Jeffrey Sachs Urges Global Cooperation for A Peaceful Planet at 2022 Masters’ Forum

  • 2022 Tang Prize Masters' Forum in Sustainable Development is held on Sep. 26 at National Cheng Kung University
  • 2022 laureate Prof. Jeffrey Sachs talks with experts in Taiwan about the path to sustainable development in the next 30 years
  • 2022 Tang Prize Masters' Forum in Sustainable Development is held on Sep. 26 at National Cheng Kung University
  • 2022 Tang Prize Masters' Forum in Sustainable Development is held on Sep. 26 at National Cheng Kung University
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The COVID pandemic and the military conflict in Ukraine have roiled the global supply chain, drove rampant inflation globally, caused energy and food shortages, and provoked other international crises. Moreover, they have halted the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or even offset some of the progress that has been made. Amid worsening climate change, polarized global politics, and the pressing need to reach net zero by 2050, questions arose as to how the world, Taiwan included, can continue to strive for sustainable development. The highly-anticipated 2022 Tang Prize Masters’ Forum for Sustainable Development was held on September 26 to address these issues. Speaking via video conference, 2022 Tang Prize laureate in Sustainable Development Professor Jeffrey Sachs delivered a speech to explore the theme of the forum, “Sustainable Development Pathways Toward 2030 and Beyond,” as well as exchange views with scholars in Taiwan. It is hoped that their conversations, conducted from both local and global perspectives, can inspire many to come up with more effective strategies that will steer humanity onto a course of sustainable development in the next thirty years.


The 2022 Tang Prize Forum series took place in southern Taiwan for the first time at National Cheng Kung University’s (NCKU) “Green Magic School.” While the university is placed no.33 on the 2022 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings which assess universities against UN SDGs, the venue is listed as one of the seven low and zero-carbon buildings worldwide in the 2022 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Co-organized by National Cheng Kung University and the Tang Prize Foundation, the forum featured Academician of Academia Sinica Professor Chao-Han Liu as the moderator, and President of NCKU Professor Huey-Jen Su, Dean of Taipei School of Economics and Political Science Dr. Tain-jy Chen, and former President of the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research Professor Chi-yuan Liang as the panelists. In her opening remarks, Professor Su pointed out that NCKU and the Tang Prize Foundation have over the past few years formed a robust partnership that started with the collaboration to hold the Gro Brundtland’s Week of Women in Sustainable Development from 2016 to 2018 and continued to stage the Masters’ Forum in Biopharmaceutical Science in 2020. With confidence, she expected the dialogues between experts at this year’s forum on how to attain the SDGs to be equally edifying.    


Known for his contributions to the establishment and promotion of the UN SDGs and the Paris Agreement, Professor Sachs began the talk by taking the audience through the 75-year history of sustainable development that goes back to 1948 when the UN published its Universal Declaration of Human Rights and reached a landmark moment in 2015 when the SDGs and the Paris Agreement were adopted. When offering a vision for the future we want, he stressed that it should be built on the developments in four main arenas—economy, society, the environment, and world peace, and bolstered by six core investments—investing in education, health service, renewable energy and circular economy, healthy diets and sustainable framing practices, digital and service-based cities, and digital inclusion for all. In addition, he highlighted seven pillars of what he termed “new governance for sustainable development,” including “global-based development,” “technology pathways and industrial policy,” “financial programming,” “corporate alignment,” “regional integration,” “geopolitical cooperation,” and “ethics of sustainable development.” He then elaborated on the multiple roles governments, businesses, and civil societies can play in the pursuit of the SDGs. He concluded his speech with reiterations of the importance of global cooperation to strengthen global shared values in order to bring about peace.


