Using resources in a responsible manner is intuitively moral and one of the greatest failures of modern society. Many industrializing nations in the 19th century assumed that economic growth would continue because an economy could always expand with a growing population and while utilizing the earth's resources as George Friedman outlines in his book The Next 100 Years. Not only has the UN shown this irresponsible use of resources to be unsustainable, but it is also unethical, as it is a cause of large-scale social and political injustices such as poverty and mass food insecurity in the Global South.
The term "resource consumption" is often associated in MEDCs with the usage of fossil fuels. While energy is a resource that is primarily extracted from fossil fuels in industrialized economies, many other resources are crucial to human survival and the maintenance of a high quality of life. Freshwater is an example of such a resource – one without humans could not live, and yet only makes up 0.5% of all the world’s waters. The question of consuming these resources in a responsible manner is the very question of future life on earth.
“Responsible Consumption and Production” is the 12th UN Sustainability Goal for 2030 and entails 11 sub-targets. Distributing and utilizing resources in a way that does not disproportionately favor a minority of countries is necessary to achieve a sustainable global civilization. As UN Secretary General António Guterres remarked earlier this November: “We must avoid an energy scramble in which developing countries will come off worst - [...] doubling down on fossil fuels is not the solution.” Diplomacy and multilateralism will be critical to realize sustainable and responsible consumption and production.
Critics of the UN SDGs, such as political scientist Dr. Aram Ziai, argue that the Sustainable Development Goals merely exist to demonstrate an awareness of issues such as resource inequality, not to work towards viable solutions. While the goals do have a symbolic component, it is also the case that countries globally have committed themselves to addressing the SDGs, such as through the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. International cooperation and global logistical solutions have never been more technologically advanced than they are now. If the United Nations continue to advance the Sustainable Development Goals, Responsible Resource Consumption can be a reality very soon.
Friedrich Martens, Secretary-General
Ophelia Reuter, President of the General Assembly
Maya Hauff, Deputy Secretary-General
Solomon Iro, Deputy Secretary-General