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Time to reach for the moon – The EU needs to step up action and lead the transformation to sustainability

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Image by 政徳 吉田 from Pixabay

The European Union and its member states were a major driving force behind the negotiations at the United Nations that led to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda to achieve them. Five years later, the EU’s leadership is needed more than ever before to drive the transition towards a sustainable future and to lead by example.


The EU has the power to pass transformative laws and commands the resources needed to drive the transition. It has many positive achievements to its credit: cleaner rivers and better waste management, reduced chemical pollution, stronger social protection and consumer rights, quality education and free movement within the Schengen area, to name a few.


The potential of what we can achieve in the EU has been propelled to a new level since Commission President Ursula von der Leyen declared the just transition to a carbon-neutral wellbeing economy her top political priority.


But the EU’s ambition to be a frontrunner for the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs has yet to be realised. If everyone in the world lived like the average European, we would need 2.6 planets to satisfy our demands on nature.


Our economic system, characterised by labour exploitation and resource depletion along its supply chains, as well as overconsumption and waste, is not sustainable. It has deepened inequalities and social exclusion, globally and nationally, and it will deprive future genera­tions of the ability to meet their needs.


This report explains how and why the European Union’s statistics on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) create an illusion of sustainability. It tells a more critical story about sustainability in the EU. The report flags up serious gaps, bringing them to life with 17 individual stories. It also shares our vision of what a truly sustainable Europe would be like.


The document offers 17 solutions, real-life examples of progressive policies, innovative initiatives and truly sustainable business models. These glimpses of a sustainable Europe nurture hope and inspire action in people – and need a progressive political framework to support and scale them up.

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