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Sustainable Development Goals: 'Must haves' for integrating planetary well-being and human well-being


Published: September 3, 2013

One of the next major challenges for research and policy on sustainability is setting the post-2015 development agenda. This challenge is a direct result from the formal ending of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015, as well as from the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), in which governments agreed that an intergovernmental process would develop novel Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be integrated into the post-2015 global development agenda.

However, nobody has ever tried to develop SDGs in an integrated global target of planetary and human well-being. Now, Dave Griggs, Norichika Kanie and nine colleagues first made re-definition of sustainable development in the new epoch called "Anthropocene", in which human behavior drives the entire Earth system, as "development that meets the needs of the present whilst safeguarding Earth's life-support system upon which the welfare of current and future generations depends".

They extracted planetary 'must haves' as pre-conditions for human prosperity based upon nine planetary boundaries identified in 2009 beyond which it would be unsafe to transgress, and more recent research results. They then combined these with MDG targets, which must be updated eventually and extended for 2030 or beyond, to produce six SDGs. They are: thriving lives and livelihoods; sustainable food security; sustainable water security; universal clean energy; healthy and productive ecosystems; and governance for sustainable societies.

The results of this international collaboration show that integrated targets are indeed possible, and the findings have been stimulating on-going international multilateral discussion on post-2015 development agenda.

New paradigm on sustainable development (Griggs et al. 2013)
Proposed Six Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (Griggs et al. 2013)
Framework to establish SDGs (Griggs et al. 2013)


  • Authors: David Griggs, Mark Stafford-Smith, Owen Gaffney, Johan Rockstrom, Marcus C Ohman, Priay Shyamsundar, Will Steffen, Gisbert Glaser, Norichika Kanie and Ian Noble
  • Title of the original paper: Sustainable Development Goals for People and Planet.
  • Journal, volume, pages and year: Nature (Vol 495, 21 March 2013).
  • Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1038/495305a
  • Department website:

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