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How does the EU Green Deal contribute to the UN SDGs?

In December 2019, the European Commission announced their European Green Deal. The Green Deal is a holistic approach and a roadmap to carbon neutrality by 2050 but includes so much more than just emission reductions. It consists of deeply transformative policies and is connected to the Just Transition Fund, NextGeneration EU, the Circular Economy Action Plan, the Climate Law, and many more. Importantly, the European Union declared their Green Deal to be at the heart of the EU’s implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainability, better known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Consequently, the Green Deal is the heart of the Union’s environment and climate agenda.


The EU Green Deal and the UN SDGs

On the website of the European Commission (EC), a figure tells us which goals they consider represented in the Green Deal. Some Goals are not represented in the Green Deal (SDG 1, 4, 5 & 16), since they relate to social and community aspects and are represented elsewhere in the EU policies, eg. the Faro Convention.

However, it is remarkable that the EC does not consider SDG 17 included, even though the elements of the “global partnerships” goal (resource mobilization, cooperation, coordination, innovation, and development) are at the core of the Green Deal and mentioned in every policy area. If you're interested in what the Green Deal includes, but you do not want to read through it all, here is a little overview as well as which SDG applies to which policy area!


Biodiversity

The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 builds on the Birds and Habitat Directive and the implementation of Nature 2000 Networks. The goal of this legislation is to transform at least 30% of the land and sea in Europe into protected areas by 2030. Through this measure, the EU wants to reduce degradation of ecosystems, restore free-flowing rivers, halt and reverse pollinator decline due to pesticides, and increase organic farming. The Strategy directly relates to SDG 14 and 15, which call for sustainable management and protection of marine, coastal, freshwater, forest, and other terrestrial ecosystems.


Sustainable Agriculture & Farm to Fork Strategy

The Farm to Fork Strategy and the Common Agricultural Policy are at the core of Sustainable Agriculture policies of the Union. The goals are to reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers (SDG 6 & 15), reduce nutrient losses and food waste (SDG 2, 6 & 12), reduce antimicrobial resistance, and increase organic farmland(SDG 2 & 15). This is supposed to provide healthy, affordable, and sustainable food to all EU Citizens (SDG 2) while tackling climate change and environmental degradation (SDG 13, 14 & 15). Through the CAP, funding linked to climate goals, agriculture eco-schemes, and environmental measures will be available to ensure a just transition to sustainable agriculture.


Clean Energy

The key principles of the Clean Energy policy of the Green Deal are to increase energy efficiency, increase the use of renewable energy sources, provide secure and affordable energy, and create an integrated and digitalized EU energy market. It is directly linked to SDG 7, which promotes access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy. It also relates to elements of SDG 9 (energy efficiency) and SDG 13 (pollution reduction).


Sustainable Industry & Circular Economy

The European Union wants to transition to a Sustainable Industry through its Circular Economy Action Plan. This Plan, linked to the Green Deal, calls for modernization, digitalization, decarbonization, and sustainable consumption. It also includes a sustainable products policy and the transition to exclusive reusable and recyclable packaging by 2030. This policy includes SDG 7 (renewable energy & energy efficiency), SDG 9 (inclusive and sustainable industrialization), and SDG 12 (waste reduction and management).


Building and Renovating

Within the Green Deal, the EU also wants to create a renovation wave to increase energy efficiency, digitalization, and climate-proofing of buildings and infrastructure. Renovation and building will be linked to the circular economy and the ‘leave no one behind’-policy, with a focus on social housing, hospitals, and schools. The policy mainly focuses on SDG 11, which calls for inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable cities where everyone has access to housing and basic services, together with the increase of resource efficiency, resilience, and adaptation to climate change. It further relates to SDG 7 (renewable energy & energy efficiency) and SDG 13 (resilience and adaptation to climate change).

Recently, the Commission launched the New European Bauhaus-project which will reward projects that design ‘the future way of living’ through inclusivity, accessibility, and sustainability. This is an interdisciplinary initiative between art, culture, social inclusion, science, and technology, which will roll-out throughout 2021 and is supposed to “kick-off a systemic change”, according to Mariya Gabriel.


Sustainable Mobility

Another goal of the Green Deal is to make mobility sustainable in order to reduce emissions and offer alternative and sustainable transport methods in the Union. The EU wants to achieve this through emission trading schemes (ETS), ending fossil-fuels subsidies, and digitalization. By including sustainable mobility in the Green Deal, the EU includes SDG 7 (infrastructure & technology), SDG 9 (sustainable infrastructure), SDG 10 (responsible mobility), SDG 11 (access to safe, affordable, and sustainable transport), and SDG 12 (reduction of fossil-fuels subsidies).


Eliminating Pollution

The Green Deal includes a zero-pollution action plan to preserve biodiversity, reduce pollution, and phase out dangerous chemicals. It focuses on water, air, and chemical pollution from (among others) micro-plastics, pharmaceuticals, and industrial accidents. Through these measures, the Green Deal focuses on SDG 3 (reduce deaths/illnesses from pollution), SDG 6 (improve water quality and protect aquatic ecosystems), SDG 8 (secure working environments), SDG 12 (sustainable management of chemicals and waste), SDG 14 (reduction of marine pollution and ocean acidification), and SDG 15 (conservation of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems).


Climate Action

A European Green Deal would not be complete without including Climate Action and a Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change. These policies include emission targets and emission trading schemes (ETS), as well as reduction of transport and land-based emissions, with a goal of climate neutrality by 2050. It also includes measures to become more resilient and adapt to the effects of climate change, which directly relates to SDG 13.


The Future of the Green Deal

The European Green Deal as it is, is not a plan, but a roadmap. As usual, the Commission has provided a timeline, with milestones and a general, holistic framework, but the Member States need to actually come up with concrete plans at national level. However, to reinforce cooperation, Jeffrey Sachs proposes to create ‘regional investment strategies’ for areas like energy distribution, food distribution, ecology, etc. This way, intra-European cooperation can increase, and countries can tackle challenges together.

According to Sachs, 2021 is supposed to be a breakthrough year. Not just on a European level, but also on an international level. Multiple diplomatic partners, like China, Japan, and South-Korea, are setting carbon neutrality goals by the middle of the century, the United States will be back on board thanks to President Biden, and the Covid-19 crisis is being handled thanks to the roll-out of several vaccines. In this year and the years to come, Europe will play a leading role in the transition to a sustainable future after the pandemic!


Sources & More Info

Follow these links for more information about the European Green Deal and the Sustainable Development Goals!

https://sdgs.un.org/goals

https://sdg.iisd.org/news/european-commission-launches-green-deal-to-reset-economic-growth-for-carbon-neutrality/

https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/international-strategies/sustainable-development-goals/eu-holistic-approach-sustainable-development_en

https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/international-strategies/sustainable-development-goals_en

https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal_en

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_21_663

https://climate-adapt.eea.europa.eu/

https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/eu-climate-action/law_en

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSjHH7GYesA

https://www.ted.com/talks/ursula_von_der_leyen_europe_s_plan_to_become_the_first_carbon_neutral_continent

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