The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.

The 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) to transform our world are as follows:

Out of all the above goals GOAL 11-Sustainable Cities and Communities, can be considered as the MOTHER GOAL if they are managed with EE&CC yardsticks. The following are the trends, facts, figures and arguments.


Presently more than every other person on this earth is living in an urban area. As per the United Nations Population Projections, 60% of the world population are going to live in a city by the year 2030 and by 2050 the figure is 70% . Hence the sustainability of the world depends on the quality of life in Cities.


Determinants of the real quality of life are both intra-generational and inter-generational. Intra-generational sustainability reduces the gap in human development achievements among different categories of people across the globe and within the Nations. Based on the present trends there is a curve-linear relationship between human development achievements of different nations based on their consumption trends as per the calculations (page 38, Chapter 2 )in this THESIS DISSERTATION which is our base document. The human development index of different nations are taken in the X-axis and the ecological footprint index calculated from the total consumption trends of the world/nations are taken in the Y-axis. The onus of the ecological footprint calculations, is for the Global Footprint Network, which was then published in the Living Planet Reports of WWF.

Scatter Diagram HDI vs EFpI

Some sections of people are over-consuming the resources of nature with high and stagnated figures of human development in terms of health, education and income while the major portion of the world population are unable to reach the basic human development though their countries are having enough natural resource base.

In 2010 UNDP has introduced the inequality dimension also in the Human Development Calculations which are known as the ‘Inequality-adjusted human development index(IHDI)’. The losses due to inequality in achieving health, education and income are calculated using the Atkinson’s family of inequality measures by the UNDP. Thus the real human development is calculated by subtracting the inequality losses from the potential human development index at the national level. Human Development losses due to inequality are as below

Source: UNDP, Human Development Report 2020

The general trend, based on statistics, is that as HDI increases losses are reduced. Based on the 2019 UNDP published data losses due to inequality among the highly developed countries are only 10.9% while for the world it is 20.4%. Among the least developed countries, inequality losses are as high as 28.6%. The Country-India, where I belong to the inequality figure is 26.4% which is skewed towards the least developed country trend. Inequality issues are to be addressed at the national level to attain potential human development and the measures are to be started at the city level which are the hubs of optimum human development.

The concept of Environmental Efficiency was introduced as early as 2005 by calculating the human development achievements in relation to the ecological footprint in global hectares to achieve the liveable Cities. The biological capacity of the city region in relation to the ecological footprint measures the Carrying Capacity of the city regions. The Carrying Capacity of the city region contributes to the Environmental Efficiency of the city where people are staying in a compact and planned away sharing the human development facilities while enjoying the pure air, clean water and nutritious food items from the adjacent CC-rich ecosystems. Also, the Environmental Efficiency of the city contributes to the Carrying Capacity of the region as regions are maintained/enjoyed in a shared and cared way with ecosystem integrity. Environmental Efficiency and Carrying Capacity are innovations being taken up by the Centre for Environmental Efficiency based on the PhD dissertation. Environmental Efficiency and Carrying Capacity are like the two sides of a coin.

There are published methodologies and calculations quantifying the Human Development and inequality-adjusted Human Development which are being taken up by the UNDP. Also, the Global Footprint Network led by Dr Mathis Wackernagel publishes the National Footprint Accounts which consists of Ecological Footprint and Biological Capacity (biocapacity)calculations based on UN data. EE&CC status of nations is calculated based on the above two publications.

There are potential-EE and real-EE. Potential-EE is calculated by calculating the total human development achievements in relation to the total ecological footprint while real-EE is calculated by taking the inequality dimension also. The real-EE is nearer to potential-EE if the human development achievements are rationally distributed among all sections of the society. The potential EE has increased from 2.5 to 3.93 between the years 2013 and 2019 while CC improvised as ‘ton value’ of the world is having a diminishing trend. CC is calculated by taking the biological capacity of the Earth in relation to the Ecological Footprint. The real EE represented as ‘may value’ of the world has improved which indicates lesser inequality between the years 2013 and 2019.


Coming down from the national level to city level it is more appropriate to refine and fine-tune the human development parameters. The term HEALTH can be refined as WELLNESS of the community/population on the argument that there is no meaning to raise the life expectancy of the folks without alleviating the morbidity. The term EDUCATION can be refined as SKILLFULNESS of the folks on the argument that there is no meaning of a university degree without effecting at the application level. The term INCOME can be refined as PROFITABILITY. The profitability increases when the Output/Input ratio is more which is known as the ‘Potential EE ‘of the City. When the human development achievements are rationally distributed the real EE (‘may value’)is nearer to potential EE. The real EE by ‘may value’ is the Intra-Generational Sustainability Index of the city.

In Remote Sensing and Geographical Information System(RS&GIS) platforms Environmental Efficiency of the city can be evaluated by taking grid-level proxy indicators such as land utility index, accessibility index, per-capita built-up index, productivity multiplier value versus ecosystem disturbance factor. A novel attempt has been made here. The methodology introduced in this publication can be improved by incorporating more and more independent indicators which are contributing to human development, reducing ecological footprint or both. Similarly, CC rich areas also can be identified by incorporating effective proxy indicators. Similar to the global trend, it is assumed that the HD achievements in relation to the Ecological Footprint of different grids at city level are having a curve-linear pattern which are to be interfered and corrected to ensure sustainability.

If the regional planning measures using EE&CC are taken up it can create wonders as budget allocations are allowed based on the locational merits of the land. Developments are to be promoted in Environmentally-potential locations while ecosystems conservation efforts are to be adopted in regions rich in CC which can be agricultural, aquatic or forest ecosystems. Ecosystem restoration efforts as envisaged by the United Nations are to be started from the GOAL 11 SDG using EE&CC yardsticks. The present trend of urbanisation is to be interfered with and corrected to curb urban sprawl which kills our ecosystems.


Implementation of Transfer of Development Rights from the city suburbs to city hubs/poles can effectively change the EE&CC status of the city with higher and higher ‘may and ton values’. The TDR sending and receiving grids can be identified in EE&CC maps in the RS&GIS platform. If implemented in decentralised platforms such as BLOCKCHAIN it can create wonders due to reduced pilferage and increased acceptance. This is a prerequisite for the creation of Sustainable Cities.


The integral components of real Environmental Efficiency represented as ‘may value’ are health, education, income, degree of inequality, productivity, the extent of land used/utilised and energy use, which are often based on carbon dioxide emissions.

SDGs contributing to HEALTH

SDG contributing to EDUCATION is

SDGs contributing to INCOME is

The SDGs contributing to INEQUALITY are

SDGs reducing FOOTPRINT is

COMMON GOALS which can be initiated at the city level areas listed below

SDGs and ‘may value’ the real EE

All the above six categorisations can be included in GOAL 11, if it is managed with EE&CC yardsticks. Thus SDG 11 is the mother-GOAL as it is the comprehensive goal. It takes care of sixteen other SDGs. The creation of Sustainable Cities and retrofitting of existing cities are the hope to attain the Sustainable Earth. EE&CC yardsticks represented as ‘may and ton’ values are the effective tools to achieve the Liveable Earth, which is presently over-consumed beyond its regenerative capacity.

Dr May Mathew

Author Trustee



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Centre for Environmental Efficiency

Centre for Environmental Efficiency


Public trust dedicated to bring the environment and development hand in hand through environmental efficiency and carrying capacity theories. By Dr May Mathew