World way off track on sustainability goals

By Emily Macintosh, EEB

Countries are not on track to meet global goals on sustainability by 2030. That was the assessment given by the President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council today when she opened a meeting of global political leaders in New York.

Marie Chatardová said that progress was not sufficient enough for countries to be on track to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which were agreed by world leaders from 193 countries in 2015.

The SDGs are widely viewed as the global crisis plan to end poverty and protect the planet.

Today’s ministerial meeting is the political highpoint of an annual UN summit (the so-called ‘High Level Political Forum (HLPF)’) where countries are required to report on their sustainability progress. The HLPF brings together over 1000 representatives from governments, civil society, and the business world.

But while 10 EU countries are reporting this year – Ireland, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Greece, Spain, Latvia, Slovakia, Hungary, and Malta – campaigners have highlighted that many EU policies are incoherent with sustainable development objectives.

In a letter sent today to Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, campaigners from the ‘SDG Watch Europe’ coalition and the  Make Europe Sustainable For All’ campaign said:

“Policy coherence for sustainable development is still a weak point for the European Union. It is crucial to have an assessment report on where we stand with the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and to present that report at the international level for discussion. Unfortunately, the EU has so far not presented any report at the HLPF. In 2019, the EU has the last opportunity to provide a report at international level and not to miss the first reporting cycle.”

SDG Watch Europe’ is a cross-sectoral coalition of more than 100 civil society organisations. The ‘Make Europe Sustainable For All’ campaign is ran by 25 partner organisations that advocate for the ambitious implementation of the SDGs across the EU and for the EU to become a true leader of sustainable development.

Last week a delegation of NGOs that sit on the EU’s SDG Multi-Stakeholder Platform met with Commissioner Timmermans to discuss the importance of EU policies not contradicting the SDGs.

The NGO representatives, including Jeremy Wates, Secretary General of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), called for the EU executive’s forthcoming paper ‘Towards a sustainable Europe by 2030’ to clarify how EU countries will monitor and report on SDG progress in a transparent way.

In today’s letter the campaigners emphasised the need to look at both how the SDGs are being met within the EU and how the EU’s policies influence sustainability beyond its borders. They also highlighted that clarity is needed over where responsibility lies with EU governments and where it lies at the EU level.

Patrizia Heidegger from the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said:

“It is crucial that the EU does not just cherry-pick the easiest or preferred goals. We must go beyond policy-as-usual by aiming for the highest level of ambition in all the targets, guaranteeing that no-one is left behind and that planetary boundaries are fully respected.“

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is the largest network of environmental citizens’ organisations in Europe. It currently consists of around 140 member organisations in more than 30 countries (all EU Member States plus some accession and neighbouring countries), including a growing number of European networks, and representing some 30 million individual members and supporters.

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