European sustainability: Could do better

The European Union is failing to lead on sustainability issues, according to a new report

The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) and the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SSDN) have together drawn up a damning report on the progress EU nations have made towards sustainability.

Every single country in Europe is failing to meet global sustainability targets. Scandinavian countries are doing best at meeting the UN’s SDGs but even they will struggle to meet the tough targets laid out for 2030.

There are areas such as climate change where the developed world can play a large part by making changes internally, such as limiting the consumption of meat and reducing food waste. But there are also many areas where the EU creates “large negative spillovers” by demanding unsustainable goods such as agricultural, forestry and fishery products from developing countries.

The report demands that the new EU Commission establishes a “European Green Deal” with the aim of totally decarbonizing energy use by 2050. This would be backed up by improvements to recycling and the circular economy. In particular land-use and food systems need to become more sustainable.

Much of this will involve harnessing new technologies that can deliver more sustainable outcomes, such as robotics, new energy technologies, bio-engineering and AI-based decision making. Education and skills, particularly around STEM will be needed to equip Europeans for new jobs in sustainable technology.

The EU can, and must, lead internally and externally on implementing the SDGs.

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