Sustainable development goals must not be undermined, say MPs

With UN negotiators eventually reaching a watered-down deal in Peru over the weekend, the UK Parliament's green watchdog is now warning the Government to uphold its Sustainable Development Goals ahead of Paris 2015.

The Environmental Audit Committee has today (15 December) reiterated the importance of David Cameron’s Government respecting the status of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals as the European Union meets on Thursday (18 December) to agree its negotiating position.

This follows reports that Cameron wants to reduce the number of these Goals from 17 to 10 – with environmental sustainability apparently in the line of fire.

Chair of the Committee Joan Walley MP said: “The Government is right to want a simple framework that can be easily communicated. However, a reductionist approach will not lead to the social, economic and environmental transformations we need to see by 2030.

“The UK must not risk undermining the Sustainable Development Goals due to be agreed next year. Ministers must also get our own house in order. The Government has made significant commitments to international development and climate funding, but this will only be a sticking plaster if we don’t take serious steps to transform our own economy and work with others to do the same.

“In some areas, the Government appears to be actively encouraging unsustainable development. It’s time we put the brake on tax breaks and subsidies for the fossil energy fuelling climate change and air pollution. The new Goals will have to be met by all countries, not just developing countries. Our aim must be to de-couple economic growth from polluting and unsustainable resource use.”

Key recommendations

In a new report, the Environmental Audit Committee has identify a series of recommendations across a range of international and domestic policy areas, including: –

Demanding the highest standards of environmental protection in trade deals to unequivocally ensure that there is no potential for these to be undermined through trade dispute settlement mechanisms, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

– Leading international efforts to improve air quality in cities. 
– Ensuring that at all economic development-related aid programmes fully safeguard biodiversity; 
– Reporting annually on the impact of the International Climate Fund 
– Supporting the establishment of Marine Protected Areas in UK overseas territories, such as Pitcairn. 

Environmental destruction

The United Nations is due to agree its package of Sustainable Development Goals in September next year, before world leaders congregate in Paris in December 2015 to agree a global deal on climate change. Walley stressed that the UK must Government must lead the way in communicating the need for and potential of sustainable development ahead of those talks.

“I hope 2015 will be remembered as the year when Governments took action to change the trajectory of environmental destruction we are currently on, towards one of sustainable development and wellbeing for all,” Walley said. “We owe this to people living in extreme poverty and to future generations, but also to ourselves.

“Our Government can do more to share this message with all parts of society, as we all have a role to play.”

On Sunday (14 December), international negotiators at the Lima climate change talks agreed on a plan to fight global warming that would for the first time commit all countries to cutting their greenhouse gas emissions. Read more here.

Luke Nicholls

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