Efforts toward sustainable development are failing. The reason is that the concept of sustainable development no longer provides an adequate umbrella for the main challenge currently faced by global environmental governance, namely implementation. The very strengths of the concept of sustainable development are turning into fatal weaknesses. Vague enough to bring all States and other stakeholders to the table of negotiations, the concept of sustainable development was very successful in managing the political collision between ‘development’ and ‘environment’ throughout the 1980s and the 1990s. It was a formidable tool to find balance as well as for normative development. But it is inadequate to move forward to the next phase, i.e. implementation. This article introduces an alternative model, based on four strategic priorities (participation, differentiation, decarbonisation, innovation and technology dissemination). It maps different levels at which these priorities could be pursued in order to make global environmental governance more effective. The article is not against the concept of ‘sustainable development’ as a worthy fight, but as a weapon.