3E Intelligence

Last week when I was talking to Belgian academic students about the EU’s sustainable development strategy (SDS), I got serious flack from a DG environment official when I stated that the EU does not have a real policy on sustainable development. What the EU has, is the business-as-usual economic growth strategy with a bit of green embellishment in the form of “less environmental pressures” and “more energy efficiency”.

A real sustainable development strategy would recognise the biophysical and energy limits to unsustainable economic growth and would revise the Lisbon strategy on growth and jobs accordingly.

Moreover, isn’t it strange that the so-called “overarching” sustainable development strategy never gets any serious attention when it reaches the agenda of the Commission or the Council?  A conference on the Lisbon competitiveness goals, on the other hand, gets at least two heavy-weight commissioners in the press room.

So it is absolutely no surprise that there was no focus whatsoever of the European summit in Brussels last week on the sustainable development point on the agenda. Here is what the conclusions of the Presidency had to say:

Sustainable development is a fundamental objective of the European Union. The European Council welcomes the Commission’s first progress report on the renewed EU Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS). It agrees that the objectives and priorities under the seven key challenges contained in that strategy remain fully valid and that the main focus should therefore be on effective implementation at all levels. The renewed EU Strategy and national strategies for sustainable development also need to be linked up more closely. The governance structure and tools of the SDS, in particular in relation to monitoring of progress and best practice sharing, must be fully used and strengthened. The EU’s integrated climate and energy policy and an integrated approach to the sustainable management of natural resources, the protection of biodiversity and ecosystem services and sustainable production and consumption are among the drivers for achieving objectives under both the SDS and the Lisbon strategy. The EU must continue to work to move towards more sustainable transport
and environmentally-friendly transport modes. The Commission is invited to present a roadmap together with its next Progress Report in June 2009 on the SDS setting out the remaining actions to be implemented with highest priority

Lots of nice words and good intentions but as they say in the butcher shop: where is the meat? And can someone please explain to me what it means that the EU strategy and the national strategies “need to be linked up more closely”? What PhD do you need to come up with such policy recommendations?

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