Since 2013, the United Nations has celebrated the International Day of Happiness on March 20, as a way of highlighting the importance of happiness to people around the world. 

The idea was proposed by Bhutan, a country that has measured its success since the 1970s as Gross National Happiness rather than Gross National Product. 

The pathway to this kind of happiness is described in a UN Resolution (66/281) as a more equitable, inclusive and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the wellbeing for all.

This vision of sustainable development was captured in 2015 in the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), described as the world’s best plan for a better future. 

These goals cover everything from climate action and good health and wellbeing to poverty reduction and gender equality and achieving them is about happiness, not hardship. 

The SDG icon and checkerboard depicting all 17 goals was designed by Richard Curtis and Jakob Trollbäck, providing a vibrant, dynamic and all-encompassing communications platform for a global transformation. 

The rainbow of colours signal that sustainability is so much more than being green. They are a reminder of the interconnected and indivisible social, environmental, and economic goals the world has set out to achieve by 2030.

Recasting climate action and sustainability as a route to happiness is an important strategy for governments seeking to engage people, communities, and companies in achieving the SDGs. 

Reshape the narrative

As Jeff Biggers, founder of the Climate Narrative Project points out, the climate crisis is also a communications crisis. There is an urgent need to reshape the narrative away from doom, gloom, hardship and sacrifice to opportunity, improvement, benefit, and reward.

To date, commentators and experts have driven many apart in debates over the science and what action to take, pitting ‘greens’ against deniers, creating doubt in the minds of people grappling with complicated physics and language like decarbonisation and net zero. 

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