What is sustainable development?
At its heart is the simple idea of ensuring a
better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations
to come. A widely-used international definition is
'development which meets the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their
own needs'. The concept of sustainable development has been
around for a number
Although the idea is simple, the task is substantial. It
means meeting four objectives at the same time, in the UK and
the world as a whole:
Guiding Principles and Approaches
The Government's policies will also take account of ten
principles and approaches which reflect key sustainable
development themes. Some are established legal principles.
Others might better be described as 'approaches' to decision
Why do we need sustainable development?
Because the need for development is as great as ever, but
future development cannot simply follow the model of the past.
This is true for the world as a whole, and for every community
in this country.
The global picture is striking. A quarter of the world's
people have to survive on incomes of less than US$1 a day. A
fifth have no access to health care. Huge though the challenge
may seem, it is becoming larger: the world's population will
increase by half, another three billion people, by 2050.
This country does not have problems on such a scale. But we
cannot stand aside from these issues. Global prosperity must
increase, and be more widely shared. Meanwhile, in the UK,
economic growth remains vital for a better quality of life:
for education, healthcare and housing, to tackle poverty and
social exclusion, and to improve standards of living through
better goods and services.
In the past, economic activity tended to mean more
pollution and wasteful use of resources. We have had to spend
to clean up the mess. A damaged environment impairs quality of
life and, at worst, may threaten long term economic growth -
for example, as a result of climate change. And too many
people have been left behind, excluded from the benefits of
development but often suffering from the side-effects.
We have to find a new way forward. This is the challenge of
sustainable development. For the future, we need ways to
achieve economic, social and environmental objectives at the
same time, and consider the longer term implications of
We need to improve the efficiency with which we use
resources. We need thriving cities, towns and villages based
on strong economies, good access to services and attractive
and safe surroundings. And we need international co-operation
to overcome environmental problems, to allow trade to flourish
and to help the world's poorest people as we move towards a
more global society.
Sustainable development is a dynamic
process which enables all people to realise their
potential, and to improve their quality of life, in ways
which simultaneously protect and enhance the Earth's
life support systems.
(Forum for the Future
Annual Report 2000).
…vibrant local economies, new jobs, high
quality housing (with solar roofing), integrated
transport, regeneration that makes a real and lasting
difference. Unbelievable that some people still think
that sustainable development is about the birds, bees
(David Puttnam, Chairman of the
Trustees in the Forum for the Future Annual Report
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