Alternative pathways to human development: Assessing trade-offs and synergies in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals
January 15, 2019
Moyer, J.D. and Bohl, D.K. 2019. "Alternative pathways to human development: Assessing trade-offs and synergies in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals." Futures 105: 199-210. doi: 10.1016/j.futures.2018.10.007
How achievable are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) across different policy pathways? In this paper we model three alternative policy pathways for achieving SDG targets: technology, lifestyle change, and decentralized governance. We use countries that historically have developed rapidly to scale alternative pathways in an integrated assessment platform and explore the achievability of nine human development related SDGs to 2050. We find that combining all interventions leads to 63 percent of SDG target values achieved by 2030 and 89 percent by 2050, falling short of full achievement. The global technology pathway is the most successful at improving human development while the reduced consumption pathway is least successful. Achievement in lower secondary education, sanitation, and electricity lag behind other indicators across each of these scenarios. We also show that the geographic level of analysis matters significantly in assessing SDG achievement: assessed via global population, many SDGs appear achievable, but assessed at the country level, many small poor countries do not achieve targets in any scenario. This suggests that these most vulnerable countries (MVCs) should be the focus of a global effort to sustainably improve human development.