The recent strategic note from the European Union’s European Policy Strategy Centre on Europe’s vision for sustainability is timely, following close on the heels of the UN 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development.
The report is thorough in listing and exploring the challenges of global demographics, climate change and world economy to achieving a sustainable future. In doing so, it rightly points out the urgency of responding to these challenges to ensure an economic growth compatible with planetary boundaries.
Exploring the sustainability challenge in the European Union, Karl Falkenberg rightly points out that economic development in Europe has come at the cost of global demographics, ecological problems, and a financial system that lacks resilience. It is necessary to fix these global issues if Europe, as a European Brand, intends to continue its record of successful socio-economic development.
The only possible way to do so, he asserts, is to take immediate and necessary steps towards sustainability.
This report methodically describes the obstacles to achieving sustainable development goals, such as the increasing problem of population growth and migration, rising inequalities, planetary boundaries, and economy.
It is clear that current global policies for growth are unsustainable, as the rate of consumption of natural resources is higher than the rate of replenishment.
This report is particularly poignant in highlighting the growing inequalities on the social and labour front in Europe. Although the per capita income is rising, income inequality and unemployment are also increasing post-2008 financial crisis, with a record of 122 million Europeans at risk of poverty or social exclusion.
The increasing consumption pattern of Europe is adding to ecological challenges, characterised by loss of land and poor air quality. As the European consumption pattern and lifestyle is aspirational to the growing needs of developing nations, it is important for the European Union to take a lead in providing a roadmap to sustainability.
Considering that the European financial system lacks resilience along with the unsustainability of the global financial system, overcoming these challenges will need steps beyond the ambit of standard global economics.
This report shows convincingly that Europe has the necessary strengths to address these challenges and take a long-term route to sustainability. The analysis rightly reports that the concepts of ‘green technology’ and ‘circular economy’ are instrumental in ensuring more employment and maintaining a high growth rate, while focussing on changing present consumption and production patterns.
The need for a new governance model to deliver sustainable policies is a primary requirement, and this report highlights several methods that could be critical. Ensuring participatory processes, maintaining an internal focus with a global scenario, adopting a collaborative economy, appointing sustainability ambassadors and modifying the existing business strategy towards a sustainable identity are some of the necessary measures.
Likewise, it is crucial to focus on certain sustainability hotspots, namely: finance, natural capital, urban planning and agriculture.
Population Matters recognises the sustainability challenge facing Europe, and welcomes this analytical report as a necessary blueprint for effective policy making.
Although there is a decline in the natural growth in population, the European population is growing and is estimated now to be over 510 million. In order to achieve sustainability, greater emphasis must be laid on encouraging smaller and thus more sustainable families. The rising rate of migration also needs prominence in European Union’s sustainability agenda.
Ensuring a sustainable population level will be crucial to any progress made towards achieving a sustainable society.