Today’s increasingly unequal and resource intensive development model degrades and surpasses Earth’s finite capacity to sustain human well-being. Society must restore this capacity and adapt to it without surrendering hard won development gains while also honoring the rightful aspirations of poorer nations and people to enjoy better living standards, according to the UNEP report “Making Peace with Nature”. This article presents findings from the report and reflections on how to take advantage of the 50 years of experience gained since the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. The interconnected environmental emergencies of climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution need to be addressed together. International scientific assessments are providing the knowledge base for informed evidence-based decision-making, but none of the internationally agreed environmentally targets for climate and biodiversity have been met and the situation is becoming more dire with each passing year. Unless these issues are addressed in the next 5–10 years none of the 2030 sustainable development goals will be achieved. Human knowledge, ingenuity, technology and cooperation need to be mobilized in such an effort. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals provides a blueprint for the transformation. The international environmental governance structure needs to facilitate a system-wide cross-sectoral transformation of humankind's relationship with nature. Transformed economic, financial and productive systems can lead and power the shift to sustainability. Major shifts in investment and regulation are key to just and informed transformations that overcome inertia and opposition from vested interests. Government actions at all levels are needed together with strengthened actions by all actors in society and the next decade is critical.