Ensuring More Sustainable Production and Consumption

Ensuring sustainable consumption and production requires a commitment to resource and energy efficiency, investments in infrastructure, and better access to basic services and jobs.

Goal 12 of the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs) addresses complex problems, ranging from population growth to diminishing natural resources. The UN notes that if the global population reaches 9.6 billion by 2050, the equivalent of almost three Earths would be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles.

Water, energy, and food three areas that will be pivotal in helping the UN – and the world – make progress toward the targets set for Goal 12 by 2030.

Less than 3 percent of the world’s water is fresh and drinkable, and most of that is frozen in Antarctica and the Arctic and glaciers. While humans must rely on less than 1 percent of all the water on the planet, pollution continues to foul rivers and lakes faster than nature can recycle and purify. What’s more, the UN reports, more than one billion already lack access to fresh water. While water is free from nature, the infrastructure needed to deliver it and purify it is expensive.

Energy presents another challenge. According to the UN, despite technological advances that have promoted energy efficiency, demand continues to grow. In fact, commercial and residential energy use is the second most rapidly growing area of global energy consumption. The fastest growing demand sector is fuel for transportation. According to the UN, A 32 percent increase in vehicle ownership is expected by 2020, and global air travel is projected to triple during the same period.

Food and energy consumption are tied together, too. As the UN report notes, The food sector accounts for around 30 percent of the world’s total energy consumption and about 22 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Waste is big problem, too. Each year, an estimated one-third of all food produced – equivalent to 1.3 billion tons worth around $1 trillion – ends up rotting in the bins of consumers and retailers, or spoiling because of poor transportation and harvesting practices

More attention is also needed to combat land degradation, declining soil fertility, water use, overfishing and pollution of marine environment. The overall goal is to increase the ability of the natural resource base to supply enough food to feed a growing world population.

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