What is it?
What are the SDGs?
In 1992, the first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro was the start of many multilateral actions, including but not limited to the annual UN climate conferences. In 2012, the Rio+20 Summit came up with a new comprehensive action plan to make the world a better place through clear and practical measures for sustainable development. In 2015 world leaders agreed on the Agenda 2030 and on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with 169 targets to get there. This global agenda succeeds the strictly development-focused scope of the Millennium Development Goals, which steered all development-related actions from 2000 to 2015. Between 1 January 2016 and 31 December 2030, all countries have the duty to realise all 17 SDGs. But enforcement will depend on many factors, including the engagement of civil society.
Why do they exist?
Inequality is rising while critical ecosystems are in decline. The main social and environmental trends of the past few decades are unsustainable. If left unchecked, they will lead to the collapse of global society. The SDGs are the global crisis plan; the agreed, fair and green way out of the social and environmental mess that humanity has created over the past half century. The SDGs aim for a world where all humans can live well within planetary boundaries and they represent the largest global action plan by governments, who claim to strive for this end.
How can the Environmental movement use the SDGs?
Out of the 169 targets that make up the 17 SDGs, at least 59 are environmental targets. But environmental NGOs are currently underrepresented in the NGO coalitions that engage in holding states to account in relation to their SDG implementation. There is huge untapped potential for environmental NGOs. For example, your proposal for a more environmentally-friendly alternative to policy decision X is likely to be aligned with your government’s obligation to meet target Y of Sustainable Development Goal Z. No matter which environmental issue you are dealing with, there is likely a target and/or an indicator that you can refer to when formulating demands to policymakers. Therefore, the SDGs are a useful global agenda to address a multitude of local and topical issues.
Who is responsible of the SDGs implementation at the EU level?
On top of all UN member states, the EU as political unit also signed up to the SDGs. Therefore, the EU makes its own action plans and has its own monitoring and review process. If you’re interested to work at the European level, the best way forward is to get in touch with SDGWatch Europe, the coalition of NGOs in Europe who follow this.
Why are 2017 and 2018 key SDG years for environmental organisations?
The review of progress on each of the 17 SDGs (and the potential to influence the agenda) is spread out over three years. The peak year for the environmental movement is 2018, requiring preparations in 2017. In 2017 the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) topic will be ‘Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world’ – which includes a review of Goals 1, 2, 3, 5, 9 and 14. Goal 14 deals with life in the sea. Almost all other environmental SDGs will be reviewed at the HLPF in 2018, where the topic is ‘Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies’. This includes a review of goals 6, 7, 11, 12 and 15. All of them are environmental goals. In 2019 the topic will be ‘Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality’. Goal 13 on climate change will be reviewed, as well as goals 4, 8, 10 and 16.
What are the overarching benefits of SDG implementation?
Policy coherence – or the lack of it - is too often the elephant in the room. SDGs are a master plan that link up the different issues and silos most people work in to ensure that the sum of all policies is actually taking us to a better place. The SDGs offer an opportunity to confront national and European policymakers with the need for policy coherence. That can shift us to a sustainable society that works for all. However, question marks can and should be raised over the coherence of the SDGs themselves. Is the aim to have an annual growth rate of real GDP per capita (8.1.1) compatible with reducing domestic material consumption (indicator 12.2.2)? Despite such questions, the chances are good that policy coherence of the SDGs is still ahead of policy coherence at national levels.
Who within an environmental NGO will benefit from this online toolkit?
To encourage more engagement from environmental NGOs with the SDGs, the EEB has created an online SDG toolkit which will be useful for different aspects of environmental NGOs’ work.
- Events: you’re an SDG expert and you want people to be able to find you when they are looking for a good speaker or moderator, or you’re looking for an SDG expert to speak at your event.
- Policy: you want to learn who works on the SDGs in your country, which policy proposals exist already, or when the next big policy event takes place.
- Communications & Press: you write press releases or campaign messages and would like to link it to the relevant SDG, add some graphic content, or find some key social media accounts.