Development must be social, inclusive, and equitable, while protecting the environment.

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG from now on) are an example of the high level of success achievable by multilateral diplomacy and the United Nations’ system at its best. They have a huge potential to be change drivers, and they are wide in scope and full of ambitions. All 17 goals of the SDG are broad and interdependent, and their agreement took decades of efforts, work, and dialogue until the Rio Earth Summit. The conference established the idea that global negotiations were required to face environmental issues, and the problematic of facing the extremely complex nature of those topics by centralized top-down approaches. Moreover, it also represented turning point in the multilevel negotiations of a multicentric world. The state-centric world met for the first time in a major international conference its non-state counterparts in an exchange of knowledge and experiences and network building, which opened the gates for experimentation with new tools and instruments used to influence behaviour. Nonetheless, this does not mean that private actors substituted public state actors. It must be warned that, although a remarkable achievement, SDGs do not guarantee success by themselves. Therefore, there are some risks that must be considered to successfully achieve those goals and avoid for them to be exploited for the benefit of some actors. First, it exists the serious risks of either governments or private actors to cherry pick those goals that are far easier to achieve, or that provide more benefits, either material or intangible, like prestige, while avoiding those that require a greater investment or significative structural changes, like behavioural or economic changes. It also exists the possibility of the use of the SDGs by private actors to whitewash their bad praxis. For example, companies can place financial resources to fund projects related to the environment while at the same time avoiding shifting their business activities. It is also important to understand that for those countries with a lesser level of development, the attainment of some of the SDGs can be more costly. This links with the possible risk of actors purposely choosing easier goals while avoiding controversial or difficult ones. It must be understood that the SDGs must not serve as some sort of block or ceiling for the development of underdeveloped countries, and the ambition of developed countries should accordingly rise. Furthermore, goals should be pursued in an intertwined way instead of individually, for some of the issues addressed in the SDGs are covered by multiple goals. Finally, and related to the last point, a holistic integrated system of policies must be applied, for focusing on some of the goals with detriment of others, without taking into account their intertwined nature, may have the undesired consequence of further advance the prioritized goal at the cost of a setback in the others. If a certain country focuses only on economic development, negative externalities might appear in the environmental dimension. A special focus should be placed on the environment. Facing the rise of the apocalyptic trends stating that is either too late or it soon will be if nothing changes, Hulme wrote a very insightful essay on the topic, reviewing nine papers that appeared in a special issue of WIRE. In particular, by reviewing the works of Jewell, Dubash and La Rovere, Hulme explores the idea of focusing not just on the technical or economic possibilities, but also on the political feasibility, which is often overlooked or not considered at all. His conclusion matches the spirit of the SDGs. That is not to limit the scope of mother nature, but to add humans too. Therefore, development must be social, inclusive, and equitable, while protecting the environment. This is reflected in Hulme conclusive affirmation “how one gets there matters more […] tan merely getting there.” As a conclusion, we should understand the complex processes leading to the SDGs, to learn from their triumphs and build upon their achievements, and we never should lose sight of the potential risks, so we can exploit the victory of multilateralism instead of settle for less than acceptable results. This involves an honest, comprehensive, holistic, and multidimensional approach combined with a clear definition of the capabilities and possibilities of every actor to pursue these goals.