The UN’s Agenda 2030 and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will serve as the most important compass for global development and sustainability efforts leading up to 2030. The Nordic countries have adopted a joint programme, Generation 2030, which will ensure that Nordic co-operation contributes to the implementation of the SDGs across the region. Special emphasis is placed on sustainable consumption and production.
By Páll Tómas Finnsson
Universal agenda for sustainable development
On 5 September 2017, the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation approved a joint Nordic programme to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – the UN’s plan of action for people, planet and prosperity – which was unanimously adopted by all member states in 2015.
Generation 2030 builds on the current Nordic Sustainable Development Strategy, A Good Life in a Sustainable Nordic Region. The objective is to ensure that Nordic co-operation actively pursues the realisation of the SDGs. As the name indicates, the decision makers of the future – children and young people – are a key target group.
“What’s unique about Agenda 2030 is that all 193 UN member states have agreed that this should be our key priority and shared vision leading up to 2030,” says Inge Herman Rydland, Special Envoy for the 2030 Agenda at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway and Chair of the Nordic Expert Group for Sustainable Development.
“Agenda 2030 therefore has more legitimacy than any previous international development agenda,” Rydland says. “Our objective with Generation 2030 is to support the realisation of the SDGs and continue our strong regional focus on sustainable development.”
All countries must take action
“Agenda 2030 is indivisible and integrated, meaning that all 17 SDGs are interconnected,” Rydland explains. “In addition, and most importantly, all countries – including the Nordic countries – must play an active role in their implementation. The context will dictate the necessary actions for each country, but the key thing is that no country is exempt from committing to
Each of the Nordic countries has already achieved many of the SDGs and embarked upon national initiatives to ensure the implementation of those yet to be fully realised. Generation 2030 was developed through broad stakeholder engagement with the aim of defining areas in which Nordic co-operation could add value to these efforts.
An independent evaluation by Gaia Consulting and the Stockholm Environment Institute – the results of which were published in the report Sustainable Development Action – the Nordic Way – pointed out that further collaboration would be particularly meaningful in achieving more sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Rich countries must transform their consumption
The Nordic Region is one of the wealthiest regions of the world with a GDP per capita of between 9 and 49 per cent above the EU-28 average, according to Eurostat. A new discussion paper from think tank Sustainia, Bumps on the Road to 2030, provides an overview of the region’s primary shared challenges to achieving the SDGs, including action on climate change, improved ecosystem conservation, more sustainable agricultural practices, and economic growth for all. The paper points out that the Nordic countries, like most other OECD countries, must reduce their material consumption and waste generation in order to achieve the SDGs.
“Sustainable consumption and production is our most prominent challenge and a key focus of the Generation 2030 programme,” says Rydland. “The region is challenged by the overexploitation of natural resources and excess consumption of products, the production of which requires energy, puts strain on the climate, and contributes to global economic inequality.”
According to Janez Potočnik, Co-Chair of the International Resource Panel, the panel’s research identifies sustainable consumption and production as the most efficient strategy for avoiding trade-offs between the SDGs and for the creation of synergies in overcoming the development and environmental challenges articulated in the goals.
“We’re more interconnected and interdependent than ever,” he says. “If we are to avoid a globally extensive and inter-systemic crisis and frequent conflicts, we must get serious about using natural resources in a more efficient and responsible way. Decoupling economic growth from resource use and environmental impact should be essential to any modern environmental and economic policy.”
Industry welcomes political commitment
Sara Krüger Falk of the Confederation of Danish Industry welcomes the Generation 2030 initiative. She is the Focal Point for Global Compact Nordic Network where she represents 800 Nordic businesses committed to advancing sustainability. From an industry perspective, she says, the SDGs are a good indication of the challenges the world is facing, and also the opportunities that lie in providing the right solutions.
“I’m thrilled that we have political ambition and political support for the sustainable agenda,” Falk says. “It makes good sense for our natural environment, our societies and our businesses. The SDGs are a fantastic indication of the direction in which the world is heading and where future market demand will be.”
“By working together, the Nordic countries put Nordic businesses in an even better position for redefining their business models and increasing their competitive advantage when it comes to providing socially, environmentally and economically sustainable solutions.”
Continued international leadership
By launching the Generation 2030 programme, the Nordic Council of Ministers aspires to consolidate the region’s international leadership in sustainable development.
“The Nordic prime ministers recently launched an initiative called Nordic Solutions to Global Challenges,” says Anniina Kristinsson, Adviser for Sustainable Development at the Nordic Council of Ministers. “While the focus of that initiative is to share knowledge about Nordic sustainable solutions with the rest of the world, the objective of Generation 2030 is to take a closer look at what the Nordic countries themselves can do to create more sustainable societies and achieve the SDGs.”
“These two initiatives complement each other well and will form the foundation of our future sustainable development efforts,” Kristinsson says.
“Our objective with Generation 2030 is to support the realisation of the SDGs and continue our strong national and regional focus on sustainable development.”
Inge Herman Rydland
Special Envoy for the 2030 Agenda at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway and Chair of the Nordic Expert Group for Sustainable Development.
“Decoupling economic growth from resource use and environmental impact should
be essential to any modern environmental and economic policy”
Co-Chair of the Internatinoal