International and EU experts debated SDGs and sustainable recovery at an event jointly hosted by Eva Lindström, Member of the European Court of Auditors and ACCA during the EU Sustainable Development week.
The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted that governments need to move rapidly and use the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to tackle many pressing problems that are now too urgent to ignore - such as the rising frequency of destructive climate change-related events, the interconnected issues of worsening inequality and the growing difficulties for many in earning a living through work that is becoming more precarious and insecure.
Given these scenarios, the defining challenge of the next decade will be to build the systems that the SDGs need for proper delivery. From the practicalities of achieving SDG-related policy coherence across different parts of government, to validating new data sources and establishing agreed-upon metrics where gaps exist, making delivery a reality requires genuine and ongoing commitment.
And this is precisely with that in mind that Eva Lindström, Member of the European Court of Auditors and ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) organised, as part of the EU Sustainable Development week, a lively discussion on “linking SDGs and green inclusive recovery post COVID-19 : measuring progress for better implementation”, welcoming speakers from the OECD, the European Commission, the European Court of Auditors, the Auditor General of Finland, and ACCA.
ECA member Eva Lindström, opened the debate. After stating that ‘sustainability is about preparedness’, she said: ‘If we want to achieve the SDGs and the green inclusive recovery post Covid-19, we must focus equally on all three pillars of sustainable development: environmental, social and economic sustainability. We have observed a growing awareness on climate change and social issues among citizens, but the debate on climate change is not getting enough attention at governmental level due to pandemic.’
Eva Lindström added: ‘We should use the momentum in the right way, and never let a good crisis go to waste!’
Discussions confirmed that the SDGs framework needs to be understood as a baseline on which we can build. The challenge in its implementation is to monitor complementarities and synergies, while addressing trade-offs between policies. The Von der Leyen’s Commission has committed to integrate the SDGs into the European economic governance framework, notably into the European Semester, including reporting on SDG performance.
Work is on-going on a set of key indicators for climate, energy and environmental indicators, to monitor the economic implications of the environmental dimension of the transition to a sustainable economy, but the European Semester is however changing in view of the implementation of the Recovery and Resilience Facility.
Jimmy Greer, ACCA’s head of sustainability and author of the report Auditing the SDGs: Progress to 2030 that was discussed at the event said: ‘The SDGs do give us a roadmap into the future that connects the institutional with interconnected social, environmental and economic issues. Our speakers made clear how COVID-19 adds more dimensions to an already uncertain world. The role of auditors in helping to understand and support what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to the how well governments are taking on the multidimensional SDGs delivery challenge is more vital than ever.’
The debate revealed that mitigation policies are likely to be easier to implement politically, economically and socially – and more cost-effectively – when there is two-way alignment between climate action and the broader goals of human well-being and sustainable development. Speakers also highlighted that the monitoring and auditing performance, but also the mainstreaming of indicators should be a central criteria for policy and investment decisions, and called for moving from measuring inputs to understanding delivery.
By enhancing the transparency and reliability of reporting, auditors can protect the gains already achieved on the path to a more sustainable future, and assess the long term impacts of policy. In this context, the “no harm” principle of COVID-19 financial recovery packages is important. Discussions concluded with a clear call for collaboration and co-operation between the different parties to improve and overcome limitations of current SDGs.
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