Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella (European Union 2014 - European Parliament) & the HLPF (Freya Morales / UNDP)

European Commission under pressure to submit sustainability report card

Three years ago this month, 193 countries signed an historic agreement to meet 17 global goals on sustainability by 2030. But fast forward to 2018 and many EU countries have yet to make much headway on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – widely viewed as the global crisis plan to end poverty and protect the planet from runaway climate change.

Today a group of NGOs from across Europe is calling on the EU’s Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella to give an honest account of how all European policies and programmes fare when it comes to coherence with the principles of the SDGs, in particular when it comes to the environment.

And with this summer’s extreme weather directly linked to climate change, there are growing concerns from the public that there is no more time to lose. A new survey from French newspaper Le Journal de Dimanche shows that 78% of French citizens want the government to make environmental protection a priority.

In a joint letter sent today, the EEB, BirdLife Europe and WWF EU, have asked Vella to commit to reporting on the EU’s sustainability progress at the 2019 High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York. The forum, which takes place in July each year, is a UN meeting where governments essentially present progress reports on what they are doing to ensure their country is on track to meet the SDGs.

At this year’s HLPF in New York in July, the President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, Marie Chatardová, said that the world is not on track to meet the SDGs by 2030. The European Commission – classed as a ‘regional organisation’ within the UN – has yet to take part in the event.

Patrizia Heidegger from the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said:

“The European Commission must now commit to report on sustainability and to make sure there is enough time to truly involve civil society. The focus should not just be on how we support other countries through development cooperation but on how the EU’s policies influence sustainability beyond our shores – and we also need a hard look at domestic policies. From the EU’s farm policy that directly funds environmentally destructive intensive farm methods to the Commission’s failure to penalise countries that don’t meet their commitments to tackle air pollution, the EU needs to aim higher across all SDG targets by ensuring environmental protection is at the front and centre of all policies.”

The NGOs also called on Commissioner Vella to show ‘leadership’ and ‘invest in multilateralism’ by championing sustainable development.

The Commission is set to make a decision on whether it will submit a report to the 2019 HLPF in the coming weeks.