UN development goals should be put at heart of the European project

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The EU should use the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaty to place the SDGs at the heart of the European project. [Shutterstock]

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals address all the issues that are all-important to EU citizens. But the clock is rapidly ticking down to the 2030 deadline. That is why Céline Charveriat is calling for a European SDG roadmap.

Céline Charveriat is executive director of the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) – a sustainability think tank based in Brussels and London.

This Saturday (25 March) marks sixty years of one of the most ambitious political projects the world has ever seen – the signing of the Treaty of Rome leading to the formation of the European Union.

Bringing together former warring countries with different languages and cultures under a shared purpose, the treaty showed the world that Europeans had – in words used by the late MP Jo Cox to describe her constituency – “more in common with each other than things that divide us”.

At a time when multiple crises and tectonic shifts in Europe and on the global stage threaten European peace, democracy and prosperity, the words of my long-time friend Jo resonate now more than ever. Europeans share the ocean, air and rivers; nature knows no national borders.

The key to sustainably managing the environment, as well as the economy and societal issues, will require more collaboration across Europe, not less.

The EU’s contribution to environmental sustainability has been tremendous. The Bathing Water Directive, the Air Quality Framework Directive and the Natura 2000 network and many others are all testimony to what Europeans can achieve by working together.

Like all great political experiments, the European Union is not perfect and has often fallen short of citizens’ expectations.

The latest example was Dieselgate, where member states and the European Commission failed to properly enforce anti-pollution norms in the car industry. It is paramount we do not minimise these shortcomings and that we renew our efforts in addressing such weaknesses.

The most promising framework we have to address today’s environmental, economic and societal challenges while fixing Europe is the Sustainable Development goals (SDGs).

These seventeen goals, which all countries in the world have promised to achieve by 2030, address what all Europeans and citizens around the world want: the right to education, decent jobs, and to live in a safe and healthy natural environment.

As Europe’s forefathers did 60 years ago in a time of great difficulty, implementing the SDGs is a unique opportunity to come together again and achieve a safer, fairer and more sustainable Europe.

But with less than 5,000 days before 2030 and mounting evidence of climate change and worsening inequality in Europe, we have to get moving.

Faced with this imperative, business groups, environmental and social NGOs as well as local authorities from all over Europe are coming together and asking: “If not us, who? If not now, when?”

This is why we are gathering in Rome on 23 March to launch a non-state coalition called Europe Ambition 2030.

Together, we are calling for a common “European Sustainable Development roadmap to 2030” based on credible targets, innovative projects and stronger collaboration between European institutions, governments, business, trade unions, the scientific community, NGOs and local authorities.

No country, no government, and no sector can achieve prosperity, security and prevent environmental degradation on its own. Nor can today’s pressing challenges be left for the next generation to resolve. This is why it is imperative that we come together now – as Europeans – and work towards a Europe which delivers for all of us.

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