SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT - Synergies and tradeoffs among Sustainable Development Goals across boundaries in a metacoupled world

January 10, 2021 - Author: Zhiqiang Zhao, Meng Cai, Fang Wang, Julie A. Winkler, Thomas Connor, Min Gon Chung, Jindong Zhang, Hongbo Yang, Zhenci Xu, Ying Tang, Zhiyun Ouyang, Hemin Zhang, Jianguo Liu


Synergies and tradeoffs among the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within specific locations have been widely studied. However, there is little understanding of SDG synergies and tradeoffs across spatial/administrative boundaries although the world is increasingly interconnected and the United Nations aims to achieve SDGs everywhere by 2030. To fill such an important gap, we introduce a new theoretical framework and develop a general procedure of applying the framework to empirically evaluate SDG synergies and tradeoffs within and across boundaries, based on the concept of metacoupling. We work through our framework using the examples of tourism and panda loans between the globally important Wolong Nature Reserve for panda conservation and the rest of the world to evaluate their effects on six SDGs in Wolong and the other 66 panda reserves. Our analyses uncover a total of 17 synergies and two tradeoffs, of which 10 synergies and one tradeoff are internal to Wolong, while seven synergies and one tradeoff occur across reserve boundaries. Given the first empirical evidence about cross-boundary synergies and tradeoffs, it is our hope that this study provides a foundation for further research to reveal more SDG synergies and tradeoffs across boundaries worldwide. The findings will be essential to enhance SDG synergies and reduce tradeoffs across boundaries for achieving SDGs everywhere.

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