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What are they and will they make a difference to the quality of life in the UK?

Any child who starts primary school in September 2019 will complete its secondary education in around 2033. No one can predict with any certainty how the world will change over this period, but it is likely to change in many significant ways. An expanding population, increasing globalisation and advances in technology, including robotics, will bring colossal societal and ecological changes, particularly if our unsustainable practices and lifestyles prevail. Without significant policy interventions, more people will be consuming more resources; climate change will cause global temperatures to increase; demand for food will double globally; more than four million people in the UK will have diabetes and we will have an ageing population. This is just a taste of what our children's future might look like. All of which reinforces the frustration of those young people involved in the School Climate Emergency Strikes and Extinction Rebellion.

2018 and 2019 launched a wide range of dire warning about the fragility of our planetary systems, notably David Attenborough’s speech at Cop 24 on climate change (Guardian, 3 December; Collapse of civilization on the horizon). Our government was one of the first to sign up to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs; sometimes referred to as the Global Goals) in 2015. The 17 Global Goals and associated targets represent an unprecedented opportunity to tackle the root causes of climate change, biodiversity loss, eliminate extreme poverty and put the world on a more sustainable path. Our government has reported on the UK’s progress in what is known as a Voluntary National Review (VNR) and will present this at the UN in New York in July 2019. This is closely followed by the UN SDG Heads of State Summit on the 24 and 25 September. The UN SDG Summit will be one of three high-level events taking place in September, along with the 2019 Climate Summit and the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development. It is anticipated that these events will be mutually reinforcing in identifying areas for action to accelerate progress towards a more sustainable future.

Professor Stephen (Steve) Martin, Visiting Professor in Learning for Sustainability at the University of the West of England, in Bristol and President of the Charity Change Agents UK and policy advisor to the UK National Commission for UNESCO.

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