What is Sustainability

By: Mike Breton


In ecology, sustainability is how biological systems remain diverse and productive.

Long-lived and healthy wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems. In more general terms, sustainability is the endurance of systems and processes. The organizing principle for sustainability is sustainable development, which includes the four interconnected domains: ecology, economics, politics and culture. Sustainability science is the study of sustainable development and environmental science.

Climate Change

The links between climate change and sustainable development are strong. While climate change will know no boundaries, poor and developing countries, particularly the LDCs, will be among those most adversely affected and least able to cope with the anticipated shocks to their social, economic and natural systems.
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Waste Management

Gross chemical contamination, with grave damage to human health, genetic structures and reproductive outcomes and the environment, has been continuing within some of the world's most important industrial areas, and restoration will require major investment as well as the development of new techniques.
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Water and Sanitation

The Division for Sustainable Development, through its Water, Natural Resources and SIDS Branch, provides project execution and policy advisory services at the request of interested countries to promote and support integrated water resources management at the international, national, regional, local and basin levels. These services are based on a contemporary technical cooperation model that links current political discussions with the realities in the field.


Energy is an essential factor for sustainable development and poverty eradication. Nevertheless, it is estimated that in 2015 still about 2.8 billion people have no access to modern energy services and over 1.1 billion do not have electricity. Furthermore, around 4.3 million people are dying prematurely every year due to indoor pollution resulting from cooking and heating with unsustainable fuels. The challenge lies in finding ways to reconcile the necessity and demand for modern and sustainable energy services with its impact on the environment and the global natural resource base in order to ensure that sustainable development goals are realised.

Sustainable Consumption

It was acknowledged that sustainable consumption and production forms one of the three overarching objectives of, and essential requirements for, sustainable development, together with poverty eradication and the management of natural resources in order to foster economic and social development.


Biodiversity has also been discussed by the Commission on Sustainable Development on several occasions and is one of the themes for discussion in the 2012/2013 two-year cycle.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment released in March 2005 concludes that there has been a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth due to human action. Among the outstanding problems are the dire state of many of the world's fish stocks, the vulnerability of the 2 billion people living in dry regions to the loss of ecosystem services and the growing threat to ecosystems from climate change and nutrient pollution.


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