Preparations for the European conference on SDGs, Climate and the Future of Europe

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In September 2017, I was approached, in my former role as SDO President, by a coalition of non-state actors called the Europe Ambition 2030 Group who wanted to build on the "Rethink Europe" letter signed by the former President of the European Council, former prime ministers, former Commission vice-presidents, the current WTO executive director and former ministers of finance and labour, experts in finance, statistics, food security, gender issues and European policies, and other distinguished persons. The letter invites Europeans – both state and non-state actors - to "rethink Europe"’ in connection with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN Agenda 2030 "Transforming Our World".

For these signatories, the European Union’s commitment to fighting climate change can only be achieved within the context of the SDG framework to be able to fully implement the Paris Climate Agreement

The Ambition 2030 Group felt that the EESC's Sustainable Development Observatory could contribute in three areas:

  • Support a proposal for a 2018 European Convention on SDGs, Climate and the Future of Europe. One output, the Conference document Europe's New Narrative, builds on the EESC's SC/047 opinion on The transition towards a more sustainable European future (rapporteur: Brenda King). 
  • Support the outcomes being presented at an informal European Council meeting with the participation of non-state actors.
  • Contribute to a monitoring tool for SDGs (which was the topic of the SDO meeting on 25 September 2017, with guest speaker Guido Schmidt-Traub from the UN's Sustainable Development Solutions network, headed by economist Jeffrey Sachs, who presented the joint report by Bertelsmann Stiftung entitled SDG INDEX & DASHBOARDS 2017, An Index for the EU28.

The EESC, through the SDO, agreed to host and chair the planning meetings. The planning meeting on 26 April 2018 was attended by members of the Ambition 2030 Group and representatives of the Commission (Secretariat-general, DG Grow and DG RTD), as well as representatives of the Covenant of Mayors and the Club of Rome. At this final planning meeting:

  • I announced that the EESC's recently elected president Luca Jahier, whose top priority is sustainable development, will be attending the Convention in Milan, with six members from across the three groups.
  • I noted that Luca Jahier will be part of the high-level round table entitled "Towards an EU2030 Strategy for Sustainable Development", which follows the keynote speech by Mr Timmermans, the European Commission first vice-president and precedes the speech by the Prime Minister of Italy. The two other round tables are "The role of the private sector in achieving the SDGs in Europe" and "The circular economy, innovation and the social pillar". Clearly, the EESC can contribute to these round tables, although others, such as the Covenant of Mayors, were making the case for a more prominent role. 
  • I congratulated participants on the timing of the event, as it should feed into the Commission's reflection paper, due during the final quarter of 2018.

I specifically welcomed László Borbély, from the Office of the Prime Minister of Romania with responsibility for sustainable development, and Kaisa Heikkilä, Counsellor at the Finnish Permanent Representation to the EU. I reminded participants that 2019 is a critical year for sustainable development in the EU for a number of reasons:

  • This is the last full year of the EU Commission and Parliament. With the transitions to the following terms of office in 2019, it is good that Romania and Finland are involved as they will hold the EU presidency during 2019, helping Ambition 2030 - with support from the EESC - to act as a bridge during the changeover to ensure that sustainable development remains high on the agenda.
  • The EU will be the first to present a regional voluntary review at the 2019 UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF 2019). The HLPF 2019 is all the more important because the inaugural progress review - the Global Sustainable Development Report - will also take place.

With regard to the monitoring tool, I informed the delegates that the EESC agreed to draw up an own-initiative opinion on Indicators better suited to evaluate the SDGs - the civil society contribution (rapporteur: Brenda King). This opinion can contribute to the Ambition 2030 Group's monitoring tool for SDGs and the Commission's multi-stakeholder platform for SDGs monitoring subgroup for which I am rapporteur.

Brenda King

Member of the Employers' Group

African & Caribbean Diversity

See also