A reflection essay from Together|Ensemble 2023, Canada’s national conference on the Sustainable Development Goals

This year’s Together|Ensemble conference on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) theme was “Beyond” which reflected the need for transformative action and collaboration to achieve the SDGs by 2030. The focus was on how innovation and technology can track progress and bring together the private sector, academia, government, and civil society to achieve the UN’s
sustainable goals by 2030.

Six partner sites across Canada hosted the event in person, as well as live on the internet. It included keynote speakers, panel discussions, workshops, poster presentations, and networking opportunities.

The in-person event I attended was at the NSCC Akerly campus in Dartmouth. The event was well attended and had speakers with diverse backgrounds and working fields.

I was impressed with all the initiatives the province of Nova Scotia is taking to achieve climate action by 2030. Some examples are the 60 new electric buses in Halifax, the 3% of property taxes going toward climate action, and the applied research and innovation labs at NSCC and Dalhousie University. These labs work on sustainable and more eco-friendly agricultural practices, track climate change and make predictions using AI. In a few years, they will be able to power a house using the battery of an electric solar car.

The day started optimistically, but by the end, I wondered if it is possible to achieve the goals by 2030.

The big corporations, education centers and the government are “trying their best” to achieve sustainable development goals. They are using more reusable energy, minimizing water and food waste. They are also using AI to predict climate change. All that sounds great, but looking deeper, most corporations are focusing on the most straightforward goals that fit their needs. After all, the effect would be greater if the SDGs were mandatory and not encouraged. After the conference, I decided to see how many people from my rural community had heard about the SDGs. I was surprised that even people working at companies that promote
Sustainability Goals on their websites had no idea what this was all about.

Ordinary citizens cannot “afford” to become more energy efficient or waste less water, despite all the incredible subsidy programs available. The main reasons are a lack of awareness and fear of change. From my interaction with teens and tweens, those actions are long overdue. They know what we all need to do, and because of internet exposure, they are more aware of how other places of the world handle the energy crisis—for example, the European wind parks. Nova Scotia is excellent for wind and solar energy, and it is great that Nova Scotia Power is phasing out coal and working towards 80% renewable energy by 2030.

One interesting point was the involvement of the indigenous community and finding common value in working together by building authentic and equitable connections. We must ask questions and listen carefully to suggestions; sometimes, the best solution is straightforward and apparent. Regarding energy efficiency and the use of fossil fuel versus renewable energy, it is not an “or,” it is an “and.”

All 17 SDGs are equally important if we want to stop devastating our planet and have a chance to leave something positive to the next generations.

The transition comes at a cost, but inaction could cost us all.


About the Author

Kremena Kafedjieva graduated with Honours from the Business Administration -Financial Services and Business Communication diploma program in June 2023. She served as a President of the Student Association and was on the Sustainability Committee. As SA President, she signed the SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) Accord and demonstrated their commitment to sustainability. Kremena is
passionate about promoting the sustainable mentality and leaving a better-educated society to keep our planet livable for future generations.