Serving the science, society, policy interface for a better world

Serving the science, society, policy interface for a better world: An overview of Advisory Councils on the Environment and for Sustainable Development in Europe.

Implementing the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development requires multi-layered decision making, multilevel coordination and cooperation with a multitude of stakeholders. In order to arrange an institutionalised gathering of these various stakeholders, it is broadly recognised that advisory councils on the environment and for sustainable development and similar bodies (hereafter ‘advisory councils’) play a significant role.

Advisory councils are – mostly – established by national or regional governments or parliaments. These councils offer independent advice to their respective national and regional governments and parliaments relating to the environment and sustainable development.

To provide interested parties with an overview of different advisory councils on the environment and for sustainable development as established in the European area, the European network of Advisory Councils on the Environment and for Sustainable Development (EEAC Network) drafted this overview study.

By means of this study, we hope to shed light on the different compositions, governance structures, tasks, mandates and working methods of advisory councils. This overview study is a living document, meaning that the study will be regularly updated. The document is based on open source data and is not intended to provide a complete and exhaustive overview of advisory councils. Rather, it should merely serve as a source of general information and inspiration.

RNE’s Sustainability Code receives UN award

The German Sustainability Code (DNK) – as initiated by the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) –  has been awarded the ISAR Honours 2019 by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The award ceremony took place on 30th October 2019 in Geneva at the annual session of ISAR (Intergovernmental Working Group of Experts on International Standards of Accounting and Reporting).

This international award recognises initiatives that deliver an outstanding contribution to transparency regarding sustainability in businesses, particularly through enhancing the comparability and quality of companies’ reporting on sustainability issues. A Review Committee of distinguished international experts selects the award winners based on their effective encouragement and assistance for companies’ reporting on sustainability performance. The experts were impressed by the Sustainability Code’s user friendliness for both the reporting companies and the reports’ target audience. Readers can access and compare the reports by means of the Code’s free online database and external users can also conduct meta-analyses. A technical interface allows immediate usage of the published information in other evaluation systems. As an open source solution for ecological, social and governance (ESG) data, the Code therefore also contributes to Sustainable Finance.

For Yvonne Zwick, Deputy Secretary General of RNE and Head of the Sustainability Code Office, the Code’s users are a pillar of its success. “We are very grateful to accept the ISAR Honours 2019 Award on behalf of all the companies that comply with the Sustainability Code and thus promote standardised and focused sustainability reporting”, she commented. “We would like to thank the Review Committee for its positive evaluation of the Code. This award supports our ambition to establish the Code internationally – as a standard that is open to all and easy to use”, she added.

‘Our Common Digital Future’ – a Charter for a Sustainable Digital Age

The institutional framework for global sustainable development in the Digital Age needs a normative reference point in the form of an international charter for a sustainable Digital Age. The German Advisory Council on Global Change submitted a draft for such a charter. On its website the Council invites people to respond to the draft.

The draft ties in with the 2030 Agenda and the Declaration of Human Rights and, at the same time, goes beyond them. The charter is intended to serve as a system of principles, objectives and standards for the international community and to link digital change with the necessary global sustainability perspective. It formulates objectives and principles for the protection of human dignity, natural life-support systems, inclusion in and access to digital and digitalized infrastructures and technologies, as well as individual and collective freedom of development in the Digital Age. On this basis, the charter sets out concrete guidelines for action to be drawn up by the international community with a view to the challenges of the Digital Age.

The charter contains three core elements: First, digitalization should be designed in line with the 2030 Agenda, and digital technology should be used to achieve the SDGs. Second, beyond the 2030 Agenda, systemic risks should be avoided, in particular by protecting civil and human rights, promoting the common good and ensuring decision-making sovereignty. Third, societies must prepare themselves procedurally for future challenges by agreeing, among other things, on ethical guidelines and ensuring future-oriented research and education.

SDG Action Day: Launch of the Global Forum of National Councils for Sustainable Development

During the HLPF 2019, a global dialogue among a variety advisory councils and similar bodies on sustainable development considered and endorsed the presentation of a Global Forum of National Councils for Sustainable Development and similar multi-stakeholder bodies. The Global Forum will help national councils and similar multi-stakeholder bodies to be better positioned to deliver SDGs through shared knowledge on national sustainable development policy-making, peer-exchange, shortcuts to understanding policy cycles, and institutional capacity building, and by elevating and enriching access to communities of practitioners and their collective knowledge on national and sub-national SDG implementation, as well as to other SDG-relevant networks.

From approximately 3:00 to 4:00 PM on Wednesday 25 September, the UN’s SDG Media Zone will be highlighting the launch of the Global Forum. Two of the Global Forum founding partners, Annika Lindblom and Charles Nouhan, will be interviewed along with Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, Parliamentary State Secretary, German Federal Environment Ministry, who’s department is providing the first tranche of funding for the Forum, and Cristina Gallach, High Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda of Spain. Consult here the Programme schedule. Live coverage on UN Web TV.

António Guterres opened 27th EEAC Annual Conerence

The plenary day of the 27th EEAC Annual Conference took place in Lisbon on the 19th of September 2019. A variety of politicians, and high level policy makers and experts addressed the conference participants in the National Assembly of Portugal.

At the 27th EEAC Annual Conference partnerships for sustainable development (SDG 17) were the main lens through which we engaged with challenges such as the energy transition, fresh water, and the preservation and sustainable use of our seas and oceans. The conference built upon the work of national and sub-national advisory councils on the environment and sustainable development. This annual gathering of councils and their partners fostered our common European debate on the implementation of the SDGs in Europe. The diversity of EEAC’s scientific and stakeholder councils met to engage in exchange and deliberation with high-level experts from academia, society and the public sector.

Click Here to consult conference programme and check a first selection of photos Here. The conference’s presentations and a conference summary will be uploaded soon.

Tentative NECPs: An EEAC stocktaking excercise

The EEAC Working Group on Energy and Climate Change concluded that the EU Energy Union Governance Regulation will largely define the overarching governance framework within which the climate and energy transition takes place. It is therefore imperative that the EEAC Working Group Chairman – Folmer de Haan – putted one of the main pillars of the Energy Union Governance Regulation, the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECP), at center stage in the working group’s work this year.

To produce an EEAC stocktaking document, advisory bodies on the environment and for sustainable development and climate change (hereafter: advisory bodies) have submitted their preliminary views on the draft NECPs of their respective nations. The EEAC stocktaking document distils and summarizes the input provided by these advisory bodies and serves to kick off the process of knowledge exchange and building.

Besides the stocktaking document, the EEAC Working Group on Energy and Climate Change met with European experts to discuss the draft NECPs. Based on the outcomes of the stocktaking document and following the remarks made during the workshop, Folmer de Haan drafted a cover letter in which he shares some mainline observations with regard to the draft NECPs. Read More

Latest Publication: Stance on the Portuguese draft NECP

The National Portuguese Council for Environment and Sustainable Development (CNADS) created a Working Group (WG) with the objective of elaborating a Stance on the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (NECPs). This Stance briefly analyses the main lines of reflection and action advanced by the NECPs and includes 1. An elaboration process of the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan; 2. An analysis of its general objectives and issues; 3. a characterisation of the current situation of the national energy sector and defined objectives for 2020; 4. A strategy for 2030; and touches upon the issue of energy poverty. Read More

Cooperation and Partnerships for Sustainable Development

The ambition to live well within the boundaries of our planet is an increasingly deep-rooted desire among a growing number of Europeans. This societal support should be leveraged to create new partnerships and alliances. Through partnerships we achieve more: more impact, greater sustainability, increased value to all. This is why, at the 27th EEAC Annual Conference partnerships for sustainable development (SDG 17) will be the main lens through which we will engage with challenges such as the energy transition, fresh water, and the preservation and sustainable use of our seas and oceans.

From the final conference programme you can see that national and sub-national advisory councils on the environment and sustainable development will meet with high-level experts from academia, society and the public sector. The conference aims to use exchange of knowledge, viewpoints and experiences to contribute to the development of a European Sustainability Strategy. Such a strategy will be essential to move forward from reflections on the challenges we face on issues such as water, energy and oceans to the implementation of solutions. Read More

Latest Publication: Democratic government within environmental limits – on the legitimization of environmental policy

Progressive environmental degradation is a cause for deep concern. Environmental policy thus finds itself in a dilemma: on the one hand, it has to raise its level of ambition and its effectiveness. In its report, the German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU) would like to show that environmental policy can draw on strong scientific, legal, social and economic sources of legitimation. The report also addresses the question of how existing political institutions, processes and instruments can be improved to give greater priority to vital ecological needs. Read More

National Councils for Sustainable Development Workshop at HLPF 2019

On 8 July 2019, the day before the July 2019 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development meeting at the United Nations in New York, Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future, on behalf of the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE), and co-sponsored by UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), convened a one-day workshop for representatives from established National Councils for Sustainable Development and other types of multi-stakeholder platforms at global, national and sub-national levels, as well as some Governments who have multi-stakeholder platforms. The EEAC Network – through it’s coordinator – contributed to the session by presenting the network and its work.

The workshop initiated a global dialogue to exchange experiences, lessons learned, identify good practice, and revealed gaps in cross-sectoral and cross-governance exchange that could be more effectively addressed by councils and platforms at all levels; and it assessed how National Councils for Sustainable Development and other types of multi-stakeholder platforms could help countries and governments deliver the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In addition, participants considered the presentation of a Global Forum of National Councils for Sustainable Development and other similar multistakeholder bodies at the SDG Summit in September 2019. In support of this idea, the workshop organizers aimed to determine whether there is sufficient interest in such a platform on the part of the UN Member States and other stakeholders. This process is now (August/September 2019) ongoing.