Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development: UN Goals for the Infrastructure of the Future

The story behind the Agenda 2030 goes back a long way. Indeed, the Agenda’s goals began to be defined as far back as the June 1972 UN Conference on the Environment in Stockholm, and then in June 1992, when for the first time Heads of State met for the inaugural world conference on the environment, better known as the Earth Summit, in Rio de Janeiro, an unprecedented event that attracted 172 different governments and 2,400 representatives from non-governmental organizations.

Twenty years after the original Earth Summit, in 2012, the Brazilian city hosted the conference known as Rio+20, more officially called the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. That event spawned a planning document, The Future We Want, which started the world down the path to setting Sustainable Development Goals. These goals more commonly known as the Agenda 2030 (from the name of the official document, “Transforming our World. The Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development”).

What the Agenda 2030 Is

So, what exactly is the UN Agenda 2030? It is a set of 17 interconnected goals set by the United Nations after the Rio de Janeiro discussions in 2012. At the heart of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development is the notion that human well-being depends directly upon the health of the Earth’s natural systems. To ensure this, humanity faces a number of challenges that require achieving these specific goals. The Agenda 2030’s outlook is broad indeed, ranging from economic to social issues, poverty, climate change, hunger, justice, energy, work, urbanization, equality, production, consumption, and more. In fact, the Agenda 2030 cites a total of 169 objectives, all of which are stated in the 2015 UN Resolution A/RES/70/1: the 17 goals that make up the Agenda 2030 are, therefore, thematic groupings.

The Agenda 2030’s 17 Goals

1. Defeating poverty: The first goal is to end poverty in all its forms, everywhere in the world;

2. Defeating hunger: the second objective is to end hunger, which also encompasses the parallel goals of achieving food security, improving nutrition in general, and promoting wide-scale sustainable agriculture;

3. Health and wellness: the third goal aims to ensure healthy lives and promote wellness for all, at every age;

4. Quality education: countries have also committed to ensuring inclusive, equitable, quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all;

5. Gender equality: achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls;

6. Clean water and sanitation: ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all is another key Agenda 2030 focus;

7. Affordable and clean energy: Goal 7 is dedicated to promoting access to reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all;

8. Decent work and economic growth: having a job does not always equate to well-being, so it is necessary to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth in order to ensure full and productive employment and decent work for all;

9. Business, Innovation, and Infrastructure: the ninth goal covers the investments necessary to create resilient infrastructure that promotes inclusive and sustainable industrialization by fostering progressive innovation;

10. Reduce inequalities: reduce inequalities within and between nations by eliminating disparities;

11. Sustainable cities and communities: cities and human settlements in general must be inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable;

12. Responsible consumption and production: it is necessary to ensure sustainable templates for consumption and production;

13. Combating climate change: Goal 13 focuses on environmental issues to take concrete and timely measures to combat climate change and its consequences;

14. Life below water: Goal 14 covers water, to protect, conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development;

15. Life on Earth: from the sea back to dry land, to protect, restore, and promote the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, with a special focus on deforestation, desertification, and biodiversity;

16. Peace, justice and strong institutions: the Agenda 2030 aims to promote inclusive and peaceful societies in which everyone benefits from access to justice;

17. Partnership for goals: the last of the goals emphasizes the need for partnerships across government, civil society, and private individuals to achieve the goals set.

H2 The Agenda 2030, and the Infrastructure of the Future

A number of the Agenda 2030 sustainable development goals directly or indirectly impinge upon the world of architecture and major works. Of these, the one that has the greatest impact is Goal 11,Sustainable cities and communities, requiring a multidisciplinary approach to redeveloping neighbourhoods in order to ensure inclusive, sustainable, and integrated urbanization. The reference goal is to increase centralization within urban areas: it is estimated that by 2030, 60% of humanity will live in cities, which currently occupy 3% of the Earth’s surface, and yet are responsible for 75% of carbon emissions. This brings us to another point of importance to the construction industry, Goal 7, dedicated to “Clean and accessible energy”: green building, in other words, buildings that boast high levels of energy efficiency and incorporate a preference for renewable energy. Growing demand for green building goes hand-in-hand with an increase in the workforce, underlining the proximity of these sectors to Goal 8,Work and economic growth(as demonstrated by the many incentives for growth in the building sector). Other goals indirectly related to construction and future infrastructure management are #3, “Health and wellness,” leveraging the strong connection between building design and tenant well-being, and #13, “Combating climate change,” given that buildings and the construction sector emit some 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.