Reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

“Take a good look at yourself” is an expression that sums up the need to decide who we are and what we want. So let’s gird our loins and take a look at the study Europe’s approach to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals: good practices and the way forward. In over 160 pages the study analyses the attainment of the 17 SDGs in each EU member state.

The study was carried out at the request of the European Parliament and is the “mirror” in which we need to scrutinize ourselves. The EU’s image emerges from the comparison of the data from all 28 States and gives us an idea of the state of activities and development policies at EU level.

The snapshot that emerges is, fortunately, if not reassuing then at least not damning for the EU. We are still the area of the world with the most advanced legislation and the highest level of attention to the safeguarding of the environment and of people’s health. Furthermore, every EU member state is progressively carrying out changes that take the SDGs into account.

The greatest deficiencies in European policies relate particularly to the failure to develop coordination strategies to facilitate the application of the SDGs in individual states.

Indeed the Juncker Commission has, since its inception, blocked environmental initiatives, preventing in effect almost any progress in European environmental policies. It is not a coincidence that students in many European countries (Sweden, Belgium, Holland, France, Germany etc.) have been demonstrating for weeks asking for “deeds not words”, nor that repeated demonstrations in support of combating climate change attract thousands of protesters in individual member states. It is perhaps due to this growing awareness and these shouts of protest that are coming from the streets and squares of our cities that people are demanding more drastic measures that can lead to a real change in the current model of society which is devastating for the environment and denies a future to the generations to come.

The report appeals to Europe to take on its responsibility, asking it to: prepare a global post 2020 strategy to achieve the SDGs; integrate the SDGs in the EU’s economic monitoring (European Semester) and budgetary processes; harmonize a complete and collaborative multi-level chain of decision making that involves the European, national, regional and local institutions.

Time is short and it is essential that the aim of reaching a sustainable future for Europe through achievement of the SDGs should be placed front and centre in the debate in the upcoming European elections. At the same time, the next Council of EU heads of state at Sibiu (Romania), in May, must be able to take on responsibility for making defence of the environment politically visible at the global level and adopt the joint report of 4 March 2019 produced by the ENVI committee and the European Parliament’s Cooperation for Development committee (Report A8-0160/2019 of 4 March’19).

At UN level, monitoring and review of progress towards the achievement of the SDGs takes place every year in July in the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) and every four years at the level of governments and heads of state; the first meeting of the latter will be in September. The EU will have to present its report on attainment of the SDGs at this meeting.

The coming months will therefore be very important both for us as individuals and for organizations. We cannot take it for granted that our representatives will act to defend the environment and to achieve the SDGs. It will necessary once again to take part and make our voices heard in order to bring about concrete actions on behalf of the climate, solidarity and peace.