Transformations for Sustainable Development

Promoting Environmental Sustainability in Asia and the Pacific

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This report is a combined effort by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations University (UNU), and the Institute for Global and Environmental Strategies (IGES), and is being published as governments and other stakeholders prepare to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – a plan for people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership. While “transformation” has become a buzz-word during the formulation of this agenda, how to make it happen has not been addressed properly. This report underlines that the Sustainable Development Goals will only be achieved when key Asia-Pacific megatrends are managed in a way that creates opportunities for achieving sustainable development outcomes. It supports national and regional efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda. Regional megatrends such as urbanization, trade and economic integration and rising consumption and changing consumption patterns are already shaping the future patterns of resource use, and defining who will be the ‘winners’ and who will be the ‘losers’. The report examines the four critical determinants of the relationship between the economy, people and nature explored in this publication as targets for a fundamental transformation – social justice, resource efficiency, investment flows and economic structures.




At the end of 2015, world leaders adopted an ambitious global development framework: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. There has never been a more urgent need for a concerted, integrated and aspirational compact for sustainable development. At the same time as negotiations for the 2030 Agenda were in full swing, in mid-2015, the global concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere breached the 400 parts per million milestone—a critical red line for climate stabilization—for the first time in recorded history. Planetary health is literally at stake, which could undermine many of the human development achievements of the past decades.


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