Technology’s Role in Achieving the SDGs

In Realising the Transformative Potential of the SDGs
Chapter: Chapter 7
Book Chapter

* In this report, “sustainable technology” contributes to sustainable development, but
the technology itself is not necessarily sustainable.
* Accelerating the adoption and use of “sustainable” technology in all countries is
necessary to achieve a transformation to sustainability.
* Technology is prominently highlighted in the SDGs as a means of implementation, but
its proposed measures are mostly general and weak.
* Technological solutions are often preferred to more difficult ones such as governance
reforms, but technology isn’t likely to be a “silver bullet”.
* There is already a great deal of available technology to solve sustainability problems,
but it has not been sufficiently adopted.
* “Exnovation” to eliminate unsustainable technology is also important.
* Expanded investment in research and development (R&D) of new, innovative
technologies could accelerate transformation, but should focus on sustainable uses.
* Life cycle assessment of new technologies should be implemented before their
adoption to avoid unexpected sustainability problems.
* Regulation may be needed to ensure that specific technology contributes to rather
than undermines SDGs and to address synergies and tradeoffs.
* The rate of technological change is high, and Asian countries are accelerating R&D
investment, but not always in a sustainable direction.
* Appropriate technology (less advanced is better) vs. leapfrogging (more advanced is
better) is not always an obvious choice.
* Matching sellers and buyers is often difficult; cheapest is often not best.
* Financing of technology is not necessarily the most important problem.
* China is massively increasing its R&D spending, Japan controls many niche markets,
and Singapore has invested heavily in smart city technologies.
* Technology matching platforms need ground-level demonstration and capacity
building, not only online information dissemination.
* Patent waiving for sustainable technologies, with appropriate compensation for
developers, may help overcome cost/transfer barriers.

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