What Next for Sustainable Development?
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What Next for Sustainable Development?

Our Common Future at Thirty

Edited by James Meadowcroft, David Banister, Erling Holden, Oluf Langhelle, Kristin Linnerud and Geoffrey Gilpin

This book examines the international experience with sustainable development since the concept was brought to world-wide attention in Our Common Future, the 1987 report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. Scholars from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds engage with three critical themes: negotiating environmental limits; equity, environment and development; and transitions and transformations. In light of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals recently adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, they ask what lies ahead for sustainable development.
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Chapter 15: A future for sustainable development?

David Banister


Our Common Future was a landmark document, as it placed sustainable development firmly at the centre of the debate over the future of the planet—and it has stood the test of time. This chapter has two main parts. The first reflects on the main arguments embedded in Our Common Future, commenting on whether they are still relevant today and whether actions have matched expectations. The outcomes over the last 30 years have not all been positive, and we have made little or no progress towards sustainable development, even though there have been some positive signs. The second part takes a forward look to the next 30 years to see whether the same objectives are still relevant and to outline four issues that will define sustainable development going forwards. The agenda is even more formidable than it was in the past, but is it still achievable?

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