EU sustainable development policy

In the European Union, Germany advocates sustainable policies and ambitious implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Sustainable development is one of the goals agreed under the Treaty on European Union:

  • "[The Union] shall work for the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress, and a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment." – Article 3 (3) second sentence of the Treaty on European Union (TEU)

The 2030 Agenda with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) serves as a framework for shaping sustainable policies worldwide. Together with its partners in the EU, Germany was a driving force behind the successful negotiations on the 2030 Agenda. Its adoption in September 2015 marked the first time that an ambitious set of targets was laid down for all key areas of sustainability.

In November 2016, in an initial response to the 2030 Agenda, the European Commission published a communication on its implementation by the EU. Subsequently, on several occasions between 2017 and 2019, the EU member states urged the Commission in Council conclusions to draw up a comprehensive approach to implementation. In June 2017, the European Parliament also called on the Commission to present such a strategy. In October 2018, the European Council welcomed the intention of the Commission to publish a reflection paper on sustainable development in Europe, while also stating its expectation that the paper should pave the way for a comprehensive approach to implementation. In January 2019, the Commission submitted the reflection paper "Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030", which analyses the main challenges on the road to a sustainable Europe.

In its 2020 work programme, the first under President Ursula von der Leyen, the Commission commits to the 2030 Agenda and announces the further development of its strategy for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals:

  • "As we set about delivering our ambitious agenda, our compass will be the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In this spirit, we will put the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals at the heart of our policymaking. They will guide our work across all sectors, both in our internal and external action, and our implementation policies will demonstrate our commitment to sustainable development at home and abroad. As part of this, we will refocus the European Semester by integrating the Sustainable Development Goals and put forward our approach to the overall governance and implementation of the goals." – 2020 Commission Work Programme

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its SDGs were guiding principles for Germany’s EU Council Presidency in the second semester of 2020. This means that events and video conferences were organised to be as sustainable as possible as well as climate-neutral by offsetting all unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions.

At political level, during the German Council Presidency, the Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) advocated for accelerated implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and for the European Commission to put forward a comprehensive strategy for the EU to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.

In November 2020, the Commission published its approach for delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals. This enabled the German Council Presidency to initiate discussion of this approach among the member states. On 22 June 2021, Council conclusions were adopted under Portuguese Council Presidency, which also set up a new structured dialogue between the Council and the Commission for implementing the SDGs.

The structured dialogue is to be held on the basis of current data from the Eurostat monitoring report on the progress towards the SDGs in the EU context. Since 2017, the statistical office has submitted an annual report of this kind to the Commission. The analysis is based on the EU SDG set of indicators, which comprises 102 indicators that are aligned with the 17 SDGs and focus on aspects that are relevant from an EU perspective. The monitoring report contains a statistical overview of progress towards the SDGs in the EU over the most recent five-year period and, if sufficient data is available, of the past 15 years. On 15 June 2021, Eurostat published its 2021 monitoring report, which also shows some of the first impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic that are visible in Eurostat's official statistics.