The European Commission announces its plans for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The Communication on the next steps for a sustainable European future, presented by the European Commission’s First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans on 22 November 2016, outlines two work streams for implementation of the SDGs in the European Union (EU):

“To fully integrate the SDGs in the European policy framework and current Commission priorities, assess where the EU stands and identify the most relevant sustainability concerns;" and

"To launch a reflection on further developing the longer term vision and the focus of sectoral policies after 2020”.

Sustainable Development Goals

According to the European Commission (EC), the results of the mapping of European policies contributing to the SDGs show that current EU (domestic and external) policies address all 17 goals. It was also assessed that the Commission’s current 10 political priorities address many of the SDGs. Nevertheless, the communication 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”. To further the mainstreaming of the SDGs into EU policies and initiatives, the EC will ensure that its policies are sustainability-proved through its better regulation tools. The Commission will also explore how EU budgets and future financial programmes can best contribute to the delivery of the 2030 Agenda.

As of 2017, the EC will provide regular reporting of the EU’s progress towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The Commission will also launch a multi-stakeholder platform with a role in the follow-up and exchange best practices on SDG implementation across sectors, at both Member State and EU level.

IUCN welcomes this much awaited communication from the European Commission and sees opportunities to work with the EC and EU Member States to shape an ambitious Agenda 2030 for Europe. The EU should aim for an ambitious and coherent implementation of policies such as the Circular Economy Package or the EU’s Energy Union strategy truly based on the SDGs. IUCN also looks forward to seeing the SDGs guide the next Multi-annual Financial Framework beyond 2020 to ensure an enhanced mainstreaming of sustainable development in funding streams and polices such as the Common Agricultural Policy.

However, the communication does not show a real sense of urgency and lacks a clear ambition to tackle current very clear and well-known unsustainable policies and trends. IUCN calls for the urgent development of the longer term vision, resulting in a new overarching EU Sustainable Development Strategy for 2030. This EU Strategy should develop a concrete plan for SDG implementation with targets and timelines covering all the SDGs and show the highest ambition, in line with the EU’s commitment of being a frontrunner in SDG implementation. It should also design strong monitoring, review and accountability mechanisms as well as differentiate the targets for which the Member States are primarily responsible versus those for which an EU lead is necessary. 

The above mentioned stakeholder platform needs to be established without delay and with a concrete and credible process to ensure full, structural and balanced participation from all parts of society. IUCN notes with concern the negative response from Europe’s civil society through the alliance SDG Watch Europe which has deplored the lack of a clearer road-map stating that the Communication provides little new information and that “it is a justification of business-as-usual, which will not deliver on the ambitious commitments of the new global agenda”. The full statement can be viewed here.

Luc Bas concludes: "All parts of IUCN (Secretariat, Members, and experts) stand ready to contribute to the full and rapid implementation of the SDGs in the EU as it is also the framework for its Global and European Work Program"


What are the Sustainable Development Goals?

Adopted in September 2015 by the United Nations, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development spells out 17 SDGs and 169 targets to reach a sustainable world by 2030, in terms of people, planet and prosperity. Unlike the Millennium Development Goals that ‘expired’ in 2015, the SDGs are applicable to developed and developing countries alike.

For more information, contact Anouska Plasmeijer, EU Partnerships Officer.

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