SDG Conference: Implementation of the Agenda 2030 by and across Europe – losing momentum or gaining traction?
Agenda 2030 of the United Nations provides a new global framework for sustainable development, specifically enumerating 17 goals collectively called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Having been adopted by the heads of states and governments in 2015, its success requires the initiative and individual efforts of each state to, depending on its capabilities and capacities, achieve these 17 goals. The EU was one of the driving forces behind the adoption of Agenda 2030 and is fully committed to its implementation. Austria has also pledged its full support and has adopted a „mainstreaming“ approach to implementing the SDGs nationally, which means that its relevant ministries will take actions and measures in their respective areas of responsibility. At the annual „High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development“ (HLPF), UN member states can report on their progress in SDG implementation by means of so-called “Voluntary National Reviews” (VNR). Austria will do this for the first time in exactly one year – in July 2020 – in New York.
In February, the European Parliament commissioned a study entitled „Europe‘s approach to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals: good practices and the way forward,“ which takes a closer look at the implementations done by the member states. It examines and compares, for the first time, the national governance structures that the EU member states had created for the implementation of the SDGs. The study also provides an overview of developments at EU level in terms of sustainable development and focuses in particular on the role of national parliaments in implementing Agenda 2030.
Furthermore, on 30 January the EU Commission released a reflection paper in which it presented three future scenarios on how the EU could implement the topic of sustainable development by 2030. These scenarios – creating a comprehensive sustainability strategy, mainstreaming the SDGs in all important EU policy areas, or focusing only on external EU policy areas – were developed with the involvement of relevant European stakeholders (including the so-called multi-stakeholder platform). Eventually, two publications that also reflect on the Agenda 2030 – the white paper on the future of Europe and the way forward and the European Commission‘s contribution to the informal EU27 leaders‘ meeting were discussed at the European Council in Sibiu on May 9.
Panel 1 looks at the national level at concrete implementation efforts based on best practice examples from Germany and Romania. The best practice involvement of national parliaments is presented with the example of Denmark. Austrian approaches to mainstreaming and the Environmental Ministry’s Action Plan 2019+ will be presented. How is Austria preparing for next year‘s spotlight in New York? How will stakeholders be involved in reporting?
Panel 2 examines the European perspective and tries to answer the question of whether a European sustainability strategy is needed – and if so, how it should be structured, what the objectives, concrete measures, and timeline should be, and whether the Sibiu Council was a mandate to the new EU Commission to swiftly implement such a strategy. Will the new President of the EU Commission be primarily responsible for implementation? Will such a strategy subordinate all of the other EU environmental policies such as the transition to a closed-loop economy, the pursuit of climate neutrality, the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, the fight against climate change, and the sustainability of agriculture and the food system? What about ensuring active stakeholder participation?