The Sustainable Development Oxymoron: Quantifying and Modelling the Incompatibility of Sustainable Development Goals
24 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2016
Date Written: April 19, 2016
In 2015, the UN adopted a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to eradicate poverty, establish socio-economic inclusion and protect the environment. Critical voices such as the International Council for Science, however, have expressed concerns about potential incompatibility of the SDGs, specifically the incompatibility of socio-economic development and environmental sustainability. In this paper we test, quantify and model the alleged inconsistency of SDGs. Our analyses show which SDGs are consistent and which conflicting. We measure the extent of inconsistency and conclude that the SDG agenda will fail as a whole if we continue with business as usual. We further explore the nature of the inconsistencies using dynamical systems models, which reveal that the focus on economic growth and consumption as a means for development underlies the inconsistency. Our models also show that there are factors which can contribute to development (health programs, government investment) on the one hand and ecological sustainability (renewable energy) on the other, without triggering the conflict between incompatible SDGs.
Keywords: Sustainable Development Goals, sustainable development incompatibility, dynamical systems modeling, factor analysis, feature selection, UN data revolution
JEL Classification: C6, O11, O57
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation