Lesson Handout

  1. Sustainable Development

Environmental problems are considered a significant issue by the international community. Due to various factors such as population growth, urbanization, industrialization, and poverty, many countries are facing problems such as urban air pollution, water pollution, deterioration of health, and loss of biodiversity. Such problems have threatened not only human life and health, but also endanger the future generations due to the deterioration of environmental resources. In order to ensure that environmental wealth is passed on to future generations, it is necessary to tackle these environmental problems through what is commonly refered to as “sustainable development”.1

In 1987, the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development released the report “Our Common Future”, frequently called the Brundtland Report. The report included what is now one of the most widely recognized definitions of sustainable development. The term sustainable development as used by the United Nations incorporates both issues associated with land development and broader issues of human development such as education, public health, and standard of living.

  • Sustainable development has been defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own Therefore, sustainable development calls for concerted efforts towards building an inclusive, sustainable, and resilient future for people and the planet.


  • For sustainable development to be achieved, it is crucial to harmonize three core elements: economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental protection. These are interconnected and all are crucial for the well-being of individuals and


  • Climate change is already impacting public health, food, water supply, migration, peace, and security. Investments in sustainable development will help address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building climate Conversely, action on climate change will drive sustainable development.


  • However, the Sustainable Development Goals are not legally binding, and countries are expected to take ownership and establish national frameworks for achieving the 17 goals.


  • Implementation and success will rely on countries’ own sustainable development policies, plans, and programmes.2


  • What are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals?

1) No poverty: Economic growth must be inclusive to provide sustainable jobs and promote equality.
2) Zero Hunger: The food and agriculture sector offer key solutions for development and is central for hunger and poverty eradication.
3) Good health and Well-being: Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all ages is essential to sustainable development.
4) Quality Education: Obtaining a quality education is the foundation to improving people’s
lives and sustainable development.
5) Gender Equality: Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world.
6) Clean water and Sanitation: Water scarcity affects more than 40% of the world’s
7) Affordable and Clean Energy: Energy is central to nearly every major challenge and opportunity.
8) Decent Work and Economic Growth: we have to rethink and retool our economic and social policies aimed at eradicating poverty.
9) Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure: Investments in infrastructure are crucial to achieving sustainable development.
10) Reduce Inequality Within and Among Countries
11) Make Cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and Sustainable
12) Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
13) Take Urgent Action to Combat Climate Change: climate change is a global challenge that does not respect national borders.
14) Conserve and sustainably use Oceans, Seas, and Marine Resources.
15) Life on Land: Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss.
16) Promote Just, Peaceful, and Inclusive Societies: Access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels.
17) Partnerships for the Goal

  • City of Houston Office of Sustainability

2 17 Goals to Transform Our World, Sustainable Development Goals, United Nations, https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/

LINK: http://www.greenhoustontx.gov

The City of Houston is also working on a Climate Action Plan which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and preventative measures to address the negative outcomes of climate change.

2. International Environmental Cooperation

The most rapid way to reduce the production of greenhouse gases is to adopt clean energy technologies, and alternatives to fossil fuels. The Kyoto Protocol represented the first attempt to divide the effort and monetary costs of this research among its adhering nations. Later, the Paris Climate Change Conference marked a strong commitment of 196 countries to combat climate change.

  • Kyoto Protocol: This is an international treaty which extends the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that commits state parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, based on the scientific consensus that global warming is occurring and it is extremely likely that CO2 emission are the primary cause. It was adopted in Kyoto, Japan on 11 December 1997 and enforced on 16 February There are currently 192 parties in the Protocol.
  • 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference: The Paris Climate Change Conference in 2015 was meant to achieve a binding and universal agreement on climate change from all nations of the world. The overarching goal of the conference is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global temperature increases. On 22 April 2016, 174 countries signed the agreement in New York, and began adopting it within their own legal France served as a model country for delegates because it is one of the few developed countries in the world to decarbonize electricity production and fossil fuel energy while still providing a high standard of living. France generated over 90% of its electricity from zero carbon sources, including nuclear, hydroelectric, and wind.

– Lack of enforcement mechanisms:

The ratification process is needed in order to enforce the treaty, but the US is the only signatory that has not ratified the Protocol. Canada was also committed to cutting its greenhouse emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2012, but in 2009 emissions were 17% higher than in 1990.3 Eventually, Canada, Japan, and Russia stated that they would not take on further Kyoto targets in 2011. The Agreement of the Paris Climate Change Conference also will not become binding until 55 parties who produce over 55% of the world’s greenhouse gas have ratified the agreement. Each country that ratified the agreement will be required to set a target for emission reduction, but the amount will be voluntary. It is highly doubtful if member states of the United Nations, including high polluters such as China, the US, India, Canada, Russia, Indonesia and Australia which generate more than half of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, will drive down their carbon pollution voluntarily without any binding enforcement mechanism to measure and control CO2 emissions without any specific penalty gradation or fiscal pressure.4