21 April 2015

Sustainable development goals and the land-water-food nexus

Tackling the Sustainable Development Goals, with 17 different aims, requires coordinated action that takes into account the co-benefits and tradeoffs between the interlinked goals, according to new studies presented at the Global Soil Week 2015.

The 17 aims of the Sustainable Development Goals are intimately linked. ©IFPRI/Milo Mitchell

The 17 aims of the Sustainable Development Goals are intimately linked. ©IFPRI/Milo Mitchell

The effectiveness and sustainability of the proposed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with regard to the huge and still growing demand for resources such as land and biomass have been investigated by two studies, both of which were presented on Monday, 20 April at the Global Soil Week 2015.

The Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), UNEP’s International Resource Panel and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) all concluded during the presentation of their studies that the huge land demand implicit in the individual SDGs will affect the future availability of land and potentially impede the fulfilment of the goals: the land demands made in the SDGs exceed our existing land resources.

The IIASA study examines the economic links, co-benefits, and trade-offs between the different SDG aims, particularly between land, food and water resources. Conservation efforts focused on one resource or region can drive prices up, leading to food insecurity and even greater exploitation of other resources.

“Competition for resources entangles all 17 of the SDGs,” warned Michael Obersteiner, director of the Ecosystem Services and Management  Program at IIASA. “Only a systems approach can help to reveal critical interdependencies and avoid zero-sum outcomes as nations craft policies to implement the goals,” he argued when presenting the IIASA study commissioned by the IRP.

Twelve of the proposed SDGs relate to the sustainable use of natural resources and several depend on the use of additional land resources, for example, the goals on food security (Goal 2), energy supply (Goal 7), production and consumption (Goal 12) and the sustainable use of ecosystems (Goal 15). Read more>>

IIASA's Michael Obersteiner (middle) participates in a press conference on 20 April. ©IASS/StandArt

International research for a sustainable future

IIASA has recently launched two major international research projects focused on sustainable development: the World in 2050 Project, and the Nexus Solutions for Sustainability Project

The two research projects are complementary efforts among leading global research institutes and financing and development organizations to bridge a gap between science and policy. They aim to address outstanding questions on sustainability, climate, social equity and the environment, and provide pathways for the world to reach the future we want.

Read More

Print this page

Last edited: 28 April 2015


Michael Obersteiner

Principal Research Scholar Exploratory Modeling of Human-natural Systems Research Group - Advancing Systems Analysis Program

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313