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Heading towards an unsustainable world: some of the implications of not achieving the SDGs


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were conceived at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro in 2012 (Rio + 20), and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015. They are part of a larger framework, namely the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Since then, many countries round the world have been engaging in respect of their implementation. The slow progress seen in the implementation of the SDGs, is in contrast with the many negative implications of not implementing them. This paper outlines the relevance of the SDGs, the barriers currently seen in respect of their implementation and outlines what is at stake, if they are not duly implemented. To accomplish this, a thorough literature review of contributions published in the field of SDGs in English between the years 2012–2020 was performed.

Introduction: the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals
During the past centuries, almost all the systems have been developed through natural processes. However, with the technological advancements today, development is moving faster than our expectations. Therefore, having no plan for well-being and environment can cause serious problems to the future societies. As a result of the fast-moving unbalanced economic growth, the world’s systems may lose their ability to adjust with the people’s well-being which also significantly affect the environment. In this era, having a systematic action plan can definitely help to focus on a common perspective.

To this end, on 25 September 2015, countries in UN adopted a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), representing a new coherent way of thinking about ecological, social, and economic issues that are inter-related [1]. Considering as the “transformative agenda” [2], the SDGs address all the critical and major global challenges that threat the future, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice, necessarily entails an integrated approach.
Different studies have analyzed challenges and opportunities of the SDGs [3, 4]. Some scholars and practitioners have referred to the fact that these goals are not easy to achieve due to the diversity of the elements involved [5]. Moreover, the importance of including interdependencies between the goals [6, 7], taking a nexus approach [8,9,10], and strengthening governance and institutions [11] have been highlighted in some studies in order to achieve these goals. Nevertheless, the significance of the SDGs can be viewed from different perspectives. For instance:
Addressing essential human needs. As the world population grows fast, there is an essential need for the basics of life such as drinking water, food, and shelter. To achieve this, appropriate establishment of plans as well as creating infrastructures are able to guarantee the sustainability of these basic needs for long term periods.

Not protecting biodiversity and territorial ecosystems would lead species to extinction (or risk of being extinct) [66]. Erosion, deforestation and land degradation would affect millions of people, especially due to loss of essential services of well-being and land productivity [67]. Preservation of biodiversity and different ecosystems is fundamental to climate regulation, so this could be an irreparable loss and worsen extreme weather events.

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