Looking ahead: Sustainable development and the social dimension

Today, our economic system disregards the planet and human health, and creates social inequalities. Therefore, our economy must radically change. Socialists and Democrats place this radical change of our economic system at the heart of their political engagement.
A cleaner environment, healthier food or quality jobs cannot become a privilege for those who can afford it. There can be no sustainable economy if it benefits some, while excluding others. Sustainability must become a central driver of new equality and cohesion across our societies and within them.
The future of the European Union itself will depend on its ability to embrace this radical change. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 (UNSDG) and the commitments made under the United Nations’ Paris Agreement on climate change provide a policy framework to engage in this process. This is why we call for a thorough and visionary European sustainable development strategy for the years to come, based on innovation, transformative investments, strong social rights and convergence and the eradication of social and ecological dumping.
Therefore we will notably:
Promote and defend policies which enable the European Union to successfully decouple economic development from greenhouse gas emissions and to undergo a profound transition towards a more sustainable, zero-carbon economy based on renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency. For the EU to remain within its carbon budget[1], plans for any additional coal-fired generating capacity must be shelved. All currently operating coal plants as well as nuclear power plants must go off grid by a fixed end date.
Plead for doubling the total available financial resources for investment in economic change over the coming years. Investment in human capital in particular should find more space in the EU investment strategy. A modern Cohesion Policy investment financed by the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) has to aim at attainment of objectives of a ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive’ growth and have a key role in boosting the economy through investment at a local, regional and national level. A fully fledged European sustainable investment strategy building on the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI), a strong European budget and stronger national public investments via a more flexible “investment clause” for sustainable investments in the Growth and Stability Pact, must collectively achieve this objective.
Continue our fight to protect our citizens from pollution and harmful chemicals while protecting the rich biodiversity of our countries. When dealing with our citizens’ health we will work hard to ensure that stricter rules are enforced to reduce exposure to air pollutants, especially for the most vulnerable groups of our society.
Stimulate the move towards a circular economy which re-uses materials and has positive effects on the path to a zero-carbon economy, both lowering the energy consumption of industry and creating new sustainable, qualified jobs in the industries reusing, recycling or up-valuing discarded products and resources.
Introduce  clean urban transport toward sustainable mobility for all: reducing transport needs by the promotion of proximity and mixed-uses schemes, prioritising non-motorised ‘walkable’, ‘cyclable’ cities, supporting affordable and efficient public transport accessible for all-notably for deprived neighborhood., We need Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) quotas for car manufacturers with the aim of phasing out new CO2-emitting cars by 2035.
Support a stronger protection of labor and social rights in The European Pillar for Social Rights. Concrete measures to eradicate social dumping must be taken before the end of this term. Social security must be guaranteed for all Europeans, where ever they choose to work. The European Treaties should be upgraded with a Social Protocol to ensure that fundamental rights take precedence over economic freedoms.
Resist rising income and wealth inequalities which have no place in a sustainable Europe. A European sustainable development strategy must therefore encompass broad-ranging strategy to reduce inequalities in income and wealth within and among countries, and develop a European-wide initiative for the eradication of poverty by 2030.
Ensure the European Union invests in vocational training to organise a just transition offering new opportunities for workers in high carbon, resource-intensive jobs in the decarbonized, circular economy of the future.
Make all European citizens profit from the energy transition by eradicate energy poverty in Europe. Energy efficiency measures need to be targeted to energy poor and vulnerable households and citizens need to be able to better take control of their energy bills through improved energy consumers’ rights and information.”
Work towards an effective alignment of European Union development co-operation with the fight against climate change in order to build resilience and reduce the vulnerability of local populations, and improve their capacity to prevent and reduce the risks from disasters.
Call for a full and effective implementation of the European anti-discrimination directives in the workplace, including in public sector.
The time has come for higher expectations and ambitions, for common goals pursued together, for stronger political actions to address our common sustainable future. We, European Socialists and Democrats, are ready to take this challenge.
[1] To have a good chance of keeping global warming well below the 2°C, there is only a finite amount of carbon pollution the world still can emit.  This fixed amount can be thought of as the carbon budget.
“Sustainable development and the social dimension” is one of the priorities part of the “Building the Progressive Future Together” statement, debated during our event in Brussels on October 18-19. But the debate goes on. We’re counting on your input, so each of you can play a part in shaping our common future. It’s easy – just sign in add your thoughts to this topic.
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Comments (3)

