Millennium Consumption Goals
Agenda 2030 was adopted in 2015 and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were replaced by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the years before the adoption, much was discussed about the so-called "Post-2015 Development Agenda" and various approaches and ideas were presented. An approach that is still relevant to our current discussions is briefly presented here.
A text by Mohan Munasinghe
A variety of challenges threaten our future such as poverty, resource scarcities, hunger, disease, and environmental damage. Unsustainable consumption and production methods are underlying causes, hence we must focus on finding integrated solutions that can solve many problems simultaneously. The global economy already uses natural resources equivalent to almost 1.5 earths, with the world’s richest 1.4 billion consuming almost 85 per cent of global output – over 60 times the consumption of the poorest 1.4 billion. Presentday consumption by the affluent is not only ecologically unsustainable but also detrimental to the lives of the poorer population, exacerbating inequalities.
The Millennium Consumption Goals (MCGs) were proposed to the United Nations in 2011 to address just these challenges. They are one option for a comprehensive framework for sustainable development in the post-2015 agenda. Among other goals, the MCGs call for a rethink in the industrialised nations and are seen as a complement to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In contrast to the MDGs, the MCGs concept primarily targets the most affluent 20 per cent of the global population, i.e. not only the “affluent” in the industrialized countries, who are responsible for the consumption of 80 per cent of natural resources, but also those in the southern hemisphere. The MCGs show that a widespread reduction in poverty can only be achieved by decreasing the global consumption of resources.
Mohan Munasinghe is a Sri Lankan physicist, academic and economist with a focus on energy, water resources, sustainable development and climate change. He outlined the first ideas about sustainomics from 1990 onwards, culminating in a formal paper presented at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which set out key elements of the framework. The aim was a more holistic and practical synthesis that would help to make development more sustainable.
The Millennium Consumption Goals have three major objectives:
- Environmental: respect nature and reduce humanity’s use of global resources to a sustainable level within planet earth’s natural capacities.
- Social: meet the basic consumption needs and render the distribution of consumption more equitable.
- Economic: promote sustainable prosperity for all, taking economic efficiency and both environmental and social sustainability constraints into account.
While the MCGs are a novel concept, they are based on the original Agenda 21 from the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, which called for a targeted debate on unsustainable production and consumption habits. The latter were also highlighted at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Based directly on “Sustainomics”, which sets out a step-by-step methodology to make developme
nt more sustainable, people are empowered to take immediate action and eliminate existing unsustainable activities.
The MCGs are seen as one essential brick that can support any of the other post-2015 initiatives, including Agenda 21, Green Economy, and Sustainable Development Goals. They would aim to curb consumption by the affluent in all countries, thereby freeing up resources that could meet the basic needs of the poor. Instead of viewing the affluent as a problem, the latter would be involved and encouraged to contribute to the solution without reducing their quality of life. This change of perspective harbours great potential, for even minor shifts in their huge share in the consumption of resources and their consequences could significantly reduce the environmental burden and free up resources to help the poor. One example here is the present-day overconsumption and associated production of waste: food waste in private households is around 30 per cent in Western Europe and closer to 50 per cent in North Ame
rica. Healthier diets and lifestyles will not only save resources but also improve the quality of people’s lives.
For this rethink in our society to succeed, both top-down and bottom-up approaches will be required: we must set global targets to manage consumption equitably among countries, sectors, cities, communities, and firms. While top-down, international negotiations on a lasting post-2015 agenda will continue, the Millennium Consumption Goals Initiative (MCGI) has already launched an inclusive bottom-up effort, which has garnered worldwide support. The MCGI emphasises voluntary actions by many pioneering individuals, communities, organisations, firms, cities, regions, and nations, who are willing to establish their own specific voluntary goals.
As a network of European municipalities with indigenous peoples of the rainforests, Climate Alliance advocates the Millennium Consumption Goals Initiative, as it recognises and supports the importance of local development processes. Authorities at national and international levels must contribute to the development of a local, country-specific approach. Municipalities are important actors in the development cooperation, capable of bringing about local change due to the proximity to their citizens.
Changing unsustainable mindsets will be a challenge. The Washington Consensus that dominated government thinking in the 1990s and led to the current economic collapse still prevails. However, many citizens, businesses and decision-makers are already ahead of national political leaders with regard to sustainable development. Exclusively market-based development void of any environmental and social criteria will not guarantee sustainability. This is why we urgently need the MCGs, which place the emphasis directly on sustainable consumption and production to ensure a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren.
@ Tobias Hase