EU has little to report as UN meeting reviews progress on SDGs | WWF
EU has little to report as UN meeting reviews progress on SDGs

Posted on 16 July 2018

The EU is relying on policy initiatives in particular areas. It needs to present an overarching SDG strategy.
Brussels, Belgium - 16 July 2018

What? Ministerial segment of UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF)
When? New York, 16-18 July 2018

Why does this meeting matter?

EU Commissioners Vella and Mimica will represent the EU at the HLPF. The meeting will review progress and make recommendations on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, which the EU signed along with 196 parties in 2015.

Each year, the High Level Political Forum reviews progress on a number of SDGs. The theme of this year’s HLPF is: "Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies", and it will focus on the following SDGs:

·         Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
·         Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
·         Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
·         Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
·         Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
·         Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development.

The meeting will produce a Ministerial Declaration. The HLPF meets at Head of State level every four years, i.e. for the first time in 2019.

Has the EU made progress on implementing these SDGs?

For WWF, it is clear that despite committing to the SDGs back in 2015, the EU’s ambition on reaching the goals domestically is insufficient. Instead of presenting an overarching implementation strategy, the EU has relied on policy initiatives in particular areas, but even if these are all implemented, they are nowhere near enough to deliver on the 2030 Agenda.

The EU continues its internal reflection on the way forward, while urgent action is needed to address the implementation gaps.

WWF assessment & quotes:

“More than 1,000 days have passed since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, but the EU still has no overarching plan for implementation. The EU claims that it is already delivering on SDGs in many areas, but if we look at the goals that are under revision this year, it becomes patently clear that there are considerable gaps that need addressing urgently,” said Sally Nicholson, Head of Sustainable Development at the WWF European Policy Office.

“The EU must stop kicking the can down the road and get to work on an overarching and transformative SDG strategy – including climate change, but also bringing in the other SDGs from nature protection to water quality to sustainable consumption and production – which can be rapidly implemented, before many more days tick by. Our lives and well-being depend on it.”

SDG 6: Sustainable management of water

Europe’s freshwater ecosystems are in a shocking state, with only 40% of Europe’s rivers and lakes are in ‘good status’, according to a recent EEA report. EU member states have a legal obligation under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) to bring Europe’s freshwater bodies into ‘good status’, but since the adoption of the legislation in 2000, they have been failing to implement it adequately.

“We are far off the mark when it comes to sustainable water management in Europe,” said Martina Mlinaric, Senior Policy Officer, Freshwater, WWF European Policy Office. “EU member states are failing to make EU water legislation work on the ground, opting instead to bow to vested economic interests and pressure from various industries. The real question is whether today our political leaders in Europe are willing to revive the ambition to protect waters and live up to both their EU and international commitments.”

SDG 7: Sustainable and modern energy

The EU has just agreed disappointing 2030 targets for renewables and energy efficiency. The final deals were better than the Commission’s original proposals, but are still far off what the Paris climate agreement and the SDGs require. The 32.5% energy efficiency and 32% renewables target, both non-binding, are missed opportunities for climate action and a more sustainable economy, while new bioenergy rules will likely increase emissions compared to fossil fuels.

Renewables will continue to gain market share because they make economic sense, but the EU has missed its chance to modernise the energy system even faster and to reap the benefits for its citizens and industry”, commented Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy at WWF European Policy Office. “To play its part in keeping global warming to 1.5°C as agreed in Paris, the EU must aim for zero net emissions by 2040, and this means increasing and strengthening the 2030 renewables and efficiency targets.”

SDG 15: Protect & restore terrestrial ecosystems & halt biodiversity loss

Biodiversity loss threatens ecosystems and the human development that depends on them. Europe's rich and diverse heritage is at risk: only 23% of species and 16% of habitats protected under the Habitats Directive are in good health. Under the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy 2010-2020, all EU Member States committed to help stop global biodiversity loss, and put the EU Nature Laws at the core of achieving this strategy. However, the Birds and Habitats Directives are not adequately implemented, financed or enforced.

“We do have the legislation in place to halt biodiversity loss in Europe, but not the political will of Member States to follow these laws, nor the necessary enforcement through the European Commission,” said Sabien Leemans, Senior Biodiversity Policy officer for WWF European Policy Office. “Nature protection can only work if we tackle the real drivers of biodiversity loss, which means that we need to properly and consistently integrate biodiversity into key economic sectors through agriculture, water, infrastructure and development, and climate and energy policies. This is currently not happening.”

SDG 12: Sustainable consumption & production

“Europe’s consumption levels and production methods are far from being sustainable, and the EU’s footprint impacts on both its own and on other countries’ efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Andreas Baumüller, Head of Natural Resources for WWF European Policy Office. “EU demand for commodities such as soy and oil palm is responsible for vast amounts of deforestation and forest degradation in the exporting countries. Addressing this issue, which also includes the impacts of consumption in the EU, is the key to reaching truly sustainable development in Europe.”

“This reform of the Common Agricultural Policy post-2020 was announced to have SDGs as a cross-cutting priority that would reshape how we farm in Europe”, said Jabier Ruiz, Senior Agriculture and Food Policy Officer for WWF European Policy. “But instead, we are witnessing how sustainability in food and farming is being sidelined in the political debate, which would lead to reinforcing a system that continues to put farmers out of business and nature under ever increasing pressure”.

SDG 17: Strengthen the means of implementation

To meet the SDGs in Europe and to meet Europe’s contribution to the SDGs globally, the EU will have to step up its ambition and will have to put its money where its mouth is. Proposals for the next EU Budget to 2027 barely acknowledge the level of investment that will be needed to achieve the 2030 targets of the SDGs and to support these environmental priorities in EU and globally.

“The European Commission’s budget proposal is a slap in the face to anyone who expected the EU to be a global leader on sustainable development,” said Dr. Andrea Kohl, Acting Director of WWF’s European Policy Office. “It beggars belief that so little attention is paid to combating climate change and addressing the loss of biodiversity at a time in which the world is finally fully realising the environmental crisis facing our planet. How is the Commission planning to square this budget with its international commitments on the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda?”

Sally Nicholson
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