The Agenda 2030 is an ambitious schedule into a sustainable future – but implementation can only be successful if we all work together. What does Austria contribute, where does it stand?
Vienna, October 4, 2018 - At the UN Plenary Session on September 25, 2015, all 193 UN member states made a binding commitment to the joint, future-oriented Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, which entered into force on January 1, 2016 and is divided into 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with altogether 169 sub-goals. This agenda is far more than a general memorandum of understanding – rather, it is a binding framework for the implementation of measures that lead towards a better economic, ecological and social future for all people on our planet. An ambitious plan based on the assumption that each state, each enterprise, each organization and every single citizen regards sustainability as a common value and the SDGs as the directive that should govern our behaviour.
From Theoretical Concepts to Concrete Measures -What Has Austria Achieved So Far?
On the governmental level, all federal ministries in Austria have been tasked with the implementation of the Agenda 2030 since 2016. An inter-ministerial task force “Implementation of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development” where the different ministries are represented by official SDG-specialists is committed to working continuously towards the realization of the different goals.
In several areas, concrete projects and measures have already been developed and are being implemented: In summer 2015, for instance, the Austrian Ministry for Social Affairs took up the initiative of the European Union for fighting poverty and developed the project “school starter package”. Children from low-income families that are threatened by poverty receive cost-free school equipment – a measure that ensures they have equal access to educational opportunities.
On the level of climate protection and energy policy, the Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology together with the Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism developed a new strategy that has since been put into action by the Austrian government. It contains a firm commitment to ecological targets: “The target triangle ecological sustainability - reliability of supply – competitiveness/affordability constitutes the framework for the Austrian climate and energy strategy.” A promising announcement – however, to fill it with life, it needs to be supplemented by concrete measures!
An example for a concrete measure that incorporates several SDGs is the funding program Combined Freight Traffic which aims at diverting transport routes away from the streets and move towards railway or ship. This measure aims at closing gaps in the transport chain, thus enhancing the competitiveness and the innovative capacity of the transport industry while reducing the strain on the climate and environment at the same time. Also, the importance of the Danube as a central European water way was acknowledged and an action plan Danube 2022 was developed that constitutes an integrated strategy for the use and protection of this river.
New impulses also come from the climate protection initiative “klimaaktiv”, which, as early as 2011, won a European Public Sector Award (EPSA) as a Europe-wide best practice example in the category: „Going Green: Concrete Solutions from the Public Sector.“ Ecologically-friendly technologies and services in the areas of building and renovation, reduction of energy consumption, renewable energy and mobility will be placed on the market. This process will be facilitated by measures such as consulting, information and qualification initiatives, transparency standards, quality control measures as well as the activation of and networking among the various stakeholders.
Private Enterprises and SDGs – How does this go together?
However, governments and the public sector are by no means the only actors that are called upon to work towards realization of the SDGs – private industry must contribute as well. After all, the SDGs are specifically devised to reconcile economic with social and ecological progress. Corporate culture and Corporate Social Responsibility are important factors in this respect. Only if the sustainability criteria are firmly embedded into the structure of an enterprise is it possible to communicate them to the outside world in a credible way. One way of going about this would be integration of the SDGs into the CSR reports of companies. Companies could also, for instance, establish separate SDG portfolios where they specify how their various activities and projects relate to the individual SDGs. Also, in the case of companies operating internationally, it would be good to have special CSR country reports for each country where the company has subsidiaries. These are only possible first steps – more must follow!
With Brainstorming and Think-tanks to Sustainable Solutions
Platforms and forums to facilitate exchange of opinions and networking of the various stakeholders are also indispensable for the development of new ideas and initiatives around the SDGs. Social City Vienna and its spin-off imfino (Impact Finance Organization) have realized this and joined forces with UNIDO as well as important public institutions, social organizations, NGOs and private companies in Vienna to develop a new event series, aptly named “Solution Talks.” This event series aims at pooling the various efforts to find sustainable solutions for present and future challenges in the ecological and social field. In September 2018, the first of these “Solution Talks” events took place at the Vienna International Center. About 20 participants from different parts of public life – politics, economy, education and universities, media and the civil society gathered to present the concrete initiatives and projects of their respective institutions regarding SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.
Making the SDGs More Visible
What became clear in the course of this event was that, despite the efforts already under way in various SDG-related areas, public awareness of the Goals and their importance is still low. To explain the SDGs and their relevance to the public and make them more transparent and visible is a big task that must be addressed on the political, economic and social level. The media and educational institutions are especially important in this respect – their task is to convey the SDG topics to young people in particular. True, the SDGs are in part already integrated into the curricula of schools and other educational institutions – topics such as “Political Education”, “Global Learning and Global Citizen Education”, “Intercultural Learning”, “Gender Competence and Gender Equality” are already taught in various school subjects. However, these efforts are still too vague and fragmented. What would be necessary is a compact, integrated approach towards teaching the sustainability goals in schools and other educational institutions. This could take place for instance in the form of special SDG-related courses or a separate subject “Sustainability.”
It is of vital importance that we as society reach the point where every citizen identifies with the SDGs, adopts them as part of their personal value system and integrates them into their everyday lives. Until we have reached this ideal state, however, there is still a long way to go. And time is running out – 2030 is not as far away as it seems at present. A full awareness and understanding of the SDGs and their implications for our lives – this should be our goal!
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