The overall aim of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy was to identify and develop actions to enable the EU to achieve a continuous long-term improvement of quality of life through the creation of sustainable communities able to manage and use resources efficiently, able to tap the ecological and social innovation potential of the economy and in the end able to ensure prosperity, environmental protection and social cohesion.
The strategy set overall objectives and concrete actions for seven key priority challenges for the period until 2010, many of which are predominantly environmental (including climate change and clean energy, sustainable transport, sustainable consumption & production, or the conservation and management of natural resources).
To improve synergies and reduce trade-offs, a more integrated approach to policy making was proposed, based on better regulation (impact assessments) and on the guiding principles for sustainable development (adopted by the European Council of June 2005). The external dimension of sustainable development (e.g. global resource use, international development concerns) has been factored into EU internal policy making and through integration of SD considerations in EU's external policies.
In order for the EU SDS to be applicable for the whole EU, mechanisms for improving the coordination with other levels of governments have been proposed and business, NGOs and citizens have been invited to become more involved in working for sustainable development. An example of this is the launch of a process for voluntary peer reviews of national sustainable development strategies, aimed at improving the sharing of good practices.
Education, research and public finance have been stressed as important instruments in facilitating the transition to a more sustainable production and consumption patterns. And because monitoring and follow-up are crucial for effective implementation, a strong governance cycle has been foreseen. Every two years (started in 2007) progress reports on the implementation of the strategy have been foreseen as a basis for discussion at the European Council for guidance to the next steps in implementation.
The EU Sustainable Development Strategy was reviewed in several occasions to sharpen its objectives and to set new milestones.
Eurostat publishes biannual monitoring reports to assess progress towards sustainable development based on the objectives and targets set out in the EU Sustainable Development Strategy.