‘Sustainable Europe’ plan pays lip-service to global goals but avoids action at home | WWF

‘Sustainable Europe’ plan pays lip-service to global goals but avoids action at home

Posted on
22 November 2016
Brussels, Belgium - 22 November 2016

The EU Commission has missed a unique chance to bring a sustainable Europe closer today, with its glossy but incomplete package of actions for the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Civil society has repeatedly called for a overarching strategy to ensure the Agenda, and its 17 global goals, are implemented across all EU policy areas. The European Commission has ignored this and produced a ‘map’ spinning what is already being done in some sectors as sufficient. This piecemeal approach is not "transformative" as the Agenda requires. It ignores the fact that sustainability concerns every area, and fails to consider how different policies impact one another or where the gaps are.

“The European Commission is busy repainting the front door to impress the neighbours while ignoring the fact that much of the house is missing,” commented Geneviève Pons, Director of WWF European Policy Office.

“The 2030 global goals are indivisible and universal - not a series of separate boxes to tick or ignore . This is why an overarching EU implementation strategy, built with civil society’s input, is needed to ensure all policies are transformed and work in harmony towards greater sustainability."

The Commission says in its communication that it will also reflect on its vision for “long-term implementation” of the goals.

"We look forward to the Commission using its planned “reflection” to develop the needed implementation strategy. However this must be done urgently. Otherwise the EU will be at risk of missing the boat on a better future for people and planet”, said Pons.

The Commission also made a forward-looking proposal on external development: the ‘new European Consensus’, which must now be translated into action.

“The Consensus recognises the importance of implementing every part of the 2030 Agenda,” commented Sally Nicholson, Head of Development Policy and Finance, WWF European Policy Office.  “It also emphasises how climate change can undermine poverty reduction, food security, water, health and livelihoods. The EU must be ambitious on tackling climate change at home as well as supporting climate change adaptation through its international development work.”

The European Parliament and Council will discuss and suggest amendments to the Consensus proposal in 2017.

Further information: How is the EU doing on sustainable development?

The EU is falling short.

A Eurostat report published alongside the Commission’s communication shows the EU is falling short in several areas covered by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

For example:
  • SDG 5 'Gender equality' - The EU's gender pay gap is still over 16%
  • SDG 7 ‘Affordable and clean energy’ - Renewable energy makes up only 16% of final EU energy consumption.
  • SDG 8 ‘Decent work’ - 15.8% of EU 18-24 year olds are neither in work nor education
  • SDG 11 ‘Sustainable cities and communities’ - The EU’s municipal recycling rate is only 43.5%.
  • SDG 13 'Climate action' - The current decade is the hottest on record in Europe
  • SDG 15 'Life on land' - Farmland bird numbers fell by 31.5% from 1990-2014
What is WWF calling for?

WWF’s European Policy Office is calling for an overarching strategy which covers the internal and external dimensions of EU work towards sustainable development and the 2030 Agenda. This should reflect the principles of the 2030 Agenda, eg indivisibility and universality of the goals, the three dimensions of sustainable development, the interdependencies between the goals and the targets, leave no-one behind, respect for planetary boundaries.

These calls are also shared by a coalition of 75 civil society organisations, of which WWF is a member, known as SDG Watch. 

They are also shared by the European confederation of Relief and Development NGOs, Concord Europe, of which WWF is an associate member. 


Sally Nicholson
Head of Development Policy and Finance, WWF European Policy Office
Tel: +32 2 740 09 37

Sarah Azau
Communication Officer, WWF European Policy Office
Tel: +32 473 57 31 37
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