Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. It is a concept deeply rooted in European policies. Over 40 years, Europe has put in place some of the world's highest environmental standards and ambitious climate policies, and championed the Paris Agreement.
The Commission is now launching a forward-looking debate on sustainable development, as part of the broader reflection opened by the White Paper on the Future of Europe in March 2017.
The EU has all it needs to improve its competitiveness, invest in sustainable growth and spur action by governments, institutions and citizens, leading the way for the rest of the world. Using the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a compass, the reflection paper identifies key enablers for the transition towards sustainability. It outlines three scenarios on how best to progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.
An overarching EU SDGs strategy to guide all actions by the EU and Member States
Here, the SDGs are endorsed at the highest EU political level, underpinning future policies and activities. EU institutions and Member States, including regional and local authorities, would work closer together to ensure better coordination. An implementation process will be set up to monitor progress, setting milestones to deliver on by 2030.
Continued mainstreaming of the SDGs in all relevant EU policies by the Commission, but not enforcing Member States’ action
The SDGs will continue to inspire the Commission's political decision-making and guide the development of the post-EU2020 growth strategy, while not excluding other political priorities, and not forcing the work of Member States to reach the SDGs collectively and EU-wide. This approach would leave more freedom to Member States, including regional and local authorities, to decide whether and how they adjust their work to deliver on the SDGs.
Putting enhanced focus on external action while consolidating current sustainability ambition at EU level
The EU is a frontrunner on the SDGs in many ways. It could build on this experience by making more improvements and assisting other countries around the world to help make further progress. The EU could decide to promote its environmental, social and governance standards more strongly through trade agreements and multilateral negotiations. The EU could also work even closer together with international organisations in pursuit of the same goals.