The Sustainable Development Goals: the original ‘Build Back Better’?
Build, build, build. The government is moving fast and breaking things again. The planning system is to be reformed. The red tape bonfire has been lit.
‘Build back faster’ has joined the more familiar slogans of ‘build back better’ and ‘build back greener’. No one will disagree with the sentiment of building back better and greener faster; but is there a risk of Project Speed building back faster and ignoring better and greener?
With the red tape bonfire burning, how can we ensure we really do build back better?
Enter, the Sustainable Development Goals.
Agreed by world leaders in 2015, the 17 SDGs (and 169 targets) provide a vision and a plan for a future where poverty is ended, inequalities addressed, and the climate and ecological emergencies combated.
The SDGs have been important since adoption by UN member states in 2015 but at this moment of recovery their relevance is clear.
They are not new. The SDGs have garnered broad support across society – nationally and internationally. The roadmap to a better and greener recovery exists.
In Bristol, the SDGs are embraced in the One City Plan – the city’s plan for the future that brings together local government, business and the third sector to create a fair, healthy and sustainable city.
Their importance has been amplified as the city explores exactly how it builds back better. Recently asked what applicants can do to speed up the planning process in the city, Mayor Marvin Rees responded that they can consider the SDGs from the start.
Town planning impacts and influences so many elements of society. The relevance of the SDGs to how we shape our places is obvious. The role of planners and planning in delivering the SDGs is clear (obviously how this work is communicated is also vital – we know some decent communicators).
Whatever the reforms to planning and to local government look like, local authorities will remain a key part of the recovery – not forgetting, they are still at the centre of the response. Helpfully, the Local Government Association will shortly be publishing a guide to the SDGs for councils.
We need to speed up the recovery. We can all point to elements of the planning system and ways local, regional and national government operate that could be better. But without a shared vision and a strategy, we risk quickly making things worse. Luckily, we already have the SDGs.