A Sting Exclusive: “Delivering on the Environmental Dimension of the new Sustainable Development Agenda”, Ulf Björnholm underscores from UNEP Brussels

UN 17 SDG Sustainable Development Goals

Exclusively written for the Sting by Mr Ulf Björnholm, Head of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Liaison Office to the EU institutions.

Ulf Björnholm UNEP Brussels

Ulf Björnholm, Head of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Liaison Office to the EU institutions

2015 marked a turning point for global cooperation on sustainable development, with world leaders agreeing on a new UN Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change. These agreements represent a major shift in mindset, moving away from an inadequate “economic-growth-at-any-cost” approach towards a more inspirational agenda that puts human wellbeing and long term prosperity at center stage. They also bring together governments, civil society, the business community, academia and the public at large in a way that has never been seen before, thereby ensuring  the broadest possible commitment and ownership to real transformation.

This new vision for humanity is in stark contrast to the daily news feed, where you easily get the impression that everything is moving in the wrong direction, with people getting poorer, air and water resources more polluted, and societies more unsafe and unstable. The question is: Will another UN plan really make a difference?

Yes, it will. While we may still have a long way to reach global sustainability, many of the world’s trends are positive. In fact, 2015 was from many perspectives the best year ever for humanity. On average, we live longer, we are better nourished and more educated than ever before. Nine out of ten children today go to school – an all-time high. Since 2000, extreme poverty has been halved globally, and millions of more children live to see their 5th birthday today than just 15 years ago. And for the vast majority of people, the statistical risk of being exposed to violence, either from war, terror or crime, is at an historic low. In addition, new technology and media opens up opportunities that we could not even dream of at the turn of the century.

This is not to ignore the suffering of the world’s poor, or to disregard the victims of war and terror,  or those affected by climate change. There is clearly still a lot to do, and the world is far from perfect. But it is also important to acknowledge real progress when it happens, and to understand that at least part of this progress has been the fruition of persistent and coordinated efforts by the UN and the international community.

Of course, no UN document will by itself set the world towards a more sustainable path and stabilize the climate. But plans and strong declarations of intents do matter. To construct a house, you need a blueprint. To realize major infrastructure projects, you will have to formulate decisions and plans. And to govern a country, we need budgets, strategies and action plans. Practically any human-induced change of the physical environment (and much of the psychological environment as well for that matter) starts with a little sheet of paper.

The new UN agreements adopted last year seek to do the same thing at the global level, by formulating a collective sense of direction to all countries and regions worldwide on how to make development more sustainable. It also lays the foundation for a new form of partnership and cooperation, where all countries and stakeholders have a clear role to play both in implementing the agenda at national levels and in supporting others in their efforts.

What, then, is “new” about the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development?

First  of all, the new agenda is more ambitious and concrete – with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 169 concrete targets and over 200 indicators to measure progress. The SDGs are transformational by nature, exemplified by SDG number one to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” by 2030 – often referred to by the motto of  “leaving no-one behind”.

Secondly, the SDGs are universal, meaning that it is applicable to all countries, thereby challenging the outdated notion of rich countries supporting poor countries to become industrialized while avoiding to adapt their own domestic policies. Since no country in the world can claim to be sustainable, all countries should now be considered as “developing countries”!

Third, it is an integrated Agenda, that covers environmental, economic and social aspects of development much more comprehensively than before. At least 86 of the 169 targets concern environmental sustainability, including at least one in each of the 17 SDGs.

As the international community is preparing to support countries to fulfil this new visionary agenda, it will be crucial to ensure that the environmental aspects remains at the core also in its implementation. At the end of May, Environment Ministers from all nations worldwide will therefore gather in Nairobi for the second United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) – the world’s highest level decision-making body on the environment. The Overarching theme for the Assembly is Delivering on the Environmental Dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and it will include a high level policy review session on Healthy Environment, Healthy People.

The meeting will bring together more than 1800 delegates from governments, UN agencies, civil society and the private sector to manifest global leadership on environmental policy and provide a platform for new solutions. It will seek agreement on a high profile outcome document to provide political leadership and review implementation of the SDGs, and adopt more than 20 specific resolutions to address a range of environmental issues of global relevance, such as sustainable production and consumption, sound chemicals management, food waste and oceans governance.

This new and inspirational agenda will not be easy to achieve. But if we rally together, restructure our society, challenge the way we measure wellbeing and progress, and pool the unprecedented amount of resources and knowledge that humanity has at its disposal, it is entirely possible. UNEA-2 will play a fundamental role in ensuring that the environmental dimension remains center-stage when the implementation phase starts.

About the author

Ulf Björnholm UNEP Brussels

Ulf Björnholm took up his duties as Head of the United Nations Environment Programme‘s Liaison Office to the EU Institutions on 22 April 2014.

