United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Details on environmental research that contributes to these goals which aim to address future development challenges

Sustainable development is a global commitment and an overarching umbrella also for environment-related research.

Building on the foundation laid by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) , the United Nations member states, including the EU Member States, agreed in 2012 at the Rio+20 Sustainable Development Conference, to develop Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They are an integral part of the post 2015 development agenda which is scheduled for adoption by UN Member States in September 2015.

The proposal foresees a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) , which are action oriented, global in nature and universally applicable to all countries in the world. Therein the importance of investments in science, technology and innovation (STI) is acknowledged.

  • Fostering innovation is included in goal 9: 'Build resilient infrastructure and promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization'
  • Science, technology and research cooperation are listed as means of implementation for a number of thematic goals
  • Technology is part of goal 17 'Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development'

The UN decided to link the SDGs and the post-2015 development agenda processes in order to achieve a global development focussing on sustainability. Likewise the Commission also decided to combine the two processes to ensure consistency, both at EU level and internationally.

The EU position

Sustainable development is an overarching objective of the European Union set by the Lisbon Treaty. Sustainability is enshrined in the Europe 2020 strategy. Horizon 2020, the EU's Framework Programme for Research and Innovation will contribute with at least 60% of its budget to sustainable development (integrating economic, social and environmental objectives).

The EU has expressed support for a broad vision of science, technology and innovation as important drivers of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in the post-2015 framework and highlighted:

  • That science, technology and innovation should not be centred on the transfer of existing technology but on involving all partners in innovative collaboration
  • The importance of promoting science
  • Technology has to be addressed within a broader science, technology and innovation agenda. Increasing national investment in research and development, also through public-private partnership, should be promoted
  • Emerging economies are important players in transfer of technology and capacity-building for Least Developed Countries LDCs, as well as in S&T cooperation. South-South and triangular cooperation plays an increasingly important role
  • Technology transfer to be fostered in a policy environment favourable to S&T development and diffusion. Importance of a proper Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) protection regime at domestic level
  • All countries should increase bilateral, regional and multilateral cooperation on science, technology and innovation and solution-oriented research; strengthen capacities; promote mobility and access to publications

The European Commission is seizing the opportunity offered by the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. It has made a formal commitment (approved by College) through its Communication on "Next Steps for a Sustainable European Future", where the SDGs are aligned with the ten priorities of President Juncker. It was widely supported by the Council and the Parliament. By means of this Communication, a multi-stakeholder platform has been established at EU level consisting of key experts and decision makers, with the aim of exchanging best practices on implementing the SDGs. The platform is meant to provide guidance to the sixth reflection paper mandated by President Juncker on establishing a vision for a sustainable Europe by 2030. The paper is expected to be published by the 4th quarter of 2018. For more info see Next steps for a sustainable European future: European action for sustainability (2016)

DG Research and Innovation active involvement in global platforms promoting science, technology, and innovation

DG Research and Innovation engages actively, and on regular basis, in international platforms of the United Nations to bring its expertise and knowledge deriving from the European funded research projects. One such Platform is the UN science, technology, and innovation Forum, taking place this year from 5-6 June with the side event hosted by the European Commission on “Earth observations for achieving the SDGs” (5th of June) and participation in an interactive panel debate on accessible and affordable energy (6th June). For more info see the Agenda.

The Multi‐stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the SDGs (“STI Forum”) is one of the three components of the UN Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM), created by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and launched by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) convenes the STI Forum once a year, for a period of two days, co‐chaired by two Member States. The co-chairs for this year are H.E. Mr. Toshiya Hoshino, Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations, and H.E. Mr. Juan Sandoval Mendiolea, Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations.

Following Paragraph 70 of Agenda 2030, the STI Forum is to “discuss science, technology and innovation cooperation around thematic areas for the implementation of the sustainable development goals, congregating all relevant stakeholders to actively contribute in their area of expertise.” They “provide a venue for facilitating interaction, matchmaking and the establishment of networks between relevant stakeholders and multi‐stakeholder partnerships in order to identify and examine technology needs and gaps, including with regard to scientific cooperation, innovation and capacity‐building, and also in order to help facilitate development, transfer and dissemination of relevant technologies for the sustainable development goals”.