Sustainable development is crucial for people, the planet and peace. All countries across the globe, including Belgium, need to ramp up their efforts if they are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
This year, the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network once again published their SDG index, which gives every country a rating that reflects the progress made and the difficulties encountered with regard to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These SDGs are an action plan from the United Nations to create a more sustainable world by 2030. In other words, a world 'free from poverty, hunger and disease where all can thrive'.
The report states that no country is fully on track to achieve all these ambitious goals by 2030. The lack of efforts to address climate change and biodiversity loss is particularly alarming. Even the countries with the best ratings are not on track to achieve the incredibly important SDGs 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), 13 (Climate Action), 14 (Life Below Water) and 15 (Life on Land).
The report states that no country is fully on track to achieve all these ambitious goals by 2030. The lack of efforts to address climate change and biodiversity loss is particularly alarming.
How is Belgium doing?
Belgium dropped four places in this year’s SDG index and is ranked 16th. We perform better than countries such as Canada, Japan and Luxembourg, but worse than the Scandinavian countries, which once again top the index. In general, Belgium has average or good ratings when it comes to implementing the SDGs, except for those with regard to the environment. We were given a red rating (= major SDG challenge) on SDGs 12, 13 and 14.
We are, however, doing very well with regard to the other SDGs. Belgium has achieved SDG 1 and, therefore, obtains a green rating for 'no poverty'. According to the report, we are also well on our way to achieving other Sustainable Development Goals such as SDG 4 (Quality Education), SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities) and SDG 15 (Life on Land).
Countries should not ignore 'spillover effects', i.e. actions undertaken by one country which negatively affect other countries.
What is next?
All countries must undertake major efforts to implement the SDGs. To this end, the report proposes six transformations, including 'Sustainable food, land, water and oceans' and 'Zero-carbon energy and sustainable industry'. Belgium must, in particular, focus on climate and biodiversity.
Finally, countries should not ignore 'spillover effects', i.e. actions undertaken by one country which negatively affect other countries. For instance, international demand for palm oil fuels tropical deforestation, while tolerance for poor labour standards in developing countries - where our clothes are made for example - harms the poor, particularly women. It is, therefore, more important than ever to work together and support each other in order to achieve the SDGs. As 2030 approaches, it is now up to the world to act.