The report presents three broad shifts that can be made, three structural barriers to remove and more than 50 concrete recommendations to unlock a better future for all.

In 1972, the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment established a framework for action and set a global agenda for humans and the environment. Despite the visions and ambitions laid out half a century ago, the current state of our planet reflects much is left to be done, what the authors of the report call a large implementation gap. Leaders and decision makers gathering at Stockholm+50 have the chance to start a new chapter in international cooperation.

“In many ways, the world is at a boiling point – with extreme temperatures in South Asia, escalating fuel and food prices, and war and conflict. In our report, we seek to connect the big picture of intertwined planetary and inequality crises with the promising momentum for change that we see in public awareness and key technologies reaching mass market, to shift from urgency to agency,” says Åsa Persson, Research Director and Deputy CEO for SEI.

With humans having altered 75% of the planet’s land surface, impacted 66% of the ocean area, and directly or indirectly destroyed 85% of wetlands, science points to the need to redefine the relationship between humans and nature, ensure prosperity that lasts for all, and invest more actively and purposefully in a better future.

The report’s concrete recommendations range from joint de-risking initiatives to meet investment needs in low-income countries, establishing a regular UN forum on sustainable lifestyles, and a global campaign on nature-based education for children. The three structural barriers of policy incoherence, weak multilateralism and lack of accountability must be tackled now decisively, to make action truly effective and credible.

“We must ensure constructive accountability, which not only emphasizes answerability and responsibility but also incentivizes continuously improving performance and loops of raised ambition. We need to make goals, targets and commitments matter and have value”, says Persson.

The report also emphasizes that making sustainable lifestyles the overwhelmingly easy choice for both individuals and communities is key. Without structural changes that promote sustainable lifestyles, change will not take place at the pace needed, despite good intentions.

“The ample opportunities for policymakers to take action and the growing momentum for change gives me hope. We see how public opinion reflects the urgency and willingness to change lifestyles, how youth worldwide demand and exercise more agency to fight climate change, environmental degradation and inequity, and that technological development and uptake is occurring faster than anticipated,” says SEI Researcher Nina Weitz, project leader for the report.

Science recognizes the importance of investments in the transition. Governments, companies, and mission-driven public investments have unique roles to play in sustainability-oriented innovation systems. With more actors and stakeholders participating in global governance, many more routes to taking action are available.

“Stockholm+50 is an opportunity to learn from the past, take stock of the present, and take transformational steps to create a legacy of a sustainable future for the planet. With this report we have aimed to push the envelope and challenge our received wisdom. We now look forward to discussing the recommendations of the report with decision makers and policy institutions worldwide”, says Arunabha Ghosh, CEO of CEEW.

Conflicts of interest and uneven power relationships must be recognized. Governments and international organizations must make their policy mixes coherent and consistent towards sustainability goals, in order to increase incentives for action by adopting new practices and tools for more integrated and systemic policymaking. Scientific research offers evidence and guidance on how to progress on critical challenges, build better societies, and protect our planet.

The report has been prepared by SEI and CEEW with funding from the Swedish Ministry of the Environment. It has also been financially supported through SIDA’s core support to SEI and a contribution from Mistra.