Bristol University students contributing to sustainable development in Bristol research
3rd April 2017
The UN Sustainable Development Goals
The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were agreed in 2015 and enacted in January 2016. The SDGs have been called ‘the closest thing the world has to a strategy’, and they bring together social issues like poverty, inequality, and environmental sustainability and resilience in a single agenda.
The SDGs encompass a global action plan, to be delivered on a national scale, to address these key issues by 2030. In all there are 17 goals, ranging from ‘Sustainable Cities and Communities’ to ‘Climate Action’. These global challenges offer a holistic approach to sustainable development and the interaction between people and planet. While the challenges faced will differ across countries, the SDGs provide a real opportunity to work together to address similar challenges and share best practice at regional, national and global scales.
Cities’ role in implementing the SDGs?
This has been a topic of great debate since the SDGs were announced. Cities are home to more than half of the world’s people, accounting for 70% of global energy demand, and 80% of all carbon emissions. They are also hubs of technology and innovation, and often hotspots of inequality, and divergences in access to resources. This means there is great scope for the engagement and contribution of cities and their citizens to resolving the challenges identified in the SDGs.
Bristol & the SDGs
Bristol has a reputation as an environmentally aware city, not least through its recent year as European Green Capital in 2015, it’s thriving green business community and third sector. The Bristol Green Capital Partnership (BGCP) is a network of around 800 organisations whose work is likely to already be helping to meet the SDG agenda challenges.
A new group has been formed, the Bristol SDG Alliance, whose purpose is to advocate for the practical use of the SDGs in Bristol, to drive long-term city-region development and resilience, monitoring progress, and connecting community and city activities to national and global action.
We – Liz, Allan, Tess, and Suzy – are a group of masters’ students currently enrolled on the University of Bristol’s Environmental Policy and Management programme. We’re working with BGCP and Alliance members to assess how the SDGs might be used as a tool for tackling Bristol’s issues.
We’ll be assessing where Bristol is performing well - and less well. We will also be aiming to establish how useful the SDGs are as a framework for tackling social and environmental issues on a city scale.
All four of us are passionate about sustainability and the environment. Allan has been heavily involved with Bristol and the university, having frequently volunteered with homeless people in the Stokes Croft area. Liz balances her studies while working for Natural Resources Wales, including on the EU Water Framework Directive. During her undergraduate studies, Tess undertook a placement in a town planning department in Lancashire, with an emphasis on green construction. Suzy has previously worked for Archipelagos, the Institute of Marine Science and Conservation in Greece, and hopes to become an environmental consultant after graduating.
As part of the research, we'd be very grateful if you could complete this short questionnaire on behalf of your organisation by 28 April, or get in touch with Suzy with any thoughts you have on the SDGs and/or the possibilities for their practical use in Bristol.
For more information on BGCP’s Bristol & the SDGs work, see www.bristolgreencapital.org/sdgs.