Challenges of Sustainable Development

The biggest ‘challenge’ for Sustainable Development is the ‘dilemma’ of developing nations who seek a faster economic growth for the elimination of poverty, hunger, inequality, unemployment and social injustice without impacting the global environment further.

The dilemma of sustainable development lies in the challenges for economic growth and development that are directly linked to the immense risk of climate change.

  • The challenges for development are multiple and complex. The global economy is changing; it will experience a structural transformation in next 10-15 years. It is likely to grow by more than half by then. One billion people globally are targeted to be released from extreme poverty. More people will migrate to live in cities.
  • Technology advancements will continue to impact business and lifestyles. Further, it is estimated that approximately US$90 trillion will be invested by 2030 in infrastructure in the world’s urban, land use and energy systems. It means, therefore, the mother earth has to bear the burdens of a huge consumption of its natural and mineral reserves to meet the increasing demands for food, energy, and water.
  • On current trends, we need 1.6 planet earths now and would need twice the size by 2030 to meet our consumption demands of resources; warming could exceed 4°C by the end of the century, with extreme and potentially irreversible impacts due to an exponential rise in Co2 emission. Every action initiated now and in next 15 years will, therefore, determine the future of the world’s climate system.

Now the dilemma is, “What is the priority”. Is it development and economic growth? Or, is it a reduction of Co2 emissions for protecting humanity from the destructive consequences of climate change? We are living in a critical time.

We stand today at a crossroad. While the developed nations are responsible for this situation, developing nations have been left to act responsibly and find solutions to come out of this dilemma of sustainable development.

  • India, as the fastest growing economy, is undergoing this dilemma of sustainable development too. India’s immediate priority is to provide livelihoods and employment to its population besides creating sustainable economic opportunities at both- micro & macro – levels to keep its promises to take the GDP growth of the country to an ambitious double-digit target of 10 percent.
  • India has to provide houses to millions, ensure food & nutritional security, and make health services accessible & affordable. For the sustainable inclusive growth, jobs have to be created. In order to tackle its developmental challenges, and to push the economic growth further, India, apart from conventional development programs, plans to set up smart cities, construction of roads, railways, and other large infrastructure projects.
  • Under ‘Make in India’ mission, it lays emphasis on manufacturing sector which will help create jobs. But, all these actions put together will increase India’s cumulative as well as per capita Co2 emission rate which will potentially weaken India’s global position on responses to climate change.
  • The current political dispensation in India has shown the ‘will’ and accordingly decided to go on the path of growth without compromising its commitment to global action on climate change. As a result, despite several challenges, India has proactively ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Action.
  • India‘s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) targets to lower the emissions intensity of GDP by 33%–35% by 2030 below 2005 levels, to increase the share of non-fossil based power generation capacity to 40 percent of installed electric power capacity by 2030, and to create an additional (cumulative) carbon sink of 2.5–3 GtCO2e through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
  • The Prime Minister’s appeal for doing business on the tenet of “Zero Effect & Zero Defect” is the evidence for dealing with the dilemma of sustainable development. This is where the corporate India has to showcase business innovations – technology or commercial – to pursue the profit which is inclusive and green, and promote low carbon economy.

Business, as usual, will not help us to get the future we want. It is therefore critical for companies to change the ‘purpose of doing business’ which expects them to make profits with a greater social and environmental responsibility than ever before.

Sustainable Development is, therefore, a historic opportunity for the world communities to deliver inclusive growth, eliminate poverty and reduce the risk of climate change by changing perspectives and approaches to economic development. It entails everyone to participate in making efforts to achieve sustainable development.

So, while well-thought out policies will make growth and climate objectives mutually reinforcing in the short and long term, businesses will be required to make investments in the drive to low carbon economy. And, we as individuals also have to grow into responsible consumers by committing to a changed lifestyle. If we do not act now, we will be delayed to reverse the impact.

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