EU needs urgent strategy to implement SDGs, ministers warn (yet again)

Posted on December, 10 2019

EU governments today reiterated their demand for an ambitious EU strategy to translate the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs), with clear targets and monitoring mechanisms.
The General Affairs Council called for stronger leadership by the new European Commission, and warned that clear coordination between different Commissioners was required to ensure policy coherence and make best use of interlinkages and synergies between policy areas. This call comes just a day before the Commission is due to publish its eagerly awaited communication on the European Green Deal.

“The von der Leyen Commission must heed these repeated calls for SDG implementation issued by Member States and also the European Parliament. While the European Green Deal can be a first step to help the EU on the path towards sustainability, this cannot replace a fully integrated SDG strategy, which must guide all of the EU’s actions in the coming legislative term, and ensure that initiatives in other areas don’t undermine the environmental objectives of the Green Deal,” said Ester Asin, Director of the WWF European Policy Office and member of the EU Multi-Stakeholder Platform on SDGs. 

Accelerated action towards the SDGs, as the Council conclusions call for, is needed in order for the EU to live up to its international commitments. Ever since the EU had signed up to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda in 2015, stakeholders including WWF have called for a comprehensive and cross-cutting strategy to ensure the SDGs are met domestically. However, a major report published last month (1) shows that not a single European country is currently on track towards achieving the goals by 2030, and that Member States face the greatest challenges on SDGs related to climate, biodiversity, and circular economy, as well as achieving the convergence in living standards. To address these gaps, national governments at the Council meeting set themselves the task of integrating the SDGs into all national strategies and budgets.

The conclusions also state that many of the negative impacts take place outside the EU, driven by spillover effects linked to EU consumption.

“If we are to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the EU must act to stop environmental degradation both within its boundaries, and curb the detrimental effect of EU consumption outside of the EU, such as groundwater depletion, CO2 emissions and deforestation,” concluded Asin. “These ‘spillover’ effects - which fall into the EU’s global responsibility - must be addressed with equal urgency.” 

Notes to the editor:

(1) SDSN & IEEP: The 2019 Europe Sustainable Development Report

This is not the first time the Commission has been asked to come forward with an EU SDG implementing strategy: this follows several calls from the Parliament and Council.

Earlier this year, the European Commission published a reflection paper on “A sustainable Europe by 2030” setting out 3 scenarios for taking forward the SDGs. 

Both the Council of the EU, in April 2019, and the European Parliament, in March 2019, have endorsed the first scenario, calling for an EU overarching strategy to implement the SDGs.

Heads of state & government in the European Council also called for this in October 2018.
A sustainable Europe by 2030
© Seppo Leinonen