The EU must immediately move towards sustainability, according to the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), which also raised the alarm about the lack of political action and the slow pace in achieving the UN Sustainable Goals by 2030.

At a conference organised on 2 October with the Finnish EU Presidency and the Committee of the Regions, the EESC expressed the opinion that the Commission’s “Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030” reflection paper, which was adopted in January, does not go far enough.

“The recent developments at the EU level are certainly very promising as we can see that the intention of President-elect (Ursula) von der Leyen is to accelerate the sustainability transition in Europe, in particular through a European Green Deal with a dedicated vice-president. The new commissioners have also been tasked with ensuring the delivery of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within their policy area”, said EESC President Luca Jahier during the opening of the conference. “We hope that this will lead to the development of an overarching strategy for the implementation of the SDGs, as called for by the EESC to ensure consistency across all policies”.

Sami Pirkkala, the Finnish EU Presidency’s representative, spoke at the conference and highlighted that the momentum for a sustainability leap has strong support from all EU institutions.

At the same time, several young people at the conference demanded that a structured dialogue with the EU institutions on issues that concern sustainability be addressed.

Cillian Lohan, the CEO of the Irish Environmental NGO the Green Economy Foundation, stressed that sustainable development choices need to be people-centred and added that “sustainable development is about the future of people. The economy should, within the planetary boundaries, work for society to deliver prosperity and equity both now and for future generations”.

The EU needs to align its existing policies with the environmental, social and economic concerns in order to fulfil the desired sustainable development goals. Europe can use its market power to push towards sustainable development globally.

“We expect the EU to be the world leader on Sustainable Development. We must demonstrate to the rest of the world that a real sustainable economy also advances economic development, ensures ecological well-being, facilitates inclusive governance, and most importantly provides for social cohesion, leaving no one behind,” said Peter Schmidt, the president of the EU’s Sustainable Development Observatory.