We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps needed to shift the world onto a resilient and sustainable path.”

United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, September 27, 2015

With the bombast and hubris that have characterized its 70 years of existence, the United Nations recently embarked on what it says is a “collective journey” to “free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet.”

To accomplish all this, the UN has set 17 “Sustainable Development Goals” and no fewer than 169 targets – all of which are to be implemented by 2030. The grandiose scheme was adopted by the UN at its September 25-27 meeting in New York, attended by numerous heads of state, including President Obama. In keeping with previous UN declarations, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development contains the standard boiler-plate references to the importance of eradicating “gender inequality,” promoting “human rights of all,” favoring “strengthened global solidarity,” and the like.

While it’s tempting to dismiss such drivel as the inevitable product of a bloated, UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development goalswasteful, out-of-touch, but ultimately powerless, bureaucracy, the UN’s latest sustainable development agenda warrants serious attention. The UN doesn’t operate in a vacuum; it has ties to a vast network of global organizations – both governmental and nongovernmental – all of which espouse similar views and all of which work for the adoption of “transformative” policies.

Once this global network has declared an issue to be of paramount importance – climate change being the most prominent current example – it can team up with elements of the global business community, eager to take advantage of whatever regulations, subsidies, and other measures are adopted to promote the latest fad. The result is the rise of a formidable coalition of power-hungry regulatory bureaucrats and rent-seeking companies, working with, and often funding, friendly non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for the purpose of transforming the world to suit their interests.

The Agenda behind the Agenda

The 2030 Agenda provides a handy blueprint for the kind of global structure the UN and its allies want to erect. Focusing on what it says are the areas of critical importance over the next 15 years, the document cites what can be called the UN’s “Five Ps”: people, planet, peace, prosperity, and partnership. A closer look at what it says under “planet,” shows that behind 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development there really is an agenda. Thus, we are told:

We are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so it can support the needs of the present and future generations.”

The call for “urgent action on climate change” was clearly timed to coincide with the run-up to the UN-sponsored Conference of the Parties (COP) 21 global warming conference in Paris (Nov. 30 – Dec. 11, 2015). By stressing the urgency of collective action on climate change, the UN document seeks to pave the way for an agreement on further reduction of greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions from fossil fuels. It is a political agenda cloaked in the mantle of protecting the planet from environmental degradation.

This section of the agenda fits neatly into other UN-sponsored activities that are afoot. In October, a few weeks after the release of 2030 Agenda, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) — part of the World Health Organization (WHO), an arm of the UN – released a report concluding that red meat, like beef and pork, is “probably carcinogenic” to humans, and that processed meat, like bacon and sausage, pose an even greater cancer risk.

“A Shift Away from High GHG-Foods

Also in advance of the Paris climate conference, WHO released a report tying “carbon pollution” and global health risks. As noted by Julie Kelly and Jeff Stier in the Wall Street Journal (Nov. 10), the report’s section on agriculture directs consumers away from foods whose production emits high levels of greenhouse gases. “A key action with large potential climate and health benefits is to facilitate a shift away from high-GHG foods – many of which are of animal origin – and towards healthy, low-GHG (often plant-based) alternatives,” the WHO report says.

Data supporting the link between consumption of red meat and cancer are, as Kelly and Stier point out, “flimsy at best,” with the IRAC admitting that “there is limited evidence for the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat” and “no clear association was seen in the high-quality studies.” Nevertheless, IRAC made a big splash in the media with its announcement about red meat and cancer and its equally weak conclusions about processed meat and cancer.

Together with WHO’s call for a shift away from “high-GHG foods,” the picture becomes clear: Ranches and farms that raise cattle, pigs, sheep, etc. are now seen as posing a threat to the climate and public health. Like fossil fuels, they, too, must be demonized and targeted for the damage they are doing to the planet.

This is what the UN’s 2030 Agenda is all about. It lays out goals and targets on agriculture, natural resources, the climate, eradication of poverty, etc., urging that all these issues be dealt with in a “sustainable” fashion. Yet nowhere in the document is the term sustainable ever defined; just as we are never told in what way the climate is changing, much less presented with evidence showing why it is changing. Instead, we are urged to take “action,” the sooner the better.

The UN has been peddling sustainable development since its landmark conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Don’t buy any of it. It’s a scam that, by denying the world’s poorest people access to affordable energy and other natural resources as well as the tools of modern agriculture, will perpetuate global poverty and empower unelected bureaucrats and their cronies.


  • Bonner Cohen, Ph. D.

    Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D., is a senior policy analyst with CFACT, where he focuses on natural resources, energy, property rights, and geopolitical developments. Articles by Dr. Cohen have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Investor’s Busines Daily, The New York Post, The Washington Examiner, The Washington Times, The Hill, The Epoch Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Miami Herald, and dozens of other newspapers around the country. He has been interviewed on Fox News, Fox Business Network, CNN, NBC News, NPR, BBC, BBC Worldwide Television, N24 (German-language news network), and scores of radio stations in the U.S. and Canada. He has testified before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, and the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. Dr. Cohen has addressed conferences in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Bangladesh. He has a B.A. from the University of Georgia and a Ph. D. – summa cum laude – from the University of Munich.