The UN Secretary-General issued a report that reflects on long-term trends and scenarios towards achieving the SDGs and climate objectives while leaving no one behind. The report identifies scientific and technological breakthroughs that could become “game-changers,” and illustrates “what would be needed in terms of globally coordinated policies and high-impact actions” to “make new possibilities work for everyone.”

The report titled, ‘Long-term future trends and scenarios: Impacts on the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals’ (E/2023/89), informs the high-level segment of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in July 2023. It complements the Secretary-General’s reports, ‘Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals: Towards a Rescue Plan for People and Planet,’ and on the theme of the 2023 session of the Council. 

The report warns that under the business-as-usual (BAU) development scenario, none of the SDGs would be achieved, resulting in “decisively unsustainable” development by 2050. It identifies scientific and technological advances as “a means to accelerate SDG progress but also an enormous challenge” as countries “that are not at the technology frontier … face increasing disadvantages.” The report argues that with international cooperation and support, digitalization, environmentally compatible technologies and the emerging “green economy,” along with biotech, synthetic biology, and health technology can play an important role in supporting sustainable development.

Among “recent sustainable development scenarios that achieve the SDGs by 2030 and broader sustainable development by 2050,” the report highlights the low energy demand (LED) better futures scenario to achieve the SDGs. It also outlines key elements of the SDG-consistent sustainable development pathways (SDP) scenario, including planetary integrity, provision of material needs and sustainable resources, and actions relating to people, prosperity, and institutions and partnerships, as well as international burden sharing and expanding fiscal space, decent living standards for all, and innovations in terms of modelling the effectiveness of political institutions.

The report recommends policies and actions that complement near-term actions outlined in the earlier reports in the series in the areas of:

  • Technology and resource efficiency;
  • Climate change and a just transition;
  • Sustainable energy systems;
  • Sustainable land and food systems; and
  • Global development, equity, and cooperation.

The Secretary-General encourages Member States, the UN system, decision makers, and other stakeholders “to consider the globally coordinated policies and high-impact actions” explored in the report to deliver “a sustainable future that leaves no one behind.” Among other recommendations, he encourages the UN to support better understanding of the latest technology “accelerators” and “green windows of opportunity”; support peer learning among governments on “scenarios, tech futures, roadmaps, and tools in support of making the SDP scenario a reality”; and convene stakeholders under the UN Technology Facilitation Mechanism “to share experiences and synthesize the latest knowledge on the wider impacts of emerging technologies and sustainable development model of the 2030 Agenda.”

The insights from the report will contribute to the SDG Summit in September and the Summit of the Future in 2024. [Publication: Long-term Future Trends and Scenarios: Impacts on the Realization of the Sustainable Development Goals] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on 2022 Report]