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Beyond wishful thinking: Explorative Qualitative Modeling (EQM) as a tool for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in their generalized form need to be further
reflected in order to identify synergies and trade-offs between their (sub-)targets, and
to apply them to concrete nations and regions. Explorative, qualitative cause and
effect modeling could serve as a tool for adding crucial factors and enabling a better
understanding of the interrelations between the goals, eventually leading to more informed
concrete measures better able to cope with their inherent obstacles. This work provides and
describes a model that could serve as a template for concrete application. The generalized
model already points to some potential ambivalences as well as synergies that can be
reflected on using some of the latest theories and concepts from economics and transition
research, among other fields. Its first analyses cautiously raise doubts that some possible
assumptions behind the original Sustainable Development Goals might overlook some
systemic boundaries. For example, an undifferentiated increase of productivity contradicts
a lessened environmental impact and need for resources in light of potential planetary
boundaries.

Neumann Kai, Anderson Carl, Denich Manfred
2017
Economics Discussion Papers
2017-82