Analysis of the Environmental Effects of the UN Sustainable Development Goals: A Case of the Belt and Road Initiative
Fang Kai1,2,3, Xu Anqi1, He Jianjian1, Wang Siqi1, Zhang Xuliang3
1.School of Public Affairs, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China 2.Center for Social Welfare and Governance, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China 3.Research Center for Regional Coordinated Development, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China
Abstract：With 17 goals and 169 targets, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) proposed by the United Nations in late 2015 have provided elaborate and operational guidance for international collaborations in improving human well-being while safeguarding long-term global sustainability. However, the complexities and interactions between environmental and socio-economic goals remain largely unexplored. This paper aims at making contribution to filling in this knowledge gap by examining the impacts of socio-economic SDGs on environmental footprints in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), in which many partner countries are experiencing rapid urbanization and facing severe resource constrains and environmental challenges, such as water shortages, land degradation, climate change, and eutrophication.This paper makes an effort to account for the water, land, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus footprints of 65 countries partnering the BRI between 2000 and 2015 by developing a global multi-regional input-output (MRIO) model. The spatial distribution of national environmental footprints throughout the BRI is investigated by means of spatial autocorrelation analysis. Moreover, a set of socio-economic indicators selected from the SDG dashboards are employed to measure the level of social and economic development in each BRI country on the basis of principal component analysis. Spatial econometric models including spatial lag model (SLM), spatial error model (SEM) and spatial Dubin model (SDM) are used to uncover the synergies or trade-offs between the socio-economic SDGs with environmental footprints in a comparative sense.We find that: both total and per capita environmental footprints in the BRI region experience a growth at first and a decline afterwards in 2000–2015, showing an increasingly significant spatial autocorrelation across the BRI countries. China, India and Russia all have considerably high total environmental footprints of all the five categories, whereas their per capita values remain at a relatively low level. Overall, the BRI countries serve as large exporters of virtual water and land resources and embodied carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus emissions at a global scale. Major trade partners include USA, Japan, Germany, UK, and South Korea. Both synergies and trade-offs of the SDGs on environmental footprints are observed. We notice more effects of trade-offs on the water, carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus footprints than the synergistic ones, as opposed to the land footprint where more synergistic effects are witnessed. Goals that have significant synergies with environmental footprints can be priorities for SDGs, such as SDG 1 (no poverty) and SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals). Conversely, goals that show trade-offs with environmental footprints, such as SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 5 (gender equality), and SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), should be implemented with caution to avoid potential environmental risks. Policy actions that facilitate decoupling of those goals from environmental footprint growth would be highly necessary. Indicators within single SDGs may have divergent impacts on the same category of environmental footprint. SDG 8.1.1 and SDG 126.96.36.199 offer one example. In addition, there are obvious differences in the environmental impacts of countries with different development levels in the pursuit of SDGs. Environmental footprints of countries with high development level are mostly show trade-offs with economic growth indicators, such as SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) and SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), while those with low development level mostly show trade-offs with social governance indicators such as SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) and SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals). Furthermore, for those SDGs whose spatial spillover effects show significant trade-offs, it would be necessary to strengthen the bilateral and multilateral cooperation to avoid adverse environmental effects associated with neighboring countries’ socio-economic activities. On the contrary, those SDGs whose spatial spillover effects show significant synergies can be prioritized in interregional cooperative governance.Our research provides an overall picture of various environmental footprints at multiple scales, ranging from single nations, to the entirety of the BRI, and even to the global arena, and brings transparency to the complicated relationships between environmental footprints and various SDGs, and highlights the significance of a systematic view in finding ways to tackle environmental challenges facing the BRI. The findings are expected to assist policy makers by formulating integrated policies for achieving the SDGs and constructing the “Green Belt and Road”.
方恺, 许安琪, 何坚坚, 王思亓, 张旭亮. 可持续发展目标实现进程中的环境效应分析[J]. 浙江大学学报(人文社会科学版), 2022, 52(3): 100-119.
Fang Kai, Xu Anqi, He Jianjian, Wang Siqi, Zhang Xuliang. Analysis of the Environmental Effects of the UN Sustainable Development Goals: A Case of the Belt and Road Initiative. JOURNAL OF ZHEJIANG UNIVERSITY, 2022, 52(3): 100-119.