future Earth is leading the Science Based Pathways for Sustainability Initiative to contribute to knowledge-based decision making that supports achievement of the SDGs within a resilient, life-supporting Earth system.
This global, bottom-up initiative aims to convene diverse groups of stakeholders to achieve the following objectives:
- Inform policy dialogue and help develop a shared vision among scientists and stakeholders regarding the characteristics of pathways that will lead to sustainability and to the achievement of the SDGs.
- Influence research agendas by identifying critical knowledge gaps and needs for transdisciplinary efforts in sustainability research that will generate the knowledge needed to take robust policy decisions.
- Build, strengthen, and connect national, regional and global sustainability research communities and reinforce links with other stakeholders that have an interest in and influence on pathways to the SDGs.
Today’s environmental and social challenges occur at multiple geographical scales and are inter-related in complex and often unseen ways. Decision makers no longer have the luxury of tackling individual economic or social issues without accounting for environmental concerns and vice versa.
In response, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015. It provides a common global framework for peace and prosperity, for people and the planet, now and into the future. At the core of the 2030 Agenda are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – the most ambitious set of global objectives ever – developed as an urgent call to action for all countries.
While governments, civil society and businesses around the world are making progress towards the goals, recent analyses have concluded that no country is currently on track to achieve all SDGs and there is still much to do to attain Agenda 2030 over the next decade. In particular, there is an urgent need for knowledge-based guidance on how to achieve all SDGs as a cohesive unit, particularly in light of the potential synergies and trade-offs that exist between the different goals.
Image: Workplan for the Science-Based Pathways for Sustainability Initiative (Future Earth), with on the right envisioned roles for each entity of the Future Earth community: Global Research Projects (GRPs), Knowledge-Action Networks (KANs), National committees and Regional Centers and Committees.
The Science Based Pathways for Sustainability Initiative will achieve its objectives through a series of national processes, followed by consolidation and integration at the regional, and ultimately, international levels (see Figure 1).
The national processes will use structured back-casting methodologies to develop integrated pathways to meet the four life-supporting SDGs, that is, the goals specifically related to biodiversity, oceans, land and freshwater.
The outputs of the Initiative will vary by country and according to stakeholder needs but will include: (i) policy briefs and publications that describe the identified pathways and the political and societal decisions that will need to be taken to implement them; (ii) discussion papers on national and regional research priorities that identify priority transdisciplinary research needs to support knowledge-based decision making; and (iii) establishment of formal or informal networks of stakeholders and strengthened links to existing national and regional stakeholder platforms that are working on sustainability issues. Figure 2 illustrates the Initiative’s Theory of Change, including targeted activities, outputs, objectives and ultimate goal.
Image: The Science-Based Pathways for Sustainability Initiative’s Theory of Change (Future Earth).