A better world in 2030 is to be achieved with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. To ensure that these are seen and heard, Marc Buckley is campaigning as an advocate for the SDGs. In this second part of the interview, we talk about the status quo, green washing, the role of the building sector and where the journey is headed.
Pia Hettinger (PH): The progress of the SDGs will be evaluated annually. Where do we stand today ?
Before 2020, there was a lot of money, we were on a good path. Then came the pandemic. Countries neglected the SDGs and focused on the pandemic – that set us back. We need to understand that more pandemics will come. If we react like this every time, we will never get to the good future. So in the country area, we have regressed, but private individuals and companies are making great strides.
Every September, an index report comes out that shows concrete numbers. In 2021, Germany was in the green in 0 out of 17 targets, with 165 out of 197 countries submitting a report. But it doesn’t matter which country ranks ahead of which. We need to understand that all countries need to meet the targets. We all live on the same planet.
PH: Looking specifically at the issue of climate action, what is your conclusion about COP26 in Glasgow in 2021?
Countries’ commitments to emissions cuts by 2030 were not deep enough. But they did agree to a process to keep the 1.5-degree target alive. By the end of COP26, 151 countries had submitted new climate plans (known as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs) to slash their emissions by 2030. To keep the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5° C within reach, we need to cut global emissions in half by the end of this decade. In contrast, the United Nations calculates that these plans, as they stand, put the world on track for 2.5° C possibly as high as 2.7° with of warming by the end of the century. That is better than the 4° C trajectory the world was on before the Paris Agreement was struck, but still extremely dangerous. I was in attendance of meetings where the private sector also showed strong engagement with nearly 500 global financial services firms agreeing to some 40 per cent of the world’s financial assets with the goals set out in the Paris Agreement, including limiting global warming to 1.5° Celsius.
PH: You do advise companies on their sustainability strategies. Do you see a big danger for the SDGs in green washing?
I often see companies presenting their report at the end of the year say what did we do this year that fits into the SDGs? That has no impact! Instead, you have to translate the SDGs into corporate strategy and concrete measures – and then at the end of the year you can report on the positive, proven results and work toward the SDGs.
“The SDGs must be translated into corporate strategy and concrete action.”
PH: What is the role of the construction sector in achieving the goals?
Sustainable development also means creating the infrastructure for it. Our homes are currently unprepared for the climate crisis. Germany will be severely affected by the impact of climate change. We need resilient structures with renewable energies, water supply, food that can cover basic needs, no matter what tomorrow brings. Each and every individual can ask themselves, where do I live and what does the future look like? How can I prepare myself.
PH: Is resilience the new big term? What will come after 2030?
We began in 2019 to work on the roadmap and plan from 2030 – 2050 called Resilience Frontiers. Which has already begun with 8 pathways to build resilience into our infrastructures and ensure we have solid goals to take humanity safely to 2050.
“My motto is to act regeneratively in service to life.”
PH: Finally, a personal question: what is your worldview?
I believe in science and in harmony. We are all brothers and sisters. My motto is SEVA. This is a term from ancient Sanskrit and means to act regeneratively in service to life. Three questions need to be answered for action: How does it serve the individual? How does it serve the community? How does it serve life? SEVA says to give more than you take. Only in this way can sustainable development succeed.
Thank you for the open conversation.
Marc Buckley has studied global environmental and sustainability studies, business administration, computer science, law, economics and agronomy. He advises the United Nations and is one of the first climate activists trained by Al Gore. He is part of the World Economic Forum’s network of experts on innovation, climate change, agriculture and food. And he advises companies on implementing sustainability into their processes and gives speeches around the world. He has also founded a food company himself. Most importantly, he is an SDG advocate, and that’s what we were particularly interested in. He was born in the USA and grew up partly in Germany. Today he lives in Hamburg and is involved in projects worldwide.
Cover photo Credits: UN Photo/Manuel Elías, www.un.org