Sustainable development is to reconcile our human activity with the regeneration boundaries of our planet. Every economic system is part of a social context and an ecosystem, and both have limits. Currently, we are far from achieving sustainability and many key social and environmental indicators have already crossed red lines.
In September 2015 under the auspices of the UN, the international community agreed on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 aspirational goals aimed at “transforming our world” by 2030. The EEB fought hard to influence the outcome of the SDGs and is now part of the effort to ensure that the EU institutions and member states play their role in placing the goals at the heart of all policymaking.
The ‘Sustainability Now!’ report published by the European Political Strategy Centre in July 2016 was promising: it gives a fairly accurate overview of the unsustainability of the current situation and of possible solutions. But the Commission’s first concrete proposals on implementing the SDGs in the EU generally lack ambition and imply that the Commission’s current priorities are more or less sufficient.
The priorities for Europe should now be: a truly circular economy, environmental taxes and the internalisation of environmental costs, agriculture policy reform, a financial transaction tax, water pricing and green infrastructure to mention a few. The SDGs demand much more than simply a quick tinkering with current policies, but have to be understood as a paradigm shift to reduce Europe’s overconsumption of natural resources and to place the continent on a path towards strong sustainability.
The EEB collaborates with a wide variety of like-minded stakeholders to promote sustainability, not least within the framework of SDG Watch Europe of which we were a founding member. The EEB encourages environmental organisations across Europe, for instance with its SDG toolkit, to actively work towards the SDGs.
To concretely address the current short-comings of consumption patterns in the EU, the EEB is part of the SUPPLY CHA!NGE project. It brings together 29 civil society organisations from across Europe, as well as partners from the Global South. It promotes solutions to the growing challenge of reducing environmental impacts and improving working conditions along the global supply chains of store brand food products in European supermarkets.
At the same time, the EEB is critical of the SDGs being seen as the silver bullet to solve all global problems and to ensure that humanity respects planetary boundaries. If the SDGs are applied fully they can go a long way to achieving these aims, but if they are simply used to promote ever-expanding economic growth instead of establishing truly sustainable production and consumption patterns, and without a genuine effort to increase human-well being, they will not bring about sustainable development. The ball is now in the court of the policymakers, and the EEB will be watching carefully to check how they move forward.
Increase in global material use between 1970 and 2010
focusing on people, planet, peace, prosperity, and partnership.