The UN SDG’s adapted for rich countries…

In recent years we have seen the Sustainable development goals of the UN appear more and more often as a stepping stone for all kinds of initiatives. [1] And that, however well-intentioned, is not always a good thing. I wrote before, along with others, that there should be a certain priority to those goals: If we fail to stop climate change fir instance , many of those other goals have no chance anyway. [2] [3]

A while ago, however, I realized that there is still another strange discrepancy in those 17 SDG goals: On the one hand these goals are aimed at the poorer countries, and then are fairly concrete with regard to poverty, food and water. On the other hand, goals seem mainly concerned with industrialized countries, but then are much broader and more vaguely formulated!

The underlying problem, of course, is that in fact those richer countries are a large part of the cause of those problems in poorer countries. Besides, its those rich countries that are largely responsible for defining those goals, so by offering the poor countries in particular more concrete prospects, getting away with more vague targets for themselves. But if you do not tackle the rich countries in concrete terms, with concrete goals, then of course nothing will change and you will not solve the problems. Its impossible to solve that with somewhat vague objectives, such as “sustainable production”: Like: “We will continue to produce whatever is possible, but then do it “Sustainable”…. “. The people involved apparently have no idea what ‘sustainable’ means: Whatever you produce, and even with low impact, it may still not work if 8,000,000,000 people want it …

There are many of these kind of inconsistencies in all those goals. On the one hand, we find “Zero Hunger”, on the other, “Climate Action”…. What action? How much action?

Or: “no poverty” versus “responsible consumption”….?

Or: “clean water” on the one hand and “industry innovation” on the other. How?, What then?

One is clear and goal-oriented: ‘zero’, ‘clean’, the other vague and broad: ‘action’, ‘innovation’.

So that says nothing at all. And add to that the lobbies for a ‘level playing field’ and everyone will take “action” and “innovate”, regardless whether things are going in the right direction.

It is time to clarify things a bit more. If we formulate hard goals to eliminate inequality and help everyone to live on a reasonable resource basis, we need also to formulate hard and clear targets to get the rich side under control. And forget about a goal such as “Economic Growth” , even the UN is aware that this is impossible if we seriously want to give sustainability a chance.

So I propose to make those SDG’s as concrete as possible, especially those aimed at the rich countries, to allow these to be more moderate. The only thing that will help to reduce our impact somewhat, is to limit our consumption , with all reduced side effects as well. With the intention of course to restore some balances: between rich and poor, between consumption and resource availability, between people and the climate.

So let’s make an effort. One per day in the next days, and starting with number

2: Zero

Of course, nothing wrong with that. But we pretend “they” have a problem, and “we” are going to help. However, whoever says A must also say B, and Zero Hunger is directly related to our Western meat diet. So there is also a goal such as abolishing large-scale livestock farming for meat or dairy. Only locally, in mixed farms, insofar as appropriate in a plant-based business operation. This offers enormous advantages: the environmental impact of food is decreasing enormously, more than half of the agricultural land is released for other food and forest, which prevents hunger and makes affordable food easier to achieve. So let’s not beat around the bush, we have to go there. So 2A, but also a 2B! to be summarized as:

2B: Zero Meat (Industry)


7: “affordable and sustainable energy”?sdg-7-nieuw

Nice and easy, and vague: what is sustainable energy anyway ? Then just say that you want to get rid of fossil, we even have to, as agreed in Paris 2015. And “affordable” is of course only an excuse: money is a human invention and can be revalued: change it, so that automatically makes things affordable, redefine money, change taxes, subsidies and interest rates, until it works properly. But that speaks for itself, no need to write that in an SDG. We just make the SDG easier to read in today’s language: Zero fossil energy, or even better: Zero CO2. Which makes the discussion about what is sustainable and affordable superfluous. Its now just as clear as Zero Hunger …



8  decent work and economic growth. ?sdg-8-nieuw

Growth..? Economic growth..? The UN itself must have realized by now that economic growth cannot continue, that growth cannot be sustained in a finite world: nothing more is added….

So we change that in De-Growth . And also change for: Essential jobs. Since economic growth is the wrong direction and leads to unworthy jobs anyway: child labor, in non-ventilated factories, long working days, death as a result of working in hot summers during the construction of World Cup stadiums, just to name a few. So we skip the cause for non-decent work, and focus focus on essential work instead: as our greatest need as we learned in the corona crisis. (with everyone a standard and guaranteed basic income wage…).



9 industry innovation and infrastructure. Cancelled sdg-9-nieuw

This cannot be a goal in itself, since it conflicts with other goals, requires economic growth, more energy, more raw materials. And in addition: Why should the industry innovate? That is to say: why do we even need industry? That is not a “law”, is it? What’s wrong with manual work, or low tech solutions? (see 12) . I am for ex-novation, not applying mainly high-tech innovations [4], but for innovation of low tech. Anyway, this one can lead to a lot of discussion, so better just drop it. After all, it is only a secondary thing, a consequence. And if we change the causes, it will turn out fine. At least if we have clear targets for the causes, as with specifying 12 …:



12 responsible consumption and production ?sdg-12-nieuw

Nice but also much too vague of course, you can go in any direction with that description. It has long been known that our hunger for raw materials cannot be sustained for ever. The OECD even predicts a fourfold increase by 2060 [5]. That is the reverse of what was already seen as necessary in the 1990s: a factor of 4 or even 10 less environmental impact from raw materials. And it is now factor 4 more …

So we replace target 12 with: 50% reduction of raw materials use. This is a factor of 2 shrinkage , which is still very modest…! Please note: That includes recycling, so a net 50% reduction.



13 ‘Climate action’ sdg-13-ver

This one is of course a joke: “Climate action” … “Well, Just do something. Put it underground, or something …” That will not work. Dont do that half-hearted as in climate action, but clearly as zero-Carbon. That has already been agreed in Paris, so that seems like a no brainer. It is actually shameful that the UN has not already reformulated that SDG itself after Paris . So we’ll do it from now on. But we had already foreseen zero Carbon for sdg 7. However, carbon is just as good in materials and products in the form of embodied energy. As well as in addition we know that metals are like the red meat among the raw materials, in terms of energy demand. Which Is much , much lower for biobased materials, so just as with energy, we have to go for materials of “renewable” origin. So a biobased society it is!


15 “Living on land”, sdg-15-nieuw

Duhh, thats anything you can imagine.The intent is ok, but very vague formulated. The land is our de facto capital [5]. And it is clear that most of our problems are greatly reduced if we use the land to plant forests: biodiversity, liveability, increase biomass, and CO2 storage, provide biobased materials, and integrated with food forests (with a very high EROI and yield) [6], creates soil improvement and time for soil restoration. In short, planting forests it is: land = 50% forested, Thats life !

What are we still missing? Perhaps Zero Waste. Great, that can then become the new No. 9.

I think that we are done now: targets not only for the laggards to be lifted, but also the front runners will be slowed down. Otherwise it would make no sense whatsoever, it would be mopping with the tap open. Which would speed up enormous climate change and resource scarcity, and that will benefit no one at all. So a number of global boundaries is the least we can install and target.

This way we might have a bit more of a balance: Between rich and poor, and between what we consume and what the system can sustain. As illustrated here:

PS: later nr 11 has been adaptyed as well, see next blog. In the balance below its already included.





[1] UN-SDG:

[2] SDG priorities:

[3] SDG Pie Rockstrom

[4] Ex-novation:

[5] OECD Global Material Resources Outlook to 2060, febr 2019 ,



Author: ronald rovers