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MPs urge Education Secretary to include Sustainable Development Goals in curriculum

Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) Chair Mary Creagh MP has written to Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening urging her to include the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the National Curriculum.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 separate but intertwining goals adopted by the UN in 2015 to create a more sustainable world that allows everyone to have the opportunity to live a prosperous life, and include specific targets to reduce food waste, increase resource-efficiency and reduce unsustainable consumption by 2030.

International businesses throw weight behind Sustainable Development GoalsCreagh was moved to write to the Secretary of State yesterday (6 December) following the release of the government’s response to a report published by the previous iteration of the EAC back in March of this year, which stated that the government ‘seems uninterested in raising the profile of the Goals’ and ‘showed a marked reluctance to take this forward as a domestic agenda’, despite significant enthusiasm for the SDGs, including, perhaps most notably, from international businesses over their potential economic benefits.

In its response to the report, the government acknowledged that: ‘Young people - in the UK and overseas - are vital to achieving the Goals as they are the generation most affected by the Goals, and we are working to increase their knowledge and engagement in development issues to help them become agents of change.’ However, the response failed to indicate whether measures to raise the profile of the SDGs would be included in the