Global goals mapping: the environment-human landscape

Scharlemann, Jörn P W, Mant, Rebecca C, Balfour, Nicholas, Brown, Claire, Burgess, Neil D, Guth, Miriam, Ingram, Daniel J, Lane, Richard, Martin, Juliette, Wicander, Sylvia and Kapos, Valerie (2017) Global goals mapping: the environment-human landscape. Technical Report. Sussex Sustainability Research Programme, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK and UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge, UK.

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The UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), The Rockefeller Foundation (RF), and the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) recognise that the development challenges of the 21st century require both a shift in thinking and actions that prepare us for the future, while enabling more effective development interventions today. These organisations are establishing a new initiative: 'Towards a Sustainable Earth: Environment-human Systems and the UN Global Goals' (TaSE) as part of their commitment to seeing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (also known as Global Goals) become a reality. The core premise of the TaSE initiative is that environment-human interactions must be central to all development.

The TaSE initiative is convening a meeting at The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Centre (7-11 November 2016) to identify the major research and innovation questions relevant to the achievement of the overarching ambition of this initiative. To help focus discussions during this meeting, NERC commissioned the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme (SSRP) at the University of Sussex and the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) to produce a “synthesis of past and current research and innovation relating to the policy landscape surrounding the environment-human relationships and systems that interact across the UN Global Goals”.
The commissioned work is encapsulated in this report, Global Goals mapping: the environment-human landscape. For each Goal, the first part of this report summarises the role of environment-human interactions and synthesises relevant research evidence, key innovations and policies, and knowledge and research gaps.

The syntheses of research evidence, key innovations and policies presented for individual Global Goals show that environment-human interactions are important for the achievement of all of the Goals. However, the number of environment-human interactions, and the extent to which these interactions need to be considered for achieving each Goal, varies among Global Goals. Although research, innovation and policy have advanced substantially since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, knowledge and research gaps related to environment-human interactions remain for all Goals.

The Global Goals were conceived as an 'indivisible whole'. The Goals relate to and depend on each other, but relationships between Goals need to be better understood. Previous analyses have begun to explore relationships including synergies and possible conflicts between the Goals from a number of different perspectives and differ widely in their conclusions. While many highlight the role of the more environmentally-focused Goals in underpinning sustainable development, none specifically focuses on environment-human interactions, which are the focus of the TaSE initiative and crucial to the achievement of the Goals.

This report uses a new analysis to suggest which relationships between Global Goals may be most influenced by environment-human interactions. It is based on a pairwise view of relationships between Goals, assessing the influence that action (research, policy, innovation and/or management) towards one Goal may have on the potential for achieving others. It highlights 20 pairwise relationships between Goals where these influences may be especially strong, and illustrates for some of these how the knowledge and research gaps identified in Part 1 are relevant to the relationships between the Goals. In reality relationships among Goals are more complex and multidimensional than a pairwise analysis can illustrate, but visualising all connections among them is challenging. Further knowledge gaps and challenges related to the trade-offs, synergies and unintended consequences of the relationships among Goals will need to be addressed to achieve all 17 Goals.

In order to understand relationships among Global Goals and prioritize action, including research, it is essential to consider multiple cross-cutting factors, including: temporal and spatial scales of action and impact; context for the action, whether local or other; the (multi) directionality of the relationships among Goals; thresholds and tipping points; number and types of people affected; human behaviour; governance, institutions and power; existence and accessibility of different types of knowledge; and the feasibility of obtaining and scaling-up research results and innovations by 2030. Several approaches have attempted to tackle interconnected challenges, including nexus thinking, pathways, leverage points, indigenous and local knowledge, integrated environmental assessments and integrated modelling. However, there is a need for more work and holistic approaches to achieve all 17 Goals.

The syntheses of research evidence, innovations and policies regarding environment-human interactions relevant to each Global Goal and the analysis of the relationships among Goals provide a basis for identifying priority areas for new research, innovation and policy. The Bellagio Group has a vital role to play in building on this to help the TaSE initiative identify a research, innovation and research translation agenda in support of the Global Goals.

Item Type: Reports and working papers (Technical Report)
Keywords: Sustainable Development Goals
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Research Centres and Groups: Sussex Sustainability Research Programme
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography > GF075 Human influences on the environment
H Social Sciences > HC Economic history and conditions > HC0079 Special topics, A-Z > HC0079.E5 Environmental policy and economic development. Sustainable development Including environmental economics
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH0001 Natural history (General) > QH0075 Nature conservation
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Jorn Scharlemann
Date Deposited: 20 Jul 2017 08:18
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2018 14:50

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Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
Global Goals mapping: the environment-human landscapeG1931NERC- Natural Environment Research CouncilPS16129