Millennium Development Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability


By Stephanie Jackson-Ali, LMSW

In a recent post, Foundation Beyond Belief notified members that we would be attempting to incorporate the UN Millennium Development Goals into our charity vetting process as we move forward. In order to better help our members get acquainted with these goals, we are rolling out a monthly explanation of the goals, the progress made thus far toward their achievement, and what we, as a global community, have left to achieve in the remaining three years of the plan. Read more about the background of the MDGs here. Unless otherwise noted, all information below comes directly from the United Nations.

Goal 7 of the Millennium Development Goals is a large, ambitious goal—to ensure environmental sustainability. This goal encompasses the following:

7.A: Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources
7.B: Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss
7.C: Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation
7.D: Achieve, by 2020, a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers1

Environmental sustainability and conservation are common topics in popular culture and the news media. So it comes as no surprise that much progress has been made toward the success of this goal.

Since the Montreal Protocol was adopted 25 years ago, well before the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals, there has been a reduction of more than 98 percent in the use of ozone-depleting substances. Since 1990, protected areas of the Earth have increased by 58 percent—now covering 12.7 percent of the world’s land, but only less than 2 percent of the world’s oceans.

Two of the targets in Goal 7 have been fully met, well ahead of schedule. Five years ahead of schedule, by 2010, more than two billion people had gained access to drinking water. 2010 also saw 56 percent of developing regions have access to sanitation.

The final target—to reach 100 million slum dwellers—was also reached well ahead of the deadline. It is now estimated that the share of urban slum dwellers has reduced from 39 percent to 33 percent in the 10 years from 2000 to 2010.

But there is still much to be done. Although millions have been reached, an increase in population and urbanization means more than 860 million people still live in urban slums, an increase in the actual number since 2000. It is also estimated that 2.5 billion people still lack sanitation facilities, and, even at the current rate of improvement, more than 600 million will lack improved drinking water access by 2015.

Nature conservation and biodiversity loss are also still huge targets to be accomplished, and require the interaction not just of individuals and organizations, but nations as a whole. This involves improved policies to avoid problems such as overfishing, contributing to climate change, deforestation, and other areas that often fall under political oversight.

In order to better focus on these goals, even after the MDGs have ended, the United Nations named 2011–2020 the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity2.

If you’d like to learn more about sustainable development, conservation, or other natural world efforts, we suggest the following reads. This goal covers a lot of ground, and no list could begin to be comprehensive, so start out with some of these, and continue to expand your list—this field is quickly becoming very popular with writers around the world.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai Undercity – Katherine Boo
Last Chance to See – Douglas Adams (Yes, THAT Douglas Adams)
Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism – Ozzie Zehner
Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature – Mark Tercek
Silent Spring – Rachel Carson


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