Skip to main content

Localising the Sustainable Development Goals for Bristol


In 2015 the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were ratified by 193 of the UN member nations. These goals set ambitious targets to address worldwide issues of sustainable development, such as social inequality, responsible and inclusive economic development and environmental protection. They were created for everyone, everywhere and have been described as ‘the closest thing the world has to a strategy’.

Who will be responsible for ensuring we achieve these goals and how will they be achieved?
In the realm of international agreements, national governments have traditionally been responsible for local implementation. But a combination of profound global demographic shifts and a sense that national governments are increasingly incapable of tackling complex global challenges due to domestic political wrangling has given rise to a global movement to place cities at the heart of efforts to tackle both local and global challenges.  This movement, which is coalescing around a constellation of city-to-city networks (such as ICLEI, C40 and the Global Parliament of Mayors), is now grappling with the challenge of ‘localising the SDGs’. How can we usefully translate this global agenda into local practice in a way that meaningfully transforms lives?

This is the question we are working to answer through a new University of Bristol funded project on Localising the SDGs for Bristol, in partnership with the Bristol Green Capital Partnership (BGCP), Bristol City Council and Overseas Development Institute (ODI).

Bristol is a city of great wealth and has strong environmental credentials as the former European Green Capital in 2015. The city is also home to a vibrant cluster of ‘green economy’ companies and environmental charities. However, Bristol also faces many challenges. Homelessness is twice the national average; nearly 16% of Bristolians live in England’s 10% most deprived areas; and Bristol health outcomes are worse than the national averages for many indicators (e.g. life expectancy, suicide, childhood obesity, smoking).

These are precisely the kinds of challenges that the Sustainable Development Goals are encouraging us to confront and tackle by 2030. Importantly, ‘sustainability’ isn’t just about the environment; it is also about building a prosperous and inclusive economy that leaves no one behind. Inclusion, equality and opportunity are essential to achieve sustainability.

Our research seeks to identify and support mechanisms for embedding the SDGs in local planning and governance processes by engaging with a wide range of stakeholders in the city.

Bristol City Council, a pivotal stakeholder is currently working to bring partners together for a new One City Plan. This Plan seeks to use the collective power of Bristol’s key organisations to achieve a bigger impact by supporting partners, organisations and citizens to help solve key city challenges and improve the lives of Bristolians across the city. The core themes behind this plan align with the SDGs and it provides a great opportunity for Bristol to lead nationally and internationally on the SDGs. As this plan comes together we aim to input insights from other cities around the world that are also working to implement the SDGs.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti committing to the SDGs for LA
To that end Allan Macleod, the Cabot Institute SDGs Research & Engagement Associate, recently attended the Global Ambition–Local Action Conference hosted by the Occidental College in Los Angeles. The conference focused on what cities can and are doing to address the SDGs and how they can mobilise data and resources to further their work. It was a very informative experience, but was it was also inspiring to see how Bristol compares to some of the largest and most important Global Cities. It was clear that Bristol has developed a solid foundation for SDG localisation and has a real opportunity to become global leader in implementing the SDGs. In doing so the city will both confront the need to develop a more inclusive and sustainable local economy while contributing to global efforts to tackle transboundary problems together with other cities.

This is a particularly exciting time to be working collaboratively on implementing the SDGs in Bristol as the city will be hosting two major conferences in 2018: the Data for International Development Festival at the end of March and the Global Parliament of Mayors Annual Summit in October. Both these events provide Bristol with an opportunity to showcase its leadership and demonstrate its credentials as an important international city that is working to improve the lives of all its citizens.

What experiences do you have of the SDGs abroad or in Bristol? Do you have an ideas or lessons that can be applied to Bristol? If you have any further questions or comments, feel free to get in touch at Allan.macleod@bristol.ac.uk.
----------------------------------------------
This blog is written by Dr Sean Fox, a Lecturer in Urban Geography and Global Development at the University of Bristol and Allan Macleod, Cabot Institute SDGs Research & Engagement Associate.
Sean Fox


Popular posts from this blog

Bristol Future’s magical places: Sustainability through the eyes of the community

“What is science? Why do we do it?”. I ask these questions to my students a lot, in fact, I spend a lot of time asking myself the same thing.

And of course, as much as philosophy of science has thankfully graced us with a lot of scholars, academics and researchers who have discussed, and even provided answers to these questions, sometimes, when you are buried under piles of papers, staring at your screen for hours and hours on end, it doesn’t feel very science-y, does it?

 As a child I always imagined the scientist constantly surrounded by super cool things like the towers around Nicola Tesla, or Cousteau being surrounded by all those underwater wonders. Reality though, as it often does, may significantly differ from your early life expectations. I should have guessed that Ts and Cs would apply… Because there is nothing magnificent about looking for that one bug in your code that made your entire run plot the earth inside out and upside down, at least not for me.

I know for myself, I…

The new carbon economy - transforming waste into a resource

As part of Green Great Britain Week, supported by BEIS, we are posting a series of blogs throughout the week highlighting what work is going on at the University of Bristol's Cabot Institute for the Environment to help provide up to date climate science, technology and solutions for government and industry.  We will also be highlighting some of the big sustainability actions happening across the University and local community in order to do our part to mitigate the negative effects of global warming. Today our blog will look at 'Technologies of the future: clean growth and innovation'.



On Monday 8 October 2018, the IPCC released a special report which calls upon world governments to enact policies which will limit global warming to 1.5°C compared with pre-industrial levels, failure to do so will drastically increase the probability of ecosystem collapses, extreme weather events and complete melting of Arctic sea ice. Success will require “rapid and far-reaching” actions in…

Will July’s heat become the new normal?

For the past month, Europe has experienced a significant heatwave, with both high temperatures and low levels of rainfall, especially in the North. Over this period, we’ve seen a rise in heat-related deaths in major cities, wildfires in Greece, Spain and Portugal, and a distinct ‘browning’ of the European landscape visible from space.

As we sit sweltering in our offices, the question on everyone’s lips seems to be “are we going to keep experiencing heatwaves like this as the climate changes?” or, to put it another way, “Is this heat the new norm?”

Leo Hickman, Ed Hawkins, and others, have spurred a great deal of social media interest with posts highlighting how climate events that are currently considered ‘extreme’, will at some point be called ‘typical’ as the climate evolves.
In January 2007, the BBC aired a special programme presented by Sir David Attenborough called "Climate Change - Britain Under Threat".

It included this imagined weather forecast for a "typical s…