“Sustainable development: The European Commission’s New Year’s resolutions”

José Manuel Durão Barroso – President of the European Commission

Brussels Sustainable Development Summit/Brussels

Brussels, 18-12-2012 — /europawire.eu/ — Dear Mr. Fransaer

Cher Monsieur le Ministre Canfin,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear friends,

The end of the year is traditionally the time to look back at the resolutions we have made – and hopefully kept – and also to make our resolutions for the year ahead.

Such is the scale of the challenges we face in ensuring sustainable development and eradicating poverty that our resolutions are not just for the year ahead but at least for a whole generation. Here are some of these challenges.

Around 1.3 billion people still live in extreme income poverty; two-thirds of the resources provided by nature – fertile land, clean water and air – are in decline. Climate change and biodiversity loss are coming close to the limits our planet can bear.

There is an ever increasing demand on these natural resources, putting pressure on our planet and every aspect of our lives from economic prosperity to peace and stability. For example, water scarcity could affect one-third of the world population by 2025. Demand for food is projected to increase by 50 per cent to 2050.

At the same time, global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, and the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly evident, confirmed by all relevant scientific opinion, as we approach the threshold of an increase of 2° C above the temperature in pre-industrial times.

Many poor developing countries are among the most vulnerable to these effects and have the least resources to cope with it. These countries are also particularly dependent on natural resources for their sustainable development, which increases their vulnerability – economically and politically.

These are the serious challenges which we face, the challenges which we are already working towards overcoming, and yes, with the European Union in a lead-role.

One of our European new year’s resolutions for 2012 was to arrive at a successful conclusion to the Rio+20 Summit. The European Union entered the talks with its own clear ambition to boost the global green economy but also with a desire to bring all sides together in a deal which would allow real progress in the future.

I believe that we broadly achieved progress – but not enough. Rio+20 confirmed our common vision of an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for the planet for present and future generations. More specifically, the concept of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the principle of which was agreed in Rio, will be a value tool for the future if implemented correctly.

It is now up to us to make the best of these results and make them concrete and operational. The EU will play a leading role in the relevant UN SDGs Working Group and also enable it to feed into the MDG High Level Meeting in September 2013, which will be an important staging post. In the same vein, we support the coherence building measure of a Sustainable Development Fund and the efforts that are being made to strengthen UNEP, the United Nations Environment Programme.

And finally, the EU is backing up its strategic commitment with significant funding. We have earmarked almost 2 billion Euro for projects related to the Rio outcome for this year and 2013 – with a total of around 8 billion Euro for sustainable development in general.

These post-Rio projects include actions to protect biodiversity on land and in our oceans, support the implementation of the Aarhus convention and promote sustainable cities. In addition to these actions around the world, the European Union is also bringing Rio to the heart of our internal policies from water quality and energy efficiency to scientific research and social equity.

Looking towards the future the Commission has proposed that under the MFF’s new external instrument we have a minimum of 20% of “green aid” for projects related to the environment and climate change.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Implementing Rio+20 is an important part of the story but is not the whole story. It is part of our broader effort to support global sustainable development. That is why fleshing out the Rio-agenda must tie in coherently with the review of the Millennium Development Goals and the elaboration of the post-2015 international development agenda. The Commission will present its views on this combined “SDG and MDG” agenda early next year – a very practical new year’s resolution, if you will!

Our aim is to bring the follow-up to Rio and the work on a post-2015 development agenda together, to arrive at an overarching, coherent and consistent post-2015 framework that will tackle poverty eradication while ensuring sustainability – because they are clearly two sides of the same coin.

To ensure this coherence and synergy we will work across all policy areas; both inside the European Union and on the global stage.

Let me take the example of climate action.

The European Union remains at the forefront of the global fight against climate change, as the recent Doha Conference yet again demonstrated. Climate change is also a central challenge for sustainable development: it undermines development opportunities, it exacerbates poverty, notably in most vulnerable countries, and ultimately becomes a major security issue as a “risk multiplier” for food insecurity, migration and regional instability.

