Visionary & transformative – Will Europe deliver on the SDG promise?

For many of us in the civil society sector, the European Union has failed miserably to capitalise on the globally agreed sustainable development goals to reset its own agenda. But maybe there are signs that the EU is now ready to shift its leadership up a gear.

If we needed any more compelling evidence of climate change and its catastrophic consequences, last week’s IPCC report gave us plenty. Business as usual is simply not an option. This was the backdrop to the second meeting of the multi-stakeholder platform on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) created by the European Commission. The sense of urgency in the room was palpable.

Thankfully on that occasion we were able to hand-over to the European Commission a roadmap on implementation of the SDGs, thrashed out over months between representatives of business, farmers, trade unions, academia, civil society and regional governments. Social Platform, along with Concord, Committee of the Regions, CSR Europe and the European Environmental Bureau, was member of the core drafting team. It was no small achievement to get a text to which everyone could agree. It shows a willingness to move beyond traditional silos and vested interests, knowing that the future of the planet and future generations are at stake.

The contribution of the high-level group stresses the need for an overarching Sustainable Europe 2030 strategy. It sets out clear recommendations across the fields of social inclusion, sustainable consumption and production, climate and energy, food, farming and land use and cohesion. It also suggests ways to strengthen governance tools, financing and accountability.

The EU institutions are on the eve of their current mandate. It will be for our new political masters next year to drive this agenda forward. But the cross-sectoral buy-in and hard graft of the drafting team should make it easier for the next Commission to pick this up running. This side of the elections, the contribution will feed into a reflection paper as part of the Future of Europe debate, and feature in the Sibiu Summit in May 2019.

And maybe results of this weekend’s elections in Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium give hope that the political tide is turning. Green parties are surging. There’s an appetite for change and growing consciousness that there is no Planet B.

Today marks the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. It focuses the mind on the situation of millions struggling to make ends meet, in a broader European context of massive concentrations of wealth and growing consumerism. The SDGs recognise the interconnectedness of the both the problem and the solution. As stated in last week’s IPCC report limiting global warming goes hand in hand with ensuring more equitable societies. We no longer have the luxury not to act.