Environment and policy coherence
The 2018 European Regional Meeting of the Policy Forum on Development (PFD) saw the SDGs positioned as the guiding principles behind discussions on urban growth, the role of civil society, and ecological impacts. For Sally Nicholson, Head of Development Policy and Finance at WWF’s European Policy Office, the EU’s commitment to Policy Coherence for Development is an important step in meeting the SDGs – and one that must be strengthened.
Speaking to Capacity4dev, Nicholson discussed what policy coherence means in practice – from how the SDGs are indivisible to why we need to pay more attention to trade agreements in ensuring they align with a global sustainable agenda. “PCSD [Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development] is just that one step further – and it’s thinking about how we can achieve sustainable development globally,” she explained.
“Parts of the Commission who were negotiating the SDGs – environment, development, UN related – are well aware, they really wanted to get this transformative agenda in place,” Nicholson said. However, she said, other EU priorities, such as increasing GDP, pushing for innovation, and encouraging competition – while important to the EU’s mission – must take the commitment to heart in order to avoid ecological degradation.
She referenced an EU study on this point – which found that EU’s 27 Member States imported and consumed 36% of internationally-traded crops and livestock products associated with global deforestation over a 20-year period. The findings come in stark contrast to the EU’s commitment to sustainability, she explained.
Following on from regional consultations, the PFD will be holding its 6th Global Meeting in March of 2018, bringing together stakeholders for a discussion of development policy.
Sustainability chapters are often used in EU trade negotiations, Nicholson added, but lack teeth in terms of follow up and implementation – and trade impact assessments often lack transparency. “By the time the conclusions are there, the trade agreement is virtually sorted,” she said. “The impact assessment is added on the side, only to recommend a few flanking measures to mitigate any potential detrimental impacts.”
Nicholson called for more awareness raising and public engagement. “There are simple stories we can tell, like our reliance on resources that come from overseas… places where the demand for these things is causing deforestation,” she said, stressing the importance of understanding that deforestation impacts people’s livelihoods, land use, water availability, and human rights.
Pointing to climate change and EU commitments to tackling it, Nicholson also said there is still too much ongoing investment in fossil fuels, which create pollution and leads to chronic illness. “Why are we spending more money to get it right,” she asked, “when we could be doing it right in the first place?”
Policy coherence, she added, is a matter of asking “what’s best for the people and for the planet” in everything we do – both in outward looking policies, but also when taking a hard look at our own internal practices.
Watch Sally Nicholson discuss how the SDGs provide a framework for policy coherence and ensuring that European policies are aligned on achieving them here: