European Commission, Reflection Paper: Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030

The sustainability agenda is a positive agenda, it is about making people’s lives better. Europe has all that it takes to tackle the greatest of challenges. What we need is everyone’s engagement and the political will to follow through. While others are retreating, Europe must now move forward, improve its competitiveness, invest in sustainable growth and lead the way for the rest of the world. It is not enough to have a vision; we also need to agree on a concrete way to get there. This Reflection Paper is a contribution to that debate. The questions raised are intended to inform a debate among citizens, stakeholders, governments and institutions in the months ahead, with a view to inspiring the debate on the future of Europe, the preparation of the European Union’s Strategic Agenda 2019-2024, and the priority-setting of the next European Commission.

The EU was instrumental in shaping the 2030 Agenda and, together with its Member States, has committed to being a frontrunner also in its implementation, both within the EU and by supporting implementation efforts in other countries, in particular those most in need, through its external policies. The Commission’s proposal for the next multiannual European budget for 2021-2027 is a budget guided by the principles of prosperity, sustainability, solidarity and security. Sustainable development is at the very core of the proposals. Sustainability is promoted through and mainstreamed into numerous programmes and spending instruments.

There are five EU policy areas with a vital role in achieving the SDGs:

Sustainable Consumption and Production should be further promoted, incentivised and regulated while paying particular attention to global supply chains.
The EU should invest in research and innovation, people and human talents, employability and social inclusion. The European Pillar of Social Rights should be fully implemented.
The EU should align its climate and energy targets with the agreed objective of limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels, while increasing resilience.
The EU should ensure that all EU investment into agriculture is aligned with the EU’s Treaty to ensure a high level of human health protection, food security, as well as the protection and improvement of the quality of the environment.
Cohesion policy is a major EU investment tool to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

This Reflection Paper puts forward three different scenarios following the European Council’s guidance to lead the discussion on how the implementation of the SDGs could best be achieved and what would be the most effective division of roles. The three scenarios outline different responses but depart from the notion that the EU has great competitive advantages to lead globally and be a successful first mover:

An overarching EU SDG strategy to guide all the actions of the EU and its member states. Under this scenario, the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the SDGs would be our compass and map and thus determine the strategic framework for the EU and its Member States.
Continued mainstreaming of the SDGs in all relevant EU policies by the Commission, but not enforcing member states’ action. Under this scenario, the SDGs will continue to inspire our political decision-making with regard to the EU’s policy making, and guide the development of the post-EU2020 growth strategy, while not binding EU Member States to achieving collectively the SDG commitments in the EU.
Putting enhanced focus on external action while consolidating current sustainability ambition at EU level. External action would be prioritised in the context of the SDGs. As the EU is already a frontrunner in many aspects related to the SDGs, enhanced focus could be placed on helping the rest of the world catch up, while pursuing improvements at EU level.

More information:

Scroll to Top