The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have given the United Nations a political and statistical framework that reconciles the human development agenda with the agenda to protect the planet. More than five years since they were adopted, the progress made on these goals is still uneven and, when it comes to the environment, even lagging behind. The overarching objective of the 2030 Agenda was to re-establish a coherence between social, economic and environmental policies, but this is encountering systemic weaknesses that may well be exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. In this paper, we put forward several exploratory avenues to steer the SDGs back on track: restore greater legitimacy and readability to the environmental goals by defining indicators that integrate the commitments made at COP21 and, eventually, those that should be made to protect biodiversity; identify the synergies and tensions between the different goals so that better trade-offs can be made among priorities; build and model a sustainable development pathway for each country to track the effective progress and estimate the cost of financing these improved pathways; integrate environmental imperatives into decision-making and trade-offs and, finally, extend the time horizon for the SDGs to 2050 along with 5-year milestones, updating indicators as research and diplomatic negotiations make headway, as provided for in the Paris Agreement for example.
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