A3 Wolmar

Poverty-environmental relationships in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals


Judith Schleicher
Arnout van Soesbergen
Johan Oldekop
Marije Schaafsma
Bhaskar Vira


The interconnected relationships between the natural environment and human wellbeing and poverty have been a central theme in the environmental and development literatures. However, this has been less influential in mainstream international development policies, which often neglect the natural environment. This can have negative implications for the environment and for addressing poverty adequately in all its forms. Based on a literature review, stakeholder consulation workshops and secondary datasets, this paper (1) examines how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) might influence the framing of the environment-poverty relationships and (2) present the results of integrating environmental and socio-economic datasets to assess poverty in Brazil. We argue that the SDGs' comprehensive nature could provide an opportunity for a better environment-poverty integration. We show how environmental aspects can be taken into account in poverty measures in the case of Brazil, and that doing so influences the distribution and levels of poverty. This has important policy implications for addressing poverty and taking environmental considerations more seriously. Furthermore, achieving the SDGs will need to stay clear of maintaining the status quo and realise more radical transformations that address uneven power dynamics, both in how we measure and understand development, and in the interventions that are designed to positively impact human wellbeing and the natural environment.