That’s why we need a more sustainable growth model with resource efficiency and low-carbon development at its core. Building a low-carbon economy is essential to prevent climate change from reaching dangerous levels. The science is clear, and so is our public opinion.

This also a huge opportunity to boost economic growth and get us out of the current crises. I want to be clear: “Green” and “growth” are not in contradiction.

Inside the European Union we are meeting the challenge head on with a range of policies from reducing CO2 emissions to boosting energy efficiency and green energy. We are well on track to meet Europe’s climate and energy targets by 2020. While our economy grew by 48% since 1990, greenhouse gas emissions in the EU have decreased by 18%. This shows that our climate agenda is not only good for the environment but can also be good for our economies. Promoting sustainability is a core element in our Europe 2020 agenda: it is a key contribution to smart growth that yields precious energy savings, triggers innovation, reduces our energy import bill and improves our health

Our resolution continues to be to bring this success to the global level and to set the global agenda on combatting climate change.

This of course means working through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Doha conference has just ended and as with Rio+20 the European Union had ambitious objectives.

Let me be very frank: we did not meet these political goals as we would have wanted. It is difficult to do more when your partners are less willing to commit. But still, the European Union pushed the agenda onwards in Doha. We agreed to establish clear milestones for the next years, in view of drafting a comprehensive global climate agreement by 2015, to be in force by 2020. And Europe demonstrated its leadership by agreeing to extend the Kyoto Protocol until then. Our resolution is to remain unwavering in our leadership on this, one of the great global challenges of our generation.

We also resolve to continue our work on the ground, since global warming will not wait until 2020. The EU will keep to supporting mitigation and climate resilient actions from our partners in developing countries. We are on track in delivering our fast-track climate funding of € 7.2 billion over the last three years, and the Union and its Member States have committed in Doha to invest another 7 billion in the years to come.

Climate action is an integral part of our development agenda. For example sustainable energy will bring an important contribution to the fight against climate change. In this context, the EU is supporting the “Sustainable Energy For All” initiative to help developing countries to adopt cleaner and more efficient energy technology.

Our ambitious goal is to help developing countries to provide 500 million people with access to sustainable energy services. Accordingly, the Commission has mobilised over half a billion euro for Sustainable Energy for All this year alone.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Of course the extent of our support depends on the financial resources which we have available. To be frank: One cannot ask the EU to be at the centre of the global stage without providing adequate financial means. This is vital for our credibility, and for the promotion of our values and interests. That is why the new Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2014-2020 must ensure that the EU is able to live up to its reinforced, shared ambitions.

The European Commission proposed an ambitious increase of nearly 20% of our external assistance for the next financial period – exactly to underpin the international sustainability agenda some of which I highlighted today. We are now seeking agreement with the Heads of State and Government of the 27 Member States by early February. Of course, in the current economic climate, the overall MFF-discussion is difficult and sensitive. It is clear that the Union must invest and spend smartly. But we have to tread carefully in this context and make sure that the final outcome corresponds to Europe’s international ambition and commitments.

As I said in the European Parliament recently, Europe’s aid is a matter of life or death for the most vulnerable of our planet, many of whom depend on our support. And it is an investment in our common future. Cutting aid budgets across the board may therefore go against our own interests.

Ladies and gentlemen,

If we are to meet the challenges of sustainable development and poverty reduction, we need a clear and shared strategy that will foster prosperity and inclusive and fair globalization.

Our European resolution is to meet these challenges head on; to continue to provide global leadership and set the agenda for sustainable development and combatting climate change; but also to work on the ground delivering assistance and providing innovative support that will have an impact on day to day lives.

We just heard Dr. Pachauri congratulate the European Union on receiving this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. In the Nobel acceptance speech, which I had the honour to give in Oslo last week together with President Van Rompuy, I stressed this point: Tackling climate change and working for global sustainable development is part of our fight for peace and justice. Sustainable development and justice are twin-principles, which our European Union should continue to bring to the table of the global community.

As a New Year’s resolution, this is certainly challenging. But ultimately the future of our planet and the well-being of us all depend upon this global sustainability agenda.

Thank you for your attention.


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