UN Sustainable Development Goals also require policy effort in the Netherlands

29-02-2016 | News item

On 25 September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Central to this agenda are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that apply to all countries. Member States now have to translate the global SDGs into national targets and policies. The Netherlands already has national policy targets and policy programmes in line with the environment-related SDGs, but certain adjustments will be required. New and updated policy targets for 2030 are needed. And successful implementation calls for close coordination of policy efforts and responsibilities between various ministries and provincial and local authorities.

This is concluded by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency in its study on Sustainable Development Goals in the Nederland: building blocks for environmental policy for 2030. The report analyses the implications of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for environmental policy in the Netherlands.

Sustainable Development Goals also relevant for Dutch policies

The SDGs build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expired in 2015, and on other international agreements. They address a broad range of issues, including sustainable consumption and production, eradication of poverty, combating climate change and halting biodiversity loss. The SDGs apply to all countries, including developed countries such as the Netherlands. Implementation of the SDGs in the Netherlands can build on existing national policy targets and policy programmes, but these not yet correspond, one to one, to what is agreed upon in the 2030 Agenda.

New and updated policy targets for 2030

To implement the SDGs in the Netherlands, the national government should first decide on its long-term ambitions. Subsequently, these ambitions should be translated into concrete national policy targets for 2030. The 17 SDGs include 169 targets, 41 of which directly or indirectly relating to the physical environment. For the majority of these 41 targets, the Netherlands already has relevant policy targets in place, most of which have been agreed at EU or UN level; for example, EU directives on air pollutants, water and energy and international agreements on biodiversity and climate. This can form the basis of national SDG implementation. However, not all issues addressed by the environment-related SDG targets are covered by Dutch policy targets. For example, policy targets are lacking on sustainable development education, and the SDG targets for sustainable agriculture and sustainable consumption and production are only party covered by Dutch policy targets. Furthermore, most of the Dutch policy targets are aimed at 2020, while most SDG targets are defined for 2030.

Interlinkages between SDGs require policy coherence

The broad range of themes addressed by the SDGs requires the involvement of various ministries, as well as sub-national authorities, such as provincial and municipal authorities. Furthermore, it is essential that the interlinkages between SDG targets (synergies and trade-offs) are also taken into account. For example, the SDG target on sustainable agriculture is also about water and energy consumption, issues that are also included under other SDGs. Successful SDG implementation thus requires close coordination of policy efforts and responsibilities between various ministries and provincial and local authorities, thus ensuring policy coherence. In addition, a shifting of the environmental burden to other countries should be avoided in achieving SDG targets domestically.