development globalisation health wealth

Millennium Consumption Goals for the developed world

A professor in Sri Lanka has suggested the as well as the Millennium Development Goals, the west ought to draw up some Millenium Consumption Goals to help us reduce our emissions and materials use.

The Millennium Development Goals were/are a series of eight goals for the world. They include cutting maternal deaths, improving infant survival rates, or achieving universal primary education by 2015. They’re ambitious but entirely possible, and are supposed to inform aid and guide developing world priorities in an international development agenda. Whether they’re working or not is a moot point. 2015 isn’t very far away and some targets are moving backwards – the number of hungry people in the world has actually risen in recent years.

Part of the problem is that the developed world isn’t included in the goals, other than to throw money at them and show up at conferences. This is important, as there are some things that we’re doing that are making things worse. For example, the plan to end hunger is failing, but half of us are overweight, we throw away a third of the food we buy, and some of us are making a fortune speculating on food prices – not helpful behaviour.

Our performance on MDG number 7 is far worse. That’s the one about the environment, and of course the carbon emissions of the industrialised countries are out playing havoc with rainfall patterns and disease lines, making everything more difficult. So shouldn’t we have some goals of our own?

To redress the balance, a sustainable development professor in Sri Lanka came up with a complementary idea last month, Millennium Consumption Goals.  “We now have Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for the poor” says Professor Mohan Munasinghe. “We should extend that to the rich and make sure they consume more sustainably.” Consumption goals would give us some targets to reduce material use and carbon emissions in the richer countries, where 85% of the world’s resources are consumed.

Munasinghe doesn’t go on to list any specific targets, but Erik Assadourian at the WorldWatch Institute has picked up on it and made some suggestions. He includes halving obesity rates by 2020, doubling the use of non-motorised transport, and guaranteed healthcare for all. He also suggests greater equality and a shorter work week, something I’d love to see.

What else should we include? I might add a reduction in air travel, eliminating food waste, and creating a stable banking system. The development goals are for those whose basic needs are not yet being met. All our needs are satisfied and a great deal besides, so development for us is something of a waste. So let’s start talking about a post-growth economy, and make it a goal to end economic growth by 2025.

Anyone else got a goal to suggest?

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