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UK must not slash Sustainable Development Goals, MPs warn

UK must not slash Sustainable Development Goals, MPs warn

UK must not slash Sustainable Development Goals, MPs warn   

As the launch of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) draws closer, a group of UK MPs has warned the government against seeking changes to the proposed package of 17 global targets.

The SDGs, which will be adopted late in 2015 when the current Millennium Development Goals come to the end of their 15-year timeframe, first entered the UN agenda in September this year. Prime minister David Cameron promptly recommended that the number of goals be slashed from 17 to 12 or preferably ten, arguing that there are "too many to communicate effectively".

Now, in a report launched today (December 15th), a House of Commons select committee has expressed concerns that Mr Cameron's cuts could see SDGs pertaining to environmental sustainability axed, taking focus away from climate change.

According to the Environmental Audit Committee, parliament's green watchdog, the UK "must not risk undermining the SDGs" by clamouring for a reduction in the number of goals - a move that would risk "losing the international focus on environmental sustainability alongside poverty reduction and economic and social development".

Joan Walley, MP for Stoke-on-Trent North and chair of the committee, added: "Ministers must also get our own house in order.

"The government has made significant commitments to international development and climate funding, but this will only be a sticking plaster if we don’t take serious steps to transform our own economy and work with others to do the same."

Ms Walley went on to allege that the government "appears to be actively encouraging unsustainable development" in certain areas, arguing that the time has come to withdraw tax breaks and subsidies for producers and consumers of fossil fuels.

"Our aim must be to decouple economic growth from polluting and unsustainable resource use," she said.

The committee's recommendations

The Environmental Audit Committee's report went on to outline a series of recommendations for UK policy to promote sustainability on the global stage. For example, the watchdog wants to see the government demanding the highest standards of environmental protection in trade deals, as well as leading international efforts to improve the air quality of cities.

It also states that UK aid programmes related to economic development must aim to fully safeguard biodiversity, that the government should report annually on the impact of the International Climate Fund, and that Marine Protected Areas should be set up in UK overseas territories such as Pitcairn.

In contrast to the prime minister's mooted cuts to SDGs, the Environmental Audit Committee believes the government has an obligation to specifically promote the inclusion of environmental mandates among the goals. This, the group argues, is particularly important if the UN hopes to reach a separate international agreement on climate change in Paris in December 2015, as set out in talks in Lima this weekend.

The proposed deal will mark the first time that all 194 member states commit to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and represents the culmination of two weeks of discussions in the Peruvian capital.

Ms Walley concluded her comments: "I hope 2015 will be remembered as the year when governments took action to change the trajectory of environmental destruction we are currently on, towards one of sustainable development and wellbeing for all."

 

Posted By Julie Tucker

Image courtesy of Thinkstock/IStock