The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a call for all countries to recognize the various aspects of sustainability that still require our attention – social, environmental and economic. The 17 SDGs are part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They address climate change issues, as well as health, education, inequality and economic growth — all of which likely require coexisting development strategies according to podcast guest and UN rep Sameera Savarala.
To meet these SDGs, countries are implementing innovative incentives. At the top of the list of countries successfully achieving these goals are the Scandinavian countries – Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland. In fact, 16 of the top 20 countries achieving their climate goals are European. So how is the European Union achieving SDGs? Here are three incentive schemes that aim to bring equilibrium between the economy and the environment:
1. Clean, Green Energy
To reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and reliance on fossil fuel energy, several countries are encouraging renewable alternatives. At the top of the list is Netherlands. Earlier this year, the government doubled the money available under its renewable energy subsidy program to €4 billion. The Dutch Energy Agenda plans to enable almost a 100% use of sustainable energy by 2050. Following suit, the UK government recently lifted a block against subsidies for onshore wind farms. To promote the use of renewable energy, Sweden offers tax exemptions for renewable heating and biofuels in transport.
2. Eco-conscious Construction
39% of the energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are related to the buildings and construction sector (h/t Global Status Report in 2017). To combat this, Norway has taken many strides towards sustainable, green construction. For instance, the country is financing carbon capture and storage plants at a cement factory which aims to capture up to 400 000 metric tons of CO₂ emissions annually. In addition, the capital city of Oslo has set a goal for all construction sites within the city to be completely emission free by 2030.
3. Tackling Transport Emissions
The European Union has a 2021 target of reducing passenger car emissions to 95 g CO2/km. To promote the purchase and use of eco-friendly cars, almost all EU countries have adopted innovative incentives such as subsidies or tax credits for the purchase of electric or hybrid cars. The uptake of electric vehicles not only reduces CO2 emissions, but also reduces the emission of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter. However, the uptake of electric alternatives can only become a mainstream option with the presence of supporting infrastructure such as adequate charging stations. To this end, the EU has a special directive to ensure that member countries monitor electric vehicle trends and re-charging infrastructure is developed in advance of sales trends. There is also substantial investment to further sustainable public transport by funding green energy buses and delivering green rail services.