We must take action, we must undertake any reasonable route to defend our planet. All our good plans, statements, laws, debates, speeches, if not followed by a rigorous and effective action, will inevitably be pointless when faced by the eager economic system. What we have done to the Earth, it is a matter of fact. For part of our existence, in our defence, we were unable to understand the danger of our decisions but today, we are no longer those naïve beings. We know exactly where our unsustainable life will lead us, which is the normal course of our life indeed: it will lead us to death. What is not normal instead, is that we are digging an unfair path to that sure and early ending also for the rest of the inhabitants of this Planet. We are living in an oxymoron: the amazing progress we have made since we could only hold an axe in our hands (and not even all of us could) and the incredible discoveries that have characterised our kind, today have turned us into egoist creatures and, pardon me for the word, fools as well. We are constantly challenging the world to a duel where there is nothing to win and all to lose. We think the universe would care once we will disappear drowned by the rising level of the sea or thirsty by the increasing temperatures?. Do we really think the universe will care when trying to take the last breath, we will only inhale polluted air?. Do we believe that the universe will care when the rubbish we have produced and turned into undetectable ash will force us to ashes as well?. Do we really care the universe minds when it sees us fight with each other an unnecessary war to impose on one another an equally negative economy and system?. No, we don’t believe that anyone, who is even perhaps watching us from far away, will ever do. By living the unsustainable life that we are living today, we are demonstrating that we as well, do not care for ourselves and our own good. We went to great lengths to secure the right to live eliminating the death penalty, but the unsustainable development is nothing but a death penalty for all of us, without distinction between the victims and the perpetrators. At this point excuse me for changing the questions to a singular form. Do I need to promote and defend policies which enable the European Union to successfully decouple economic development from greenhouse gas emissions? Yes. Do I need to plead for doubling the total available financial resources for investment in economic change? Yes. Do I need to fight to protect myself and others from pollution and harmful chemicals while protecting the rich biodiversity of the countries? Yes. Do I need to stimulate the move towards a circular economy? Yes. Do I need to ask for clean urban transport and sustainable mobility for all? Yes . Do I need to stand for the people’s rights over the mere economic interests, shaping a sustainable life from different perspectives? Yes. Do I need to participate in an effective cooperation to tackle the climate change? Yes. Marie Anne Evans alias George Eliot, wrote in Middlemarch , that ‘the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs’. If we can make these our priorities, even of our daily and common life, a progressive historic change will be visible soon. If we do not understand that the main goal of an individual should be to ensure the positive improvement of the environment and so its own existence, why are we even debating on the other problems we have?.

  • This reply was modified 2 years, 9 months ago by Profile photo of caterina zita caterina zita.

By talking about Sustainability, I once got asked if we are the dinosaurs of our time. Are we going to extinct because of air pollution, because of natural disasters, because of…? Will it be our own fault because of not living sustainable? It is undeniable that we are not doing very well. As all of us know, we are on a good way to irreversible harm planet earth by just not caring. Not caring about taking the car or the bicycle, not caring about waste or recycle, not caring about air pollution or planting trees, not caring about nuclear power stations or renewable energy, not caring about greenhouse gas emissions – Not caring about our environment. Some people actually so much don’t care that one can see children wearing shirts with the inscription: “Who cares?” On top of this it worries me even more that some people are not only not caring about climate change but denying it. The Planet Earth is there for us to live, work and create. But what are we giving back? -Plastic bags in the ocean, Co2, burned down rainforests. Still I would answer that I can’t say if we are the dinosaurs of our times yet. I believe in “frogs turning into princes” – I believe in change. We have to treat our Earth better, so that we and our children won’t have to suffer from Natural Disasters or diseases caused by our pollution and careless way of living. There are so many ways to treat the earth better and to live more sustainable. We could start by educating more people about their ecological footprint and about more sustainable lifestyles. We have to spread awareness. We have to stop being careless and start to be caretakers. We have to work together to give industries, politicians, economists no choice but to work for the planet and not against it. If it is cool to fight to protect myself and others from pollution and harmful chemicals, I guess people will do it. So let’s show the world how cool it is to live sustainable, how cool it is to care. And one day children will wear T-shirts with “I care because I love the planet and the people living on it” written on it. I am quite aware that it is not always due to ill will or carelessness that we have to face poverty and environmental issues. Some of the causes are deeply rooted in our economic system. But all of us can start by caring and then, I promise, people who care will feel the urge to change. Change our ways of living will be the start to then go on with changing the system. So that the economy stops protecting the interests of the planet not sufficiently. So that money is not more important than human lives or nature conservation. So that we start acting as one – people and planet. If we don’t act now, one day we will be in charge.

Each year, humans produce 4 000 billion tons of wastes and waste 1.3 billion of food while 1 billion people suffer of malnutrition. Each year, Europe needs 4 times more energy than Africa whereas the number of inhabitants is twice as high in Africa. Each year, more than 1 billion people die because of a cancer and 20% of these deaths, according to WHO, are due to the environment, and more particularly to their place of work. Sustainable development is based on a simple problematic: how can we satisfy the needs of the current generation while avoiding the degradation of the environment we will leave to the next generations? Three criteria, Environment, Economic, and Social, are required to respond to this immense problem we are confronted to. Often forgotten, the Social dimension is necessary to a bearable and equitable society. In fact, how can a non-equitable society be sustainable? Equality in terms of access to healthy food, clean energy, quality health cares and safe jobs should be a priority. Access to these elementary needs does not have to be defined according to the purse of each citizen, although this is actually and sadly the case. For example, obesity is 4 times more important for worker’s children than for executive’s children, which shows an unequal access to a balanced diet depending on purchasing power and education. But this is not finished: exposure to dangerous chemical substances through alimentation, conditions of work and even accessible ready to wear clothes are the factors that a big part of the population is confronted to everyday. But these clothes, toys, and other consumer goods do not create inequalities only in developed European countries, they actively affect the life of people across the borders by delivering chemical substances while their productions in the BRICS’s environment where they are finally discarded as unrecyclable wastes. The word of the next decades should definitely be transparency. Transparency for production, permitting people working in factories to have better working conditions, transparency for the consumers about the composition of the goods and products they live with and they ingest everyday. Environmental education should be provided to every child to make them realize that all the little gestures we accomplish matters and have big impacts on our environment when they are reproduced at a big scale. Ways to measure, analyse and treat social inequalities have to be improved, enhanced or created to make sure that nobody is forgotten in this inevitable process of sustainable development at the European level, and, of course, a more global level.

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