Get access

Millennium Consumption Goals (MCGs) for Rio+20 and beyond: A practical step towards global sustainability


  • Mohan Munasinghe

Mohan Munasinghe is with the Millennium Consumption Goals Initiative and the Munasinghe Institute for Development, Colombo, Sri Lanka. E-mail:


In January 2011, the idea of Millennium Consumption Goals (MCGs) was first proposed at the United Nations, because unsustainable patterns of consumption and production have led to multiple problems threatening the future of humanity. The global economy driven by consumption already uses natural resources equivalent to almost 1.5 planets earth, with the world's richest 1.4 billion consuming almost 85% of global output, which is over 60 fold the consumption of the poorest 1.4 billion. The consumption of the rich is not only ecologically unsustainable, but also “crowding out” the prospects of the poor and exacerbating inequalities that increase the risk of conflict and global unrest.

The MCGs provide an innovative future vision and complement the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that aim to help the world's poor. First, the MCGs seek to address the issues of global poverty and inequality by ensuring that the basic consumption needs of over 2 billion poor people are met. Next, the MCGs will provide benchmarks for the consumption of the rich, which will reduce the burden on the world's natural resource base. Instead of viewing the affluent as a problem, the novel approach of the MCGs would persuade them to contribute to the solution without having to reduce their quality of life.

The MCGs apply even-handedly to the rich in all countries. The concept enjoys broad support worldwide and is being promoted by a global coalition called the MCG Initiative (MCGI). A bottom-up approach has already been started by many pioneering individuals, communities, organizations, firms, cities, regions and nations. They prefer not to wait for broad multilateral agreements and are acting now, to voluntarily pursue their own specific MCGs. A parallel top-down path is being pursued through mandatory agreements at the United Nations/international level, starting with the Rio+20 Earth Summit and beyond. The MCGs fit in with other major UN initiatives like Agenda 21, the MDGs, green economy, SCP and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Get access to the full text of this article