What should be the priorities of the new European Commission to achieve sustainable Europe by 2030?

By the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) and Think 2030

After many rounds of political negotiations, the new European Commission will soon begin taking shape, with the new President and Commissioners laying out priorities for their five-year term.

Building on the evidence collected by the Think 2030 platform and our analysis of the European parties’ manifestos, we recently conducted an informal survey among Think 2030 policy experts from European think tanks, civil society and the private sector.

The survey[1] asked participants to reflect on the achievements of the outgoing Commission vis-à-vis the environment and sustainability, and on what should be the political priorities of its successor so that it can effectively address Europe’s most pressing environmental and sustainability needs.

Key takeaways

4/10 for the current European Commission

The sustainability experts we consulted gave a harsh judgement to the Junker Commission’s sustainability record. They point out the failure of having a holistic, coherent and people-centered vision to address sustainability as a whole through the full integration of economic, social and environmental dimensions.

In their eyes, the current European Commission also failed to create an enabling environment for structural change and for effective implementation marked by a lack of science-based targets, dysfunctional subsidiarity – allowing member states to not implement or enforce policies – misalignment of resources and lack of coherence with external policies.

SDGs as the European post-2020 strategy

There is a clear consensus to use the SDGs as the overarching framework, with a twin focus on wellbeing and sustainability. Most experts point out to the need to broaden the environmental focus beyond climate change and circular economy to include biodiversity, but also sustainable food systems. The need to deliver concrete outcomes in the real world – whether in the circular economy or through rule of law – also comes out strongly.

The president of the EC as the guardian of sustainability

Most experts believe that the next President of the European Commission should be in charge of the sustainability dossier. Her/his leadership can be complemented by new VP positions (VP for ecosystems and natural resources; VP for climate transition overseeing a bold comprehensive decarbonisation strategy), reforms of existing DG portfolios (for instance DG AGRI) as well as stronger college interactions.

Plea for science-based policies

While there is a consensus on the need to underpin all policies with science, experts are divided between the following ideas: creating new structures (such as an impartial, well-resourced and evidenced based body), making better use of existing bodies, changing ways of working and processes for discussions within the college or greater involvement of stakeholders which can translate science into policy recommendations (civil society and think tanks).

See more infographics about the survey here.

[1] Health warning: this survey is by no means statistically significant or reflective of the sentiments of the entire EU community.

The Institute for European Environmental Policy is a sustainability think tank. Working with stakeholders across EU institutions, international bodies, academia, civil society and industry, our team of policy professionals composed of economists, scientists and lawyers produce evidence-based research and policy insight.

Our work spans nine research areas and covers both short-term policy issues and long-term strategic studies. As a non-for-profit organization with over 40-years of experience, we are committed to advancing impact-driven sustainability policy across the EU and the world.

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