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UK MPs warn UK Government NOT to reduce the number of SDGs

The UK Parliamentary Environment  Audit Committee has just published its review of the the SDGs called 'Connected World: Agreeing ambitious Sustainable Development Goals in 2015'. 

One of the CLEAR recommendations is for the UK government to STOP campaigning for less goals (see 7 below). As the EU starts to develop its common position this should enable it to do so without the UK arguing for less goals. Clearly the UK parliament is going to start to keep an eye on what the executive is up to in this area. 

With nearly all stakeholders giving evidence against the reduction of the number of goals the executive stands nearly alone in the UK political landscape as well as in the international landscape. We can only hope now for a more constructive engagement in the process as we move forward.
Below are the Conclusions from the House of Commons Environmental Audi Committee.  


1.  The Millennium Development Goals gave insufficient attention to environmental protection and sustainable development. The prioritisation of aid resources on vital areas of human development such as health and education, was at the expense of an integrated sustainable development agenda. The Open Working Group's proposals provide a broader framework which better captures the complexity and inter-dependency of the relationship between people and planet. The mix of standalone goals and integrated indicators has the potential to be just as action-orientated as the MDGs, but have the advantage of being more comprehensive. It includes innovative tools such as Natural Capital Accounting which help Governments measure what really matters to support decision making and guide policy. (Paragraph 18)

2.  The similar timing of the SDG and climate change negotiations presents an important opportunity to embed climate change thinking throughout the SDGs—to avoid development that exacerbates climate change while also building decarbonisation and adaptation into development. However, at the same time as stating a commitment to ambitious action on climate change, the Government is pursuing contradictory policies by effectively giving subsidies for fossil fuels. (Paragraph 27)

3.  International trade has played an important role in reducing extreme poverty. But such gains often come at the expense of the environment. It is equally important that the poorest and most vulnerable groups are not further impoverished by changing trade rules and agreements. (Paragraph 29)

4.  As we stated in our recent report on Action on Air Quality, air pollution is an "invisible killer" in the UK. However, poor air quality is also a major issue and cause of premature death in cities in many developing countries. (Paragraph 31)

5.  The UK should support the vital goal of sustainable and resource efficient consumption and production in the Sustainable Development Goals. Rising population growth means 'business as usual' economic models of disposable products are not an option in the 21st Century. Resource efficiency is something that makes both environmental and economic sense. It is therefore disappointing that the UK is taking only small steps when a larger shift towards a more resource efficient economy is needed. Whilst the Government supports ambitious goals for other countries for poverty reduction, it is reluctant to commit the UK to such ambitious goals in the EU. There is also a role for businesses, which can be supported by more detailed corporate sustainability reporting. (Paragraph 38)

6.  Inequality prevents sustainable development, not only because it can undermine social cohesion and a sense of shared well-being, but because some sections of societies may be excluded from the benefits of development and prosperity. (Paragraph 45)

7.  The current wide consensus on the components of sustainable development, as set out in the 17 Goals listed in the Open Working Group's report, is historic and powerful. The UN Secretary General has indicated that the 17 Goals should be taken forward in the final SDGs, but has put forward a set of six 'essential elements' to facilitate engagement and communication of the sustainability message. To reduce the number of goals, as the UK has proposed, would inevitably be to omit key aspects of the sustainable development framework after 2015, potentially including those relating to environmental sustainability. That would be a mistake. Environmental limits are a key challenge that we face in the 21st Century, and a reductionist approach risks removing the growing international focus on these key areas. Communicating the goals is important, but ultimately what counts is global action across a range of areas that is truly sustainable. (Paragraph 52)

8.  The Government has committed significant time and energy to the process of developing new Sustainable Development Goals, including officials and Ministers from different Government departments. The focus has primarily been international, however, with much less thought having been given to the domestic implications of the Goals. The Government seems readier to consider goals for other countries than for itself. (Paragraph 57)

9.  The UK has committed significant amounts of funding to the International Climate Fund and now also the Green Climate Fund. Whilst we are pleased that the Government is prioritising these, it is vital that the funds are spent effectively and have as large an impact as possible. Currently, there is poor public transparency of how these are being used. We welcome the Independent Commission for Aid Impact's report on the ICF, but note this was originally due in 2013. (Paragraph 65)

10.  The UK is not sufficiently prioritising funding for the establishment of marine protected areas in the UK Overseas Territories. It is vital that these unique ecosystems are protected before it is too late. There is a lack of timely and transparent information to explain how biodiversity-related funds are spent overseas. (Paragraph 68)

11.  Agreeing the right indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals is a vital step in ensuring that they have traction. The universal nature of the goals means that there will need to be a combination of international and national goals, and the UK has an important role in agreeing these. It is important that the UK is accountable for its progress in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals. It has not yet done sufficient work to consider the implications for UK policy. We will continue to monitor and review the Government's progress in agreeing the goals, and there is a clear role for our successor Committee to audit implementation and performance against the goals in future. (Paragraph 75)

12.  Education for sustainable development is crucial to help people understand the impact their actions have on the planet. The Government has shown few signs of promoting this, as illustrated by the lack of ministerial priority given to global conference on education for sustainable development. This is despite a strong appetite from business and voluntary organisations for engaging with such universal themes at both a global and local level. The Government has invested in young people through the International Citizens Service, although that programme has been more successful in engaging young people from London and the South-East than other parts of the UK. It is important that the Government empowers citizens to embrace this in order to achieve sustainable economic growth which values people and the planet. (Paragraph 82)


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