The implementation of the UN Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) were prominent on the European agenda in June 2021. Not only launched Eurostat its report entitled “Sustainable development in the European Union. Monitoring report on progress towards the SDGs in an EU context”, also the Council of the EU reaffirmed strong EU commitment to the implementation of the SDGs.
Following these developments, the EEAC Working Group on Sustainable Development organized an online policy briefing. The aim oprovided participants with the monitoring report’s findings, and put the Council conclusions in the context of the report’s findings.
Ms. Mayer (Eurostat), Ms. Humphries (WWF EU), and Ms. Lindblom (ESDN) shared their insights during the briefing. Read More
Ahead of the 26th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Glasgow in November 2021, the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) presented a policy paper entitled ‘Beyond Climate Neutrality’. In the paper, the WBGU recommends making national long-term strategies a key topic at the Glasgow climate conference in order to provide orientation for current climate policy. Up to now, countries have only been obliged to submit short-term ‘nationally determined contributions’ (NDCs) to climate-change mitigation. These need to become far more ambitious and to start promoting policies conducive to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.
In the WBGU’s view, therefore, countries must also be obliged to formulate and communicate long-term strategies that go beyond climate neutrality and aim for global climate stabilization, offering guidelines for strengthening NDCs and a basis for an internationally coordinated sustainability policy. This view was given a valuable boost by a ruling handed down on 24 March 2021 by Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court, which imposed on German legislators a constitutional obligation to formulate long-term strategies to reduce CO2 emissions beyond 2030.
Long-term strategies should contain three separate priorities for this purpose, the WBGU argues: they should first stipulate a rapid and complete phase-out of fossil-fuel use, second, aim at the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of ecosystems, and third, make strategic preparations for the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.
The strategies should furthermore aim for multiple benefits with other sustainability dimensions, such as health and poverty reduction, WBGU continued. Finally, it is extremely important to take into account the international impacts of the measures laid down in national long-term strategies, such as the consequences of planned imports of green hydrogen, the WBGU concluded. Read more
The EEAC Network issued its newsletter for June. In this edition, the latest council publications are introduced, as well as news from EEAC member councils. The newsletter also includes an overview of recent (online) cooperation and exchange activities among advisory councils on climate change, the environment and sustainable development and there stakeholders. Read More
The German Council on the Environment (SRU) just released an opinion (in German only) on the potential role of hydrogen. In its opinion the Council argued that hydrogen can play an important role in climate protection, but will remain a scarce and precious energy carrier. The Council recommends concentrating all efforts on the market ramp-up of green hydrogen from wind and sun. Even as a transitional measure, policymakers should not rely on fossil-generated hydrogen, the Council stated.
The reason for not relying on fossil generated hydrogen is the impact of the production. The production of hydrogen from fossil fuels causes significant greenhouse gas emissions – even if hydrogen is produced from natural gas in combination with CO2 capture and storage (CCS). There are also environmental and health risks associated with CO2 storage, the Council argues.
The council also warned that the reasoning that green hydrogen and synthetic energy sources could be used everywhere, does not mean that it would make economic and ecological sense. It makes sense to use hydrogen in parts of industry and in international shipping and aviation, the Council stated. The SRU furthermore pleas for a certification system with sustainability criteria to ensure that the production of green hydrogen does not exacerbate environmental problems such as land or water shortages. This is especially true for imports.
To conclude, the Council pushed for infrastructures of hydrogen, natural gas and electricity to be planned in an integrated way. The basis for this must be the climate targets, the Council stated. As soon as the translated version of the position is made available, it will be uploaded on the website of both the SRU and the EEAC Network.
The German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina have produced a joint position paper presenting paths to climate neutrality. In it, the Leopoldina and the RNE highlight options for action to effect the changes needed within society, at political level and in the business world, in view especially of the urgency and the historic dimensions of the transformation we face. With the paper, the Leopoldina and the RNE are consciously not seeking to engage in a race to set the most ambitious target. They are instead offering an options paper for setting the right course and covering the key implementation steps. The position paper was presented at the RNE’s 20th annual conference held on 8 June 2021 and was handed over to the Federal Chancellor, Dr Angela Merkel. Read More
Today (17/6/2021), The Belgium and German Advisory Council for Sustainable Development – together with the EEAC Network – organized a webinar on corporate sustainability reporting. During his opening address EEAC Network Chairman, Arnau Queralt Bassa, said that he considers companies to be key actors for achieving the SDGs and the objectives of the Paris Agreement on climate change. However, I said, several reforms are needed if those companies are to contribute effectively to the goals!
