Statement by Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter at the HLPF Side Event "Implementing the SDGs" of the Bertelsmann Foundation and SDSN

In the presentation of voluntary reports on the national implementation of the sustainability targets, Parliamentary State Secretary Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter took the floor for Germany and praised the progress made so far.

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Ladies and gentlemen,
dear colleagues,

With this session of the HLPF, only one and a half years after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, 66 countries will have reported on how they gear up for achieving the SDGs. This is very impressive! It shows that the strong spirit and political will of tackling major global challenges jointly is alive and in great demand.

It is very good news I believe that – despite the very serious controversies – this spirit was also present in Hamburg two weeks ago. G20 leaders agreed not only on an update of the G20 Action Plan on the 2030 Agenda with concrete collective actions, to a G20 Resource Efficiency Dialogue and a Marine Litter Action Plan. They also committed to close collaboration in transforming economies and energy systems consistent with the 2030 Agenda.

Obviously, we are talking here about a small group of countries only. However, just imagine if their economic and investment power, currently representing 80 perecent of global economic weight, was fully directed towards SDG achievement. Infrastructure needs in the fields of energy, telecommunication, transport and water are projected at 6 trillion USD per year until 2030. Just imagine that these countries systematically double-check whether their share of those investments brings us closer to sustainable mobility or circular economies or whether they lock us into old, polluting development paths. This would be the kind of acceleration towards SDG achievement that we need! And a recent OECD study shows that this would also be the smartest option, financially. The G20 Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth reflects this insight.

Moreover, G20 countries expressed their support to the HLPF as central body for the follow-up and review process and established a peer learning mechanism on the 2030 Agenda. Without doubt, such peer learning will have to address how to best account for the spillover effects that are a central element of our discussion today.

Taking stock and measuring progress over time is crucial if we want to move forward with the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In this context, I am grateful to the Bertelsmann Foundation and SDSN that they have presented, for the second time, a comprehensive index which shows the state of SDG implementation in more than 150 countries.

In my opinion, it is important to see the SDG Index not as some sort of naming and shaming-exercise but as a useful tool which helps us to identify areas in which we still have to step up our efforts and to compare our performance over time.

A fair comparison between countries is crucial in this context. Therefore, I would like to encourage you to consider dropping the overall ranking which is in my opinion misleading in some cases. Instead, it seems more pertinent to only compare countries from the same region or same income group.

As for Germany and most other industrialized countries, the Index shows that, while we are already scoring quite well in some areas, there is still a lot of work to do in other fields. In the case of Germany, this holds especially true for a number of environment-related indicators like the generation of e-waste or the CO2 emissions per capita. Therefore, I see it as our responsibility as the German Ministry for the Environment to step up our efforts in these areas even more in the future.

I am glad to see that this year’s Index is also making a first attempt to take into account spillover effects, therefore reflecting the impacts that the choices and actions of one country might have on others. We faced this challenge ourselves when developing indicators for our National Sustainable Development Strategy, our main framework for implementing the 2030 Agenda. By measuring, for example, the total raw material productivity, including imports, we tried to address this complexity.

With the current SDSN indicator set we are mainly looking into the past, focusing on well-established structures and paths of development. However, the main challenge of the 2030 Agenda lies in its mandate of transformation towards sustainability. So, what I see as a great challenge is to reflect the actual transformative shifts realized towards a sustainable future like a higher share of renewable energies or an increased use of sustainable forms of mobility.

What matters is the responsibility we assume for impacts beyond our borders and the firmness of measures we enact. Let us use the insights from the present index wisely to trigger and reinforce global solidarity.

18.07.2017 | Speech 2030-Agenda | New York (USA)