ARCHIVE: What is sustainable development?
The past 20 years have seen a growing realisation that the current model of development is unsustainable. In other words, we are living beyond our means. From the loss of biodiversity with the felling of rainforests or over fishing to the negative effect our consumption patterns are having on the environment and the climate. Our way of life is placing an increasing burden on the planet.
The increasing stress we put on resources and environmental systems such as water, land and air cannot go on forever. Especially as the world's population continues to increase and we already see a world where over a billion people live on less than a dollar a day.
The goal of sustainable development is to enable all people throughout the world to satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a better quality of life, without compromising the quality of life of future generations.
Unless we start to make real progress toward reconciling these contradictions we face a future that is less certain and less secure. We need to make a decisive move toward more sustainable development. Not just because it is the right thing to do, but also because it is in our own long-term best interests. It offers the best hope for the future. Whether at school, in the home or at work, we all have a part to play. Our small everyday actions add up to make a big difference.
Find out more about how you can get involved by visiting our advice and support pages.
Guiding principles of sustainable development
The UK Government, Scottish Executive, Welsh Assembly Government and the Northern Ireland Administration have agreed upon a set of principles that provide a basis for sustainable development policy in the UK. For a policy to be sustainable, it must respect all five principles. View the shared UK principles.
In terms of focusing our efforts, the UK has identified four priority areas for immediate action, shared across the UK, these are:
- Sustainable Consumption and Production
- Climate Change and Energy
- Natural Resource Protection and Environmental Enhancement
- Sustainable Communities
The UK Government also recognises that changing behaviour is a cross cutting theme closely linked to all of these priorities. In addition, Securing the Future identifies wellbeing as being at the heart of sustainable development.
The principles and approaches are covered in more detail in Securing the Future - the UK Government's sustainable development strategy and the UK Strategic Framework.
Directgov is the Government’s main public-facing website bringing together ‘everyday’ information and services in one place. It includes a section on the environment and greener living and sustainable development.
Updated: 9 April 2009