The Territorial Agenda 2030 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals
by Christian Lüer (comments: 1)
Adopted by the Member States of the United Nations in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set a framework of 17 targets that aims at achieving peace and prosperity for all people and our planet. The next Territorial Agenda, to be agreed at an Informal Meeting of the Ministers responsible for Spatial Planning of the Member States of the European Union in December 2020, acknowledges the Sustainable Development Goals and emphasises that Europe must offer ‘a future for all places’. Exploring the relationship between both policy frameworks might help interested players from local to European levels to identify links between their own ongoing activities and the two policy frameworks. It might furthermore inspire them to develop new actions that contribute to achieving the objectives defined in both policy frameworks.
Looking at the targets which further specify the Sustainable Development Goals reveals the strong interwovenness and embeddedness of the next Territorial Agenda into the global context of the United Nations Agenda 2030, with particular focus on nine Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 7-15). In other words: Implementing the next Territorial Agenda contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Let’s have a closer look…
First and foremost, Sustainable Development Goal 11 on making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable (SDG 11) is the only SDG with a clear spatial dimension and addresses all six priorities of the next Territorial Agenda. It aims, inter alia, for access for all to housing, basic services and transport, participatory, integrated and sustainable planning and management, protecting and safeguarding the cultural and natural heritage, reducing the environmental impact, resilience of cities and settlements, mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, and stronger economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas by means of national and regional planning. It is a cross-cutting goal that is closely related to the overall narrative of the next Territorial Agenda and its emphasis of the spatial dimension for policy making and implementation.
Each of the following SDGs is addressed by two priorities of the next Territorial Agenda: Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (SDG 7) aims at universal access to energy services, a higher share of renewables, and improvements in energy efficiency, which is closely related to environmental protection and climate neutrality (priority on a Healthy Environment) but also to new economic models and energy transition (priority on Circular Economy). The goal of resilient infrastructure, inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and fostering innovation (SDG 9) addresses the need for affordable and equitable access to regional and transborder infrastructures and for retrofitting industries to make them sustainable, e.g. by adopting clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes. These targets are also acknowledged in two priorities of the next Territorial Agenda, on strong local economies in a globalised world (priority on Circular Economy) and the connectivity of all places (priority on Sustainable Connections). As a third goal, reducing inequalities within and among countries (SDG 10) aims at equal opportunities, social, economic and political inclusion, and higher growth rates for the poorest. This is in line with the next Territorial Agenda and gets territorialised by emphasising the need for counteracting concentration and polarisation, and reducing inequalities between places (priority on Balanced Europe) and for creating development perspectives for cities and towns of all sizes (priority on Functional Regions). Finally, the goal of responsible consumption and production (SDG 12) aims at resource efficiency, environmentally sound management of materials throughout their life cycles, waste reduction and recycling, and minimising the impact on human health and the environment. Similar to SDG 7, these targets can be linked to both environmental protection (priority on Healthy Environment) and transition processes of our economic system (priority on Circular Economy).
A third group consists of four SDGs, each of which shows a clear link with at least one specific priority of the next Territorial Agenda: The goal of sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work (SDG 8) has a clear economic dimension. It aims at diversification of economic activities, entrepreneurship, creativity, innovation and global resource efficiency, and is therefore closely related to promoting strong and sustainable local economies in a globalised world (priority on Circular Economy). In contrast to this, the goals of action to combat climate change and its impacts (SDG 13), conserving and sustainably using oceans, seas and marine resources (SDG 14) and protecting, restoring and sustainably using terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably managing forests, combating desertification and halting and reversing land degradation and biodiversity loss (SDG 15) have a strong environmental dimension and therefore directly address better ecological livelihoods and climate-neutral towns, cities and regions (priority on Health Environment).
As we can see, implementing the Territorial Agenda contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The Sustainable Development Goals furthermore set the wider framework for putting the priorities of the Territorial Agenda into action, as will be demonstrated by different players in pilot actions.