When answering Professor Liu’s question about how people from different backgrounds can work together, Professor Sachs reminded us that our common interest lies in the fact that we all inhabit this tiny planet and therefore we all want to treasure our children’s future. Following these remarks, Professor Su, a public health specialist, shared Taiwan’s experience of pursuing SDGs in areas concerning public health, health systems, and gender equality, and showed statistics to explain how the coronavirus and other infectious and non-infectious diseases affected people of different biological and social genders as well as ages. She emphasized that these diseases all have an impact on the socioeconomic development of a society. Thus, analysis of the risk factors facing different genders and different age groups should be carried out scientifically and impartially before any effective policy can be formulated. Commenting on her presentation, Professor Sachs mentioned Taiwan’s remarkable COVID response, noting its government took action immediately from the first report that there was an outbreak in Wuhan. By comparison, there was no functioning control system in the United States and many people opposed the idea of wearing masks. The result was 1.2 million deaths. So it is worth thinking about how Taiwan’s system and the wisdom of its people can be imparted to other countries.


As an economist himself, Dr. Chen examined the economic development of China over the past one hundred years and wondered if its economic mode can co-exist with the principles of sustainable development. He also echoed Professor Sachs’ view that instead of focusing solely on economic growth, it is more vital to have global shared values, to fulfill the responsibilities of a global citizen, and to cherish basic human rights and human dignity. Only when these conditions are met can we cooperate with one another to work toward the same goals. It is especially true when it comes to sustainable development, to achieve which we need cross-disciplinary collaborations. Besides, educational projects should be set up to help people espouse and committed to similar ideals. In terms of how to manage US-China tensions, Professor Sachs thinks many of the current US policies are a reflection of its fear of China’s expanding influence. To overcome fear, both sides should try to develop a friendship. Though relationships among many countries abound with misunderstanding at the moment, as long as we learn to appreciate our differences and continue to talk to each other, there will always be opportunity for cooperation.      


Professor Liang expressed his concerns about Taiwan’s energy policy, referring to the one introduced by the government in 2016 to create a nuclear-free homeland by 2025. However, we cannot ignore problems such as potential power shortages, a surge in electricity prices, and the risk involving transporting electricity from southern to northern Taiwan. In response, Professor Sachs suggested that the authorities draw up a plan that looks toward 2050 and a framework that is realistic and quantified. Because Taiwan has limited and densely-populated land, it doesn’t have vast potential for alternative energy sources. In this context, nuclear power could be a real option. Another possibility is to join an integrated power grid for northeast Asia. Taiwan can power itself with renewable energy from the Gobi Desert or from the eastern boundaries of Russia. This, nonetheless, requires trust and a sense of security, and the economic costs of the lack of trust are extremely high. What is happening in Europe right now is a manifestation of the painful price many European nations are paying for depending on Russia to provide cheap gas, much of which has unfortunately been cut off due to the war. To have an interconnected power system in northeast Asia, countries in this region need to engage in dialogues and have a real sense of common purposes. It is extremely important for Taiwan to find a way to secure power supplies. For this reason, Taiwan has to think seriously about issues such as which regions it will trade energy with, how much offshore wind it will need to meet its energy demand, and whether it has a realistic timeline. Suddenly phasing out nuclear without alternative options benefits nobody. So, Professor Sachs recommended a multi-prong approach and the development of alternative pathways as better solutions.


To watch the forum again, go to:


The 2022 Tang Prize in Sustainable Development is awarded to Professor Jeffrey Sachs, for “leading transdisciplinary sustainability science and creating the multilateral movement for its applications from village to nation, and to the world.” As a world-renowned economist, Professor Sachs served as Special Advisor for three UN Secretaries-General, and is currently Director of the Centre for Sustainable Development at Columbia University as well as President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). He has conducted ground-breaking research in many areas, such as debt crises, hyperinflations, transition from central planning to market economies, and eradication of extreme poverty. Moreover, when addressing complex issues related to global sustainable development, he combined the fields of global economics, public health, equity and sustainability to pioneer a multidisciplinary approach to solving these problems, transforming sustainable development into an integrated field of study and practice. 


Upcoming 2022 Tang Prize Masters’ Forum session






10:30~12:30 (GMT+8)

Biopharmaceutical Science

Lipid Nanoparticles, Gene Therapy and the Covid-19 mRNA Vaccine

National Tsing Hua University