Sustainability

UN seeks to tackle food waste and resource use by 2030

UN seeks to tackle food waste and resource use by 2030

The United Nations has agreed a draft for its 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which seeks to halve global food waste, ‘substantially reduce waste generation’ and curb climate change.

Over the weekend, the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) agreed the outcome document that will constitute the new sustainable development agenda when adopted by world leaders in September.

The targets are all divided into 17 overall goals regarding issues such as poverty, gender equality, world hunger, climate change, financial equality and sanitation. All aim to tackle systemic barriers to sustainable development.

Among the 169 targets set out in the document, ‘Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’, are pledges to, by 2030:

  • halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along supply chains;
  • upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to increase resource-use efficiency and increase adoption of clean technologies and processes;
  • ‘substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse’;
  • implement a 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption, with developing countries taking the lead;
  • improve water quality by minimising the release of hazardous chemicals and materials and ‘substantially increasing’ recycling; and
  • reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including paying special attention to municipal and other waste management.

The finalised text for adoption, released on Saturday (1 August), is a result of all 193 UN member states reaching a consensus on future work. It will be formally adopted as the sustainable development agenda by more than 150 world leaders at the Sustainable Development Summit in New York from the 25-27 September.

Following its adoption, the targets will come into effect on 1 January 2016 and leaders will pledge that the agenda will guide decision-making on regional and global levels over the next 15 years.

A ‘robust, voluntary, transparent’ follow-up and review framework will then be developed to track progress in implementing the agenda, to ‘ensure that no one is left behind’, and targets and goals will be reviewed using a set of global indicators.

Resource use agenda

Several of the goals set out in the document refer explicitly to matters of resource use and its effect on the environment.

Goal 6 aims to ‘ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all’ and, by 2030, ‘improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally’.

Goal 9 revolves around ‘building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and fostering innovation’. It seeks to ‘upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally-sound technologies and industrial processes’ by 2030.

In terms of resource efficiency, Goal 12 seeks to ‘ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns’. Member states agreed to achieve the ‘sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources’ and ‘halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses‘ by 2030.

The twelfth goal also seeks to ‘substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse’ and ‘ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature’ by this date.

Other goals include reducing the ‘adverse per capita environmental impact of cities (including by paying ‘special attention’ to municipal and other waste management), increasing the number of cities adopting resource efficiency policies, boosting renewable energy and energy efficiency, reducing air quality, and taking ‘urgent action’ to combat climate change and its impacts.

Commenting on the need for action on environmental issues, the document reads: ‘Increases in global temperature, sea level rise, ocean acidification and other climate change impacts are seriously affecting coastal areas and low-lying coastal countries, including many least developed countries and small island developing states. The survival of many societies, and of the biological support systems of the planet, is at risk…

‘We will reduce the negative impacts of urban activities and of chemicals which are hazardous for human health and the environment, including through the environmentally sound management and safe use of chemicals, the reduction and recycling of waste and more efficient use of water and energy. And we will work to minimize the impact of cities on the global climate system.’

It concluded: ‘We envisage a world in which every country enjoys sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all. A world in which consumption and production patterns and use of all natural resources – from air to land, from rivers, lakes and aquifers to oceans and seas - are sustainable.’

‘Bold agenda’ can end prevent the worst of climate change

UN seeks to tackle food waste and resource use by 2030
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a press conference in New York

Following the publication of the draft agenda, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (pictured) said: “This is the People’s Agenda. It seeks to ensure peace and prosperity, and forge partnerships with people and planet at the core.

“The integrated, interlinked and indivisible 17 Sustainable Development Goals are the people’s goals and demonstrate the scale, universality and ambition of this new agenda. They commit all of us to be responsible global citizens, caring for the less fortunate as well as for our planet’s ecosystems and climate action on which all life depends.

“We have a big, bold agenda before us – now we must work to make it real in people’s lives... We can be the first generation that ends global poverty, and the last generation to prevent the worst impacts of global warming before it is too late.

“The international community took a major step towards achieving this shared goal with this weekend’s agreement. Now we must sustain that momentum.”

UN Agenda puts onus on European Circular Economy Package

Commenting on the new UN Goals, Jacob Hayler, Executive Director of the Environmental Services Association, a trade association for the UK’s resource and waste management sector, said: “It is very welcome that the new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 recognise the vital importance of waste prevention, recycling and environmentally sound waste management in achieving sustainability across the globe.

“Now we look to the European Commission’s revised Circular Economy package (due by the end of 2015) to translate these goals and principles into practical and effective policy measures at European level.”

Read the draft UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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