The EAC is right to call out the Government on the SDGs

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Emily Auckland shares her thoughts after the launch of the Environmental Audit Committee’s report on the SDGs in the UK.

The EAC’s long-awaited report on the Government’s implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals was released today. It builds on evidence and interviews with a range of organisations including the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development, which I co-chair on behalf of Bioregional. It makes concrete recommendations for delivering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the UK.

The headline from the report is simple: the UK Government is lagging behind businesses and charities, with no clear plan for implementing the SDGs in the UK.

Opening the event Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the EAC, made a strong call for all political parties to embed the SDGs in their election manifestos, criticising the lack of attention given by Theresa May’s Government to their domestic implementation. As UKSSD has stated before, she said that the SDGs offer a valuable opportunity to address domestic concerns such as air pollution, inequality, housing shortages and malnourishment. 

Other recommendations within the report include:

  • Public awareness initiated by Government, using the BBC and other national media channels to make the most of events such as Red Nose Day and amendments to the national curriculum to engage young people  
  • The creation of an independent advisory body, tasked with providing independent, evidence-based advice to the responsible minister and the Prime Minister, and whose job it is to audit successive governments’ performance against the long-term targets enshrined in the Goals
  • Publishing a report setting out how it intends to take an integrated, cross-government and policy-coherent approach to implementing the Goals in the UK and how it will bring together the elements of the updated Single Departmental Plans that support the Goals
  • The appointment of a Cabinet-level Minister in the Cabinet Office with strategic responsibility for implementing sustainable development, including the Goals, across Government.

In general, UKSSD views and recommendations submitted as evidence to the EAC have been adopted by the report and we’re pleased with the recommendations included within it. Of note is a recommendation to immediately form an SDG Partnership Working Group to engage all stakeholders to develop and publish a strategy on how the Government can support them to implement the Goals by 2030. Our hope is that this not only happens, but that UKSSD has a seat at the table. 

Mary’s presentation was followed by Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer at Aviva Investors, and understandably much of the following discussion centred on the impact of the SDGs on the financial markets. Perhaps his most powerful point was to position the SDGs as 17 failures of the financial market. His illustration of why the SDGs matter to Aviva Investors is clear – their own research shows that 4 degrees of climate warming could wipe $43tn from the market. That, he said, is only Goal 13.

The event finished with a panel discussion with Mary, Steve and UKSSD co-chair Dominic White.

Asked what their final remarks are on the SDGs, Dominic echoed the view of Bioregional and many of UKSSD’s Partners: while we may need the Government to actively back the Goals to ensure we achieve them in the UK, we are making progress without them – so ‘let’s just do this’.      

Find out more about Bioregional’s work on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals 

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