Full Frame: Sustainable Future

Full Frame

The United Nations says most of the development happening around the world is unsustainable. Economic growth is making climate change worse, destroying the environment and leading to vast inequalities.

Paula Caballero has developed sustainable development solutions for the region that have become a model for the rest of the world, most notably the concept for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“We kept saying that it was about integration, that there was nothing that was environmental or social or economic…The genius of real development is where you can integrate the three dimensions,” said Caballero, who is currently the Latin America Director for the Nature Conservancy.

Caballero’s journey in sustainable development goes back nearly two decades. She joined the United Nations Development Program in 2005, working in nearly every country in Latin America. She’s also served as the Director for Economic, Social and Environmental Affairs for Colombia’s Foreign Ministry and as the Senior Director of Global Practice for Environment & Natural Resources at the World Bank.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals aim to transform the world. Among the climate goals, the SDGs aim to integrate climate change into national policies and strategies, as well as to increase education and awareness around climate change. 

It’s not just about measuring one target. It is the questions we need to ask ourselves, like the energy transition. How is the energy transition going? …Are we transforming the food systems? What are the levers? Are we aligning the policies?” Caballero said.

“The SDGs, as they were envisaged, is about systems transformation,” she said.

Where does your trash go? 

Increased global development has meant a skyrocketing of the trash we produce. The World Bank estimates that by 2050, we will generate 3.88 billion tons of waste each year. That’s a 73 percent increase from 2020. 

Kate O’Neill is Professor of Global Environmental Governance at the University of California-Berkeley. She’s also the author of the book, Waste.

“I think people just think, Oh, I put it out in the curb and it gets taken away, and they don’t think about it anymore. But pretty much every kind of waste you can think of can cross borders… And now we actually even look at waste in space. So our waste goes everywhere. It’s connected. And that global nature of waste is one thing that really has me hooked in terms of something to study,” O’Neill said.

Some solutions begin with people paying attention to what their recycling companies are doing and communicating to local governments about the need for recycling services.

“You need to start enacting rules about singles disposable foodware [and] starting to think about where you might make those changes in supermarkets, getting rid of plastic bags,” she said.

How can food production be more sustainable?

Food systems account for more than one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. How food is processed, the energy to transport it, and even methane emitted by livestock all contribute to a warming planet.   

We meet two businesses in Europe that are tackling the problem – one through eliminating food waste and the other by using technology to replace traditional meat production.