Prior to joining UNEP, he served in the European Commission where he played a leading role in developing a proposal for a new EU Clean Air Policy, presented in 2013, and in international UN negotiations relating to air pollution.

Mr. Björnholm has also held several positions as a representative and diplomat for the Swedish Government, both in Stockholm and abroad. In his role as a political advisor and negotiator on international environmental affairs for Sweden, he chaired and represented the EU at several UN/EU environmental negotiations during two EU Presidencies – in New York (2001) and in Brussels (2009). For more than seven years, he served as Environment and Climate Counsellor at the Swedish Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels.

Ulf Björnholm has a Master of Science from the University of Lund.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Featured Stings

A voice from Syria: the positive prospect of clinical research despite the excruciating circumstances

The EU Commission does nothing about the food retailing oligopoly

EU readies for eventual annulment of the Turkish agreement on immigrants-refugees

Can We(esterners) ever understand (the) Chinese

The EU Parliament slams Commission on economic governance

Juncker Investment Plan for Europe welcomed by European Youth Forum

Spirit unlimited

Switzerland to introduce strict restrictions on executive pay

The 13th round of TTIP negotiations hits a wall of intense protests and growing concerns

Refugee crisis update: EU still lacks solidarity as Hungary and Slovakia refuse to accept EU Court’s decision

The battle for the 2016 EU Budget to shake the Union; Commission and Parliament vs. Germany

Trailing the US-EU economic confrontation

Is it true that the G20 wants to arrest tax evasion of multinationals?

Conflicting statistics and bad banks haunt the Eurozone

The EU risks trade relations with China over the Tata hype about steel

The European Parliament x-rays the troika’s doings

How ‘small’ is Europe in Big Data?

Has the EU economy truly revived from the financial crisis?

Jo Cox’s murderer believed the ‘leave’ campaign leaders that the ‘remain’ vote is treason

A Sting Exclusive: “The challenge of Society’s digital transformation”, Spanish Minister of Spain for Industry, Energy and Tourism José Manuel Soria live from European Business Summit 2015

Vĕra Jourová, European Commissioner in charge of Justice

The New EU-US “Shield” for data privacy is full of holes

MWC 2016 LIVE: Mobile Connect availability hits 2B

Long live Eurozone’s bank supervisor down with the EU budget supremo

Poverty and social exclusion skyrocket with austerity

The EU threatens to impose extra import duties on Chinese products

Court of Auditors: EU spending infested with errors well above the materiality threshold of 2%

Inegalitarian taxation on labour haunts Europe’s social model

New round of bargaining for the 2014 EU budget late in autumn

What are the real targets of EU’s efforts to fight tax evasion?

Does the Greek deal strengthen the Eurozone? Markets react cautiously

A new European banking space is born this year

The ECB still protects the banks at the expense of the EU taxpayers

Russia and the EU ‘trade’ natural gas supplies and commercial concessions in and out of Ukraine

The EU responds to US challenges by fining Apple with €13 billion

The EU Commission openly repudiates the austere economic policies

EU and African leaders to jointly tackle the migration crisis across the Mediterranean

Eurozone: A Sluggish economy offers no extra jobs

EU: 13 major banks may pay fines 10% of worldwide turnover

Eurozone: The crisis hit countries are again subsidizing the German and French banks

European Business Summit 2013: Where Business and Politics shape the future

The Chinese spirit

Trade protectionism and cartels threaten democracy

The G7 fails to agree on growth but protects the big banks

The European Internet is not neutral and neither is the Commissioner

“Is Europe innovative? Oh, Yes we are very innovative!”, Director General of the European Commission Mr Robert-Jan Smits on another Sting Exclusive

A Sting Exclusive: “Sustainable development goals: what role for business?” Commissioner Mimica asks live from European Business Summit 2015

Theresa May’s global Britain against Philip Hammond’s Brexit fog

Resolving banks with depositors’ money?

The time is up but the game is still not over for Greece: negotiations continue in anticipation of a new deal

Solitary Britain sides with US aggressing Russia and chooses hard Brexit

Auditors say EU spending delivers limited value for money but the timing of their report poses questions

On Brexit: the outcome of UK elections next May to be based on false promises?

COP21 Breaking News_03 December: UNFCCC Secretariat Launches Forest Information Hub

War of words in Davos over Eurozone’s inflation/deflation

Businesses succeed internationally

EU out to conquer African Union summit

Why and how Germany had it again its own way in Cyprus

The European Youth raises their voices this week in Brussels at Yo!Fest 2015

JADE Handover Ceremony at the European Parliement

EU Parliament: Follow the fraudulent money and confiscate it

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s