European Sustainable Development Strategy

The EU Strategy for Sustainable Development (EU SDS) of 2001, which was renewed in June 2006, aims to achieve continuous improvement of quality of life both for the present and for future Generations.

The Treaty of Amsterdam, which entered into force on 1 May 1999, enshrines sustainable development as an overarching objective of the European Union. In 2001, the European Council in Gothenburg adopted the first European Sustainable Development Strategy. This strategy supplemented the "Lisbon Strategy" for growth and jobs by adding the environmental dimension and dedicates itself to ways and means in which political decisions and courses of action can accommodate the aspect of "sustainability".

The EU's Sustainable Development Strategy represents a cross-sectoral approach where business policy makers and social policy makers work hand in hand with environmental policy makers.

Following an extensive review, the revised EU Strategy for Sustainable Development (EU SDS) was adopted on 15 June 2016 by the EU's Heads of Government and State. The revised EU-SDS represents a mandatory framework, also for Austria. It sets forth requirements, general and operational objectives as well as concrete actions for seven key priority challenges in sustainable development.

The key priority challenges defined in the revised EU SDS are:

  • climate change and clean energy
  • sustainable transport
  • sustainable consumption and sustainable production
  • conservation and management of natural resources
  • public health
  • global challenges posed by poverty and sustainable development
  • social inclusion, demography and migration

In addition, the revised EU SDS also includes cross-cutting measures, financing and economic instruments, implementation and monitoring mechanisms as well as follow-up activities.

Implementation and monitoring of progress

In most Member States, the EU SDS is implemented through national sustainable development strategies. A continuously updated overview of the sustainability strategies and the related activities in the EU Member States is available on the portal of the European Sustainable Development Network (ESDN).

Since 2007, EUROSTAT has been publishing a progress report on sustainable development in the EU every other year. This report is based on a comprehensive set of indicators that monitor the progress made in efforts to achieve the objectives of the EU SDS. In 2015, EUROSTAT published the most recent progress report
The European set of indicators is currently being developed further in line with the Global Indicator Framework of the "2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development".

Review and revision efforts

In October 2007, the EU Commission presented the First Progress Report on the EU SDS; in July 2009, the EU-Commission published the Communication on the Review of the EU SDS(COM(2009) 400).

With the support of the Member States, the Swedish EU Presidency drew up a Presidency Report for this by December 2009. On the basis of this report, the European Council confirmed in December 2009 that sustainable development would remain one of the EU's fundamental objectives within the framework of the Lisbon Treaty and that the strategy would continue to serve as the overarching policy framework for all EU policies and strategies.

In October 2012, the EU's Council of Environment Ministers decided, within the scope of its conclusions on Rio+20, that the EU's sustainability development strategy should be reviewed by no later than 2014 and then revised.
Despite a number of political decisions urging the EU Commission to renew the EU SDS, the revision has yet to be implemented.

In its work programme for 2016, the Commission announced the introduction of a new concept by which economic growth and social as well as ecological sustainability was to be secured beyond 2020. For this purpose, the Europe 2020 strategy was to be reviewed and optimised in matters pertaining to the use of resources and environmentally-friendly and inclusive growth.

Karl Falkenberg, former Director-General for Environment, was appointed special advisor for sustainable development at the European Political Strategy Centre in 2015 and commissioned by Commission President Juncker to draw up a report on how to integrate more sustainability into the EU policies. The report was presented in July 2016 and entitled: Sustainability now! A European Vison for Sustainability

In its Resolution of 12 May 2016, the European Parliament called on the Commission to come forward with a proposal for an overarching Sustainable Development Strategy.