This chapter examines goal-setting as a governance strategy, with a substantive focus on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the most ambitious attempt at goal-setting to date. Goal-oriented approaches have existed previously, but governance through goals has acquired greater importance under the conditions of the 21st century, when the Earth system has entered a new epoch called the Anthropocene. In the face of stagnating multilateral problem solving through international regulatory frameworks, a goal-oriented approach could be a bridgehead for solving global problems linked to the provision of public goods. This approach has the potential to help address the shortcomings of the existing international governance system, and to pave the way towards a sustainable future. The SDGs, still being finalized as this chapter is written, could serve to raise the level of ambition and fill the gap between the prevailing political pragmatism and the ambitions that many scientists argue are needed to satisfy the conditions required to secure a safe operating space for the Earth's life-support systems.With a simple set of goals and associated targets and indicators, but without detailed implementation mechanisms, it will be possible to complement the SDGs with international legal mechanisms that are pragmatic and issue-specific.
ASJC Scopus subject areas