He underlined the importance of a legal obligation for most companies to report on their possible or existing adverse impacts on sustainability. It was therefore, according to Arnau Queralt Bassa, no surprise that he welcomed the Commission’s initiative to come forward with stronger transparency requirements on companies regarding their impacts in terms of human rights violations, environmental pollution and climate change, in addition to employees and customers interests and alongside the financial interests of their shareholders.
According to the EEAC Chairman the proposed Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive would provide marked actors with a level playing field and legal clarity on the EU internal market, and would provide reliable and comparable sustainability information needed by investors and other stakeholders. Furthermore, Queralt Bassa continued, companies that consider environmental and social aspects, while being in touch with their stakeholders regarding these matters, will be better able to identify economic risks arising from sustainability issues, and therefore will also be able to manage those risks more effectively.
Arnau Queralt Bassa also acknowledged that some business representatives fear that the reporting costs will become too high. These concerns should not just be dismissed for the sake of pushing sustainability, he added. In his conclusion the EEAC Chairman raised the question whether the current and proposed corporate sustainability reporting initiatives by the EU will be able to provide improved information on the exposure of companies to sustainability risks and impacts, without putting too much burden on the motors of our European economy….
The Belgium Federal Council for Sustainable Development (FRDO-CFDD), the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) and the EEAC Network organized a webinar entiteled: “Corporate sustainability reporting: recent developments”. The webinar took place on June 17th.
Since the launch of the European sustainable finance action plan, the financial sector is asking for improved information on the exposure of companies to sustainability risks. Diverse stakeholders think that companies should better account for their social and environmental impacts. Moreover, companies facing increasing transparency requirements consider that the related reporting costs are too high.
The EU Commission’s proposal for a new Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), and the proposal for an EU sustainability reporting standard-setting should address these various expectations and concerns.
Aim of the webinar
To give you further information about these initiatives and to highlight their implications for the financial sector, for stakeholders of sustainable development and for enterprises, the FRDO-CFDD, RNE and EEAC organized the webinar. The morning session focused on the EU reforms for sustainability reporting, and the afternoon session focused on their practical implications at the national level.
Over 150 people particiapted in the session on June 17th. Follow-up documentation and presentions will be made available on the website soon.
Covid-19 lockdowns have seen so much of how we live, work and play move online. There has been a dramatic shift to digital and this is likely to grow in importance in the years to come. However, a new report from the Irish National Economic and Social Council (NESC), entitled ‘Digital Inclusion in Ireland: Connectivity, Devices & Skills’ shows that that there are groups who remain poorly engaged with digital technologies. In particular, it highlights those who are older, have lower levels of education, lower incomes, and live in rural areas; as well as smaller businesses and farms.
The NESC report argues that a digital inclusion strategy would help address the ‘digital’ needs of people in these key groups. Doing so would build on Ireland’s large investment in broadband connectivity. It would also help companies, particularly micro-businesses, compete effectively with other small open economies. And critically in the years to come it could be a key means of combatting social exclusion.
The report highlights furthermore that there are several State policies focused on digital technologies. There are also a range of state agency, business and community programmes. There is a need to co-ordinate across these polices and programmes if digital inclusion is to improve, the NESC argues. The report recommends a stand-alone digital inclusion strategy should be developed. It also recommends a comprehensive framework for digital skills progression and certification. It highlights the need for targeted supports for key groups, including those with low incomes, and smaller businesses and farms. Finally, the report argues that enhanced guidance is needed to develop digital public services which are easily accessed by all, and assisted-digital public services for the groups who will continue to face difficulties going online. Read More
The EEAC Working Group on Ecosystem Services gathered for an online session on the national implementation of the new EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) 2022-2027, and the potential role that advisory councils can play in that process. With this session the Working Group informed the colleagues of the different advisory councils about the policy process that will start after the finalized CAP negotiations, and what role advisory councils at national and sub-national level can play in the pursuit of a CAP implementation that does justice to the specific challenges in the different countries and/or regions. Additional attention was paid to optimizing policy coherence between CAP, climate, environment and biodiversity policies. Read More
The EEAC Working Group on Climate and Energy organized an online policy briefing on the EU Climate law. The session provided the colleagues of the different advisory councils with : A) a brief overview of the law; B) an assessment of its strengths, its possible loopholes, and the proposed European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change. After the presentation by Elisa Giannelli (E3G), colleagues held an exchange touching upon the implementation of the EU Climate Law, the next steps coming up, and what this might mean for national and regional advisory councils on Climate Change, Environment and Sustainable Development. Read More