The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted in September 2015 by the United Nations and signifies an opportunity to achieve a more sustainable future. This Agenda spells out 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets to reach a sustainable world by 2030, in terms of people, planet and prosperity.
The level of integration within the SDGs is unprecedented. For the first time, the concept of sustainable development fully embraces all its dimensions, including the environment one. In addition, the framework not only calls for conservation of nature in specific goals, but also integrates the role of ecosystems in other development sectors such as agriculture and water. Furthermore, unlike the Millennium Development Goals, which focused on eradicating poverty in developing countries, the SDGs are applicable to developed and developing countries alike. The Sustainable Development Goals are one of the most important outcomes of the 2012 Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, aiming to guide sustainable global development over the next fifteen years (2015-2030).
IUCN actively engages in the discussions on the SDGs by stressing the interconnectedness of the three dimensions of sustainable development, and ensuring that the environmental dimension remains strong and integrated within the goals. In particular, IUCN supports the adoption of nature based solutions and the effective governance of natural resources to ensure that the SDGs are truly sustainable.
The EU and the SDGs
The EU is committed to the SDGs and has taken on the role of being one of the “driving forces behind mobilising action internally and worldwide”. In December 2014, the EU Council adopted an ambitious set of Council conclusions for a transformative, overarching post-2015 agenda in which the EU Member States agreed that healthy ecosystems have a key role in achieving broader global sustainable development priorities. The EU Council conclusions focused on the integration of all three dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental), while also recognising the differences in nations’ capabilities to realise all of the goals.
The European Commission (EC) published the Communication on the next steps for a sustainable European future on 22 November 2016, describing its plans for implementing the SDGs in the EU. The Communication highlights two work streams:
- To fully integrate the SDGs in the European policy framework and current Commission priorities, assess where the EU stands and identity the most relevant sustainability concerns;
- To launch a reflection on further developing the longer term vision and the focus of sectoral policies,
At the same time, the EC also published the results of the mapping of European policies contributing to the SDGs.. According to the EC, the results show that current EU (domestic and external) policies address all 17 goals. Nevertheless, the EC acknowledges that “while Europe can point to good achievements and progress under all goals, strengthened implementation and further focused action in all areas will be required to implement the full 2030 Agenda by 2030”.
IUCN welcomed this much awaited communication from the EC and sees opportunities to work with the EC and EU Member States to shape an ambitious Agenda 2030 for Europe. Relevant EU policies may need to be revised, including policies on trade, agriculture, competition, use of natural resources, consumer health and protection, in order to ensure coherence and achievement of the SDGs. As highlighted by the EC, better and more strengthened implementation of existing policies is also urgently needed.
Follow-up and accountability
Strong monitoring, review and accountability mechanisms are required to ensure the SDG goals and targets are achieved. IUCN has been actively involved in defining a global indicator framework for the SDGs as part of the Inter-Agency Expert Group on the Sustainable Development Goals (IAEG-SDGs). The High Level Political Forum in Sustainable Development (HLPF) is the United Nations central platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs. Four EU countries – France, Germany, Finland and Estonia – volunteered for the first year review from 11-20 July 2016.