Briefing The European year for development: Sustainable development and climate action Sustainable development, touching on economic, social and environmental issues, is essential for eradicating poverty.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) included one goal on environmental sustainability, but its targets and indicators have been far from comprehensive.
The universal nature of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) place obligations on all countries and in nearly all policy areas. This should promote policy coherence.
Effective work on climate change will contribute to meeting the SDGs.
Although thinking about development has integrated environmental issues, environmental degradation has still worsened.
The concept of sustainable development – development that meets the needs of the present generation without jeopardising those of future generations – was born with a 1987 report from the World Commission on Environment and Development titled 'Our Common Future'. The text pointed to the need to shape economic development in a manner respectful of the planet's limits and of social justice – an approach that is, in fact, essential for eradicating poverty. Around the globe, the poor are the most vulnerable to environmental damage and to the disasters caused by climate change. Sustainable development addresses three areas of sustainability: economic, social and environmental. Of these three, the environmental aspect most deeply challenged traditional thinking on development. At the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio, the international community adopted a comprehensive plan of action (Agenda 21) and launched the three 'Rio conventions' – on climate change, desertification and biodiversity. Commitments were confirmed at the follow-up summits on sustainable development in 2002 (Johannesburg) and 2012 (Rio). The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted in 2000 also include a goal on environmental sustainability, although its targets and indicators were far from comprehensive. The convergence of the Rio process and the follow-up to the MDGs culminated in the adoption of a new international agenda in September 2015: 'Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development'. The UN agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets, covering all aspects of sustainable development, including political values: good governance, human rights and peace. The universal nature of the SDGs, which create obligations for all countries and in nearly all policy areas, is also a tool to promote effective policy coherence for sustainable development. Climate change is specifically mentioned in the new SDG framework (SDG 13), with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognised as the primary international forum for negotiating the global response to climate change. In this regard, the upcoming 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 21), to be held in Paris in December 2015, is seen as decisive for the future of international climate action. The climate and the development processes are closely interlinked; climate change interventions are now understood to play a significant role in achieving the SDGs. The challenges ahead are enormous. Although progress has been made since 1992 in integrating environmental considerations into development thinking and planning, environmental degradation has still worsened in many regions of the world. The MDG report 2015 shows that deforestation has slowed down, but that it continues to jeopardise species and the livelihoods of millions of people. Global carbon dioxide emissions increased by over 50 % between 1990 and 2012. Progress has been made in protecting terrestrial and coastal areas, but efforts must be scaled up to avoid further biodiversity loss. The continuing deterioration
Policy Department, Directorate-General for External Policies & European Parliamentary Research Service Author: Marika LERCH and Valerie RAMET Graphics and statistics: Eulalia CLAROS 01 November 2015 – PE 570447 ISSN 2443-4957 (print) 2443-4965 (online)
The European year for development: Sustainable development and climate action Proportion of land area covered with forest - How 2010 compares to 1990 Developed regions: 36.3-36.7 Erradicate extreme povery and hunger
Global partnership for development
From January 2016, international activities will be guided by 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which encompass unfinished business from the 8 MDGs as well as several new issues.
Eastern Asia: 16.4-20.5 South East Asia: 56.9-49.3
Universal primary education
In percentage points
Southern Asia: 14.1-14.5
More than 2 pp increase Up to 2 pp increase
Ensure environmental sustainability
Sustainable Development Goals Combat HIV, malaria and other diseases
No change Up to 4 pp decrease More than 4 pp decrease
Gender equality & women empowerment
Reduce child mortality
Latin America: 52.3-47.6
Improve maternal health
Northern Africa: 1.4-1.4 Sub-Saharan Africa: 31.0-28.1
Caucasus & Central Asia: 3.9-3.9 Western Asia: 2.8-3.3 Oceania: 67.5-62.5
Protected areas, terrestrial and marine - How 2014 compares to 1990
Developed regions: 6.0-13.4
Tons per capita
Eastern Asia: 10.8-15.1
South East Asia: 2.8-6.0
Less than 2 pp increase
Between 2 and 5 pp increase
1.6 0.8 1.6
South East Asia
Latin America: 5.2-14
0 Northern Africa Page 2
Southern Asia: 3.3-4.2
More than 8 pp increase Between 5 and 8 pp increase
In percentage points
Caucasus & Central Asia
Northern Africa: 2.2-6.3 Sub-Saharan Africa: 7.1-11
Caucasus & Central Asia: 2.7-4.5 Western Asia: 2.6-11.3 Oceania: 0.1-7.4 Source: UN Millenium Development Goals, Page 3
The European year for development: Sustainable development and climate action
Aid focused on the environment grew more than threefold between 2001 and 2010, but richer countries still have to deliver on their commitments.
The EU is committed to mainstreaming environmental and climate concerns. Eradicating poverty – in the context of sustainable development – is a principal European objective.
Sustainability is a red thread running through the European Parliament's positions on development issues, influencing discussions on agriculture and fisheries, energy and trade.
underscores the importance of reaching an ambitious and legally-binding agreement in Paris in order to keep global warming below 2°C. Based on its 2030 climate and energy framework, the EU submitted a binding target in March 2015: an ' Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC)', which foresees a reduction of at least 40 % in greenhouse emissions by 2030 compared to 1990. The international community has committed to supporting poorer countries addressing the effects of climate change, which result principally from the emissions of industrialised countries. International partners have also agreed to help emerging economies develop climate- and environmentally-friendly technologies and processes from the outset. Official Development Assistance (ODA) listing environmental sustainability as principal objective grew more than threefold between 2001 and 2010. In 2013, bilateral ODA focusing on objectives drawn from the Rio conventions reached USD 25.7 billion, or 30 % of total ODA. However, many countries have yet to deliver on the commitments they made in 2009 to provide new and additional climate finance, which is supposed to reach USD 100 billion per year by 2020. The issue of climate finance has also been discussed in the preparations for the COP 21. The issue has proved contentious. For the EU, including environmental considerations in all policies became a binding requirement in 1997. The 2005 'European Consensus on Development' makes 'the eradication of poverty in the context of sustainable development' the key objective of EU development cooperation. Sustainable development is broadly defined and includes good governance, human rights and political, economic, social and environmental issues – a vision confirmed by the EU's 2011 'Agenda for Change'. The EU has also adopted guidelines to ensure that environmental and climate change considerations are mainstreamed in all development activities. The Union also launched thematic programmes targeting specifically these sectors. Within the EU's Development Cooperation Instruments for 2014-2020, the Global Public Goods and Challenges programme includes a budget of EUR 1.3 billion earmarked for environment and climate change. In total, the official bilateral aid from the EU that supports environmental and climate change activities reached USD 4.3 billion in 2013 – 17 % of all bilateral aid. The EU has also committed to spend 20 % of its total budget for 2014-2020 on climate-related activities. The European Parliament has used both its legislative power and its political influence to push for effectively including environmental considerations in development policy. Sustainability is a red thread running through the EP's positions on issues including agriculture and fisheries, energy and trade. Parliament has supported the new SDG agenda and its integrated approach, including good governance and human rights. Environmental degradation prevents poverty from being eradicated, Parliament has noted, and drives conflict and violence. The European Parliament has persistently called for an ambitious and legally binding global agreement to be reached in Paris, to phase out global carbon emissions by 2050. In a recent resolution, Parliament called for reinvigorating the EU's climate policy and for drawing a roadmap with predictable, new and additional financing goals, in line with existing commitments.
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ISBN 978-92-823-8329-2 Catalogue number QA-AP-15-011-EN-C doi: 10.2861/402010
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