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Mission Sustainable Development

Nearly 60 years ago, President John F. Kennedy put the United States on a mission to the future by proclaiming that it would land a man on the moon within a decade. Our generation’s moonshot mission is sustainable development on Earth.

NEW YORK – Sixty years ago next May, President John F. Kennedy put the United States on a mission to the future. “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.” Our generation’s moonshot is sustainable development on Earth.

We have already set the goals, but not yet embraced the challenges in full. In two pivotal moments in late 2015, all of the world’s governments unanimously adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris climate agreement. The world pledged to end extreme poverty, ensure universal health care, and provide education for all children by 2030; countries would decarbonize the world’s energy system to head off the dire risks of human-induced climate change. A subsequent scientific report in 2018 indicated that the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C requires meeting the latter goal by mid-century.

These bold goals are no less achievable than the moonshot, which the US accomplished on Kennedy’s original timeline, in July 1969. The US moonshot in fact illuminates how to achieve bold goals such as the 17 SDGs and the needed energy transformation.

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