SCIENCE REPORT 2021: The race against time for smarter development
Countries pairing their digital and green transition
The world is engaged in a race against time to rethink development models by 2030, the deadline for reaching the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UNESCO Science Report’s subtitle, ‘the race against time for smarter development’, captures this urgency.
Since 2015, most countries have aligned their national policies with The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and are engaged in a gradual transition to ‘green’ economies. Governments are stepping up support for smarter production and consumption systems. As the cost–benefit ratio of renewable energy rises, ‘green’ energy projects have multiplied.
However, many governments still fret about how to reconcile the preservation of markets and jobs with their commitment to the Paris Agreement (2015). Despite the growing impact of climate change, there is still insufficient support on the part of both governments and businesses for the necessary energy transition: over 80% of global energy production was based on coal, oil and gas in 2018.
In parallel to their green transition, governments are digitalizing public services and payment systems to improve service delivery, support business and combat corruption and tax evasion. Policies are fostering the emergence of
a digital economy, including smart manufacturing, smart finance (fintech), smart health care services like telemedicine and smart agriculture. The report’s subtitle is also an allusion to this form of ‘smarter development’ driven by digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, big data, the Internet of Things and blockchain technology which are converging with nanotechnology, biotechnology and cognitive sciences to form the bedrock of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (also known as Industry 4.0).