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Bristol & the Sustainable Development Goals

What on earth are the SDGs?

After the largest ever United Nations consultation, its member nations agreed the Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015. The 17 SDGs, also known as the Global Goals, bring together economic, social and environmental aims in a single agenda and action plan to address the challenges facing our planet and its people up to 2030, and they took effect from January 2016.

The SDGs & the UK

These Goals, neatly summarised by the 5 Ps – People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, Partnership – apply to all signatory countries, including the UK, not just developing countries as did the preceding Millennium Development Goals. However, one initial global analysis of countries’ SDG performance put the UK 10th behind 9 other European countries. Research from PWC suggests that the biggest gaps for this country are in energy (SDG7), decent work and growth (SDG8), responsible consumption and production (SDG12), life below water (SDG14) and life above land (SDG15)

UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD) is a broad network created to inspire and support the UK’s transformation into a sustainable society, and for the adoption and use of the SDGs in this country. Like BGCP, which is a UKSSD member and partner, it brings together and coordinates work across sectors, including business, civil society and academia. Bristol-based Neighbourly are on the UKSSD steering committee. UKSSD also runs interesting webinars and events, including an annual conference, this year in London on 1 Mar 2017.

Bristol & the SDGs

Cities will be important for achieving the SDGs in developed countries like the UK and developing countries alike.

For example, SDG11 focuses on ‘making cities sustainable, inclusive, resilient and safe’, with targets including affordable housing and sustainable transport among, but cities will play a key role to in achieving all of the Goals.

Bristol has a history of involvement with the SDGs. Development Initiatives, an international development research organisation based here in the city, has worked for several years on influencing the ‘Beyond 2015’ agenda to follow the Millennium Development Goals that expired in that year. The Schumacher Institute also ran a preparatory SDG project work.

In December 2015, the South West International Development Network – which brings together people working on global development in Bristol and south west England – held an event that looked forward to the new global SDG agenda and encouraged thinking about how it might apply locally, through both our internationally-focused organisations and what the SDGs might mean for the UK and Bristol. Then in June 2016 a broad group of city stakeholders gathered at an event held during Big Green Week to explore in more detail how Bristol might engage with the SDGs. The SDGs could help drive Bristol’s long-term development and resilience, monitor and assess progress, help create a city-region that is a beacon for sustainability in the UK, and directly connect individual, community, city and region-wide actions with actions to address the same challenges in other countries. The ‘leave no one behind’ thread running through the SDG agenda, as well as a stand-alone inequality goal (SDG10), resonates with desires to address Bristol’s inequalities. There is also a significant overlap with the Bristol’s resilient city work.

BGCP’s CEO Ian Townsend and fellow speaker international development expert Myles Wickstead with SWIDN coordinator Jason Williams at a November 2016 networking event.

BGCP’s CEO Ian Townsend and fellow speaker international development expert Myles Wickstead with SWIDN coordinator Jason Williams at a November 2016 networking event.

BGCP & the Bristol SDG Alliance

As at the global level, city and regional success will depend on public, private and civil society sectors working together in organisations like Bristol Green Capital Partnership. The SDG agenda is a good fit with the Partnership’s vision of a sustainable city with a high quality of life for all, and the Goals encompass the challenges under all 5 of our themes: energy, food, nature, resources and transport.

To encourage the adoption and practical use of the SDGs to guide Bristol’s future sustainable development, the Partnership has joined with a group of similarly-minded stakeholders in the city to form the Bristol SDG Alliance. The Alliance’s objectives are to use the SDGs to:

  • drive the policy framework for long-term city-region development and resilience;
  • monitor progress and enable the city-region to hold itself to account; and
  • clearly connect community and city-level action to national and global challenges.

The Alliance meets regularly to work these aims. Our main product so far is our submission to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee inquiry into UK implementation of the SDGs, which highlights Bristol’s experience of European Green Capital and the Partnership and Alliance’s activities.

In 2017, we are planning to hold a joint event in Bristol with UKSSD and an event as part of the Bristol’s second Festival of the Future City in October.

If you are interested in getting involved, then do get in touch with us.

Further information & resources

Sustainable Development Goals
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