Sustainable Goals : Feasible Paths to Desirable Long-Term Futures

Sammanfattning: The general aim of this licentiate thesis is to analyze the framework in which long-term goals are set and subsequently achieved. It is often claimed that goals should be realistic, meaning that they should be adjusted to known abilities. This thesis will argue that this might be very difficult in areas related to sustainable development and climate change adaptation, and that goals that are, to an acceptable degree, unrealistic, can have important functions.Essay I discusses long-term goal setting. When there is a great temporal discrepancy between the point in time of setting and achieving a goal, many uncertainties have to be considered. The surrounding world and the agent’s abilities and values might change. This is an ontological uncertainty. We often form beliefs regarding how abilities and values might change, but this belief is always uncertain. This is an epistemological uncertainty. A form of goal called cautiously utopian goals is proposed, which incorporate such uncertainties, but enables goal setting with long time-frames.Essay II discusses the issue of goals intended to reduce great risks. We cannot expect an agent to do something that lies beyond this agent’s abilities, as exemplified in the principle ‘ought implies can’. Adjusting goals to what we currently, with a high degree of certainty know could be done is difficult. If not including an estimation of how abilities can change, important performance-enhancing functions of goals might be lost. It is argued that very ambitious goals should be set. This is partly due to the great magnitude and likelihood of unwanted consequences and partly due to the difficulty of delineating what lies in agents’ capacity to manage complex risks.Essay III discusses a decision-facilitating tool Sustainability Analysis to be used by Swedish municipal planners. One sub-part of the tool, Goal Conflict Analysis, can be used to identify how the consequences of a planned adaptation measure will affect other long-term municipal goals. Identified goal conflicts can then be used in order to determine whether the conflicts are acceptable, or whether a different adaptation measure should be worked out. The paper discusses a workshop in a Swedish municipality in which the tool has been tested.