Development - Environment
Ministers in the European Parliament

On behalf of the Council, Nicolas Schmit speaks before the European Parliament on the EU's position regarding sustainable development prior to the New York Summit and COP21


Nicolas Schmit, minister of Labour, Employment and the Social and Solidarity Economy
© SIP / Yves Kortum
On 16 September 2015, the Luxembourg Minister responsible for representing the Luxembourg Presidency at the European Parliament, Nicolas Schmit, spoke before the Plenary Session of the Parliament. He pronounced a Council declaration on the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development, which will be held in New York between 25 and 27 September, and on development-related aspects of the Climate Conference in Paris (COP21).

His speech was part of the day's agenda, during which Jean Asselborn spoke in his capacity as Minister for Immigration and Asylum, outlining the conclusions of the "Justice and Home Affairs" Council on migrations held on 14 September.

Nicolas Schmit said that the point of his speech was not "so far removed from what had just been discussed", and that the debate on the New York summit and COP21 would extend the discussion on the crisis surrounding refugees and migrants.  

Nicolas Schmit put the distinction between refugees needing international protection and "economic" migrants into perspective, "as though poverty and severe hardship were not a sufficient reason to go looking for a better life". This refers to a declaration made by the President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, in which he asked: "Who are we to condemn these people who want to go elsewhere?" He reminded those present that it was "not so long ago that millions of Europeans set off on a journey because they were poor. They went looking for a better life in the New World, which welcomed them".

For him, "migration forms part of the reality of the globalised world, where everyone now has the means to remain informed". He warned against the construction of walls and the use of tear gas against migrants at borders, because such behaviour risks starting a spiral, adding that global warming had already created climate refugees. This is why the adoption of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development is one of the EU's priorities.

The United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development and Agenda 2030

The Minister cited three major milestones in 2015 for sustainable development policy: the Addis Ababa Conference on Financing Sustainable Development in July 2015; the Sustainable Development Summit in New York in September 2015; COP21, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, which should lead to the adoption of a universal agreement, in Paris in December 2015.

For Nicolas Schmit, "the EU's main objective of adopting a Sustainable Development Agenda which is ambitious, transformative and viable has almost been achieved. We are still awaiting the final adoption at the summit in New York at the end of the month".

Agenda 2030 "includes a group of objectives which integrate the three dimensions (economic, social and environmental) of sustainable development in a balanced way. It seeks to achieve the primary objective of eradicating poverty."For the Minister, "the action programme resulting from the Addis Ababa Conference on Financing Development forms a pillar for implementing Agenda 2030. It also includes both the financial and non-financial means with which to implement the future development programme".

Thanking the European Parliament "for its support throughout the negotiations", the Minister stated that"we now need to act and implement Agenda 2030. To this end, we must first look at all the instruments we have at our disposal and determine those which are adequate".

He stated that, for him, Agenda 2030 is "a significant step towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Its universal nature means it will have to be implemented by everyone, at all levels of development. This concerns not only developing countries; it is also a programme for sustainable development", which involves all countries which adhere to it. It concerns their governments and public authorities, as well as all stakeholders, including civil society and the private sector.

This implementation will prompt the Commission to scrutinise all European legislation in all the different areas concerned and it will submit, if required, all the appropriate legislative proposals to the European Parliament and the Council. The Member States will also have to review their sustainable development strategies and instruments in light of Agenda 2030.

In order to succeed, "the programme integrates a robust mechanism for monitoring and conducting checks, which posed one of the main difficulties during the negotiations", explained the Minister. He believes that the EU and the Member States have "a framework which will enable them to assess the progress and inform our citizens about it."

He announced that, for the Council, the Ministers for Development and the Environment will deal with the progress and coordination of the process during a joint breakfast in Luxembourg on 26 October.

Preparations for the COP21 Conference

Nicolas Schmit went on to say that "there are strong links between the Sustainable Development Programme for 2030 and the COP21 Conference, which will be held in Paris between 30 November and 11 December". Therefore, the Luxembourg Presidency will seek to ensure that "the EU supports the progress made in Addis Ababa and New York, so that the Paris Conference bears the hallmark of success".

According to the Presidency of the Council, the Paris Conference will have "to reconcile development and climate change", which is "possible and absolutely essential". "This is why the sustainable development agenda for 2030 has created a new objective, urgent action to combat climate change and its consequences. This objective primarily calls for an ambitious and universal agreement at COP21 in Paris in December", he said.

"The preparations for COP21 constitute one of the main priorities for the Luxembourg Presidency", emphasised the Minister. Finance Ministers discussed financing for the fight against climate change during their informal meeting in Luxembourg on 11 September. On 18 September, the Environment Council should adopt the conclusions which will be used as a mandate for COP21.

"The position of the European Union and the Member States is clear", said Nicolas Schmit, who further explained that "the 2015 agreement should be:

  • a binding legal and universal agreement, enabling the fight against climate change to be effectively waged and limiting an increase in the average temperature of the planet to at least below 2°C in relation to pre-industrial levels;
  • an agreement made to last, which offers a long-term vision for the changes required for resilient societies and economies with low carbon emissions, and which is capable of withstanding the effects of climate change;
  • a flexible agreement with the necessary capacity to react dynamically to changing scientific and technological knowledge, responsibilities and capabilities, and enabling broad and effective participation;
  • an agreement providing mechanisms to enable progress to be assessed and ambitions broadened. We need a solid system based on rules, including those relating to monitoring and verifying emissions applicable to all countries.The actions of the parties involved will have to be irreversible and make progress towards lower carbon emissions.
  • An agreement with a long-term objective, which must send a strong signal indicating the direction in which  countries should be heading, so they become low-carbon economies resistant to the effects of climate change".

He concluded his speech by underlining the importance of financing the fight against climate change, with "central to all of this, developed countries  providing 100 billion dollars (public and private) a year from now until 2020 to poorest and most vulnerable countries. In broader terms, investments will have to be geared more towards low-carbon and economically viable technologies", thereby ensuring sustainable growth and reducing the inequalities which are causing the current migratory movements.  

  • Updated 17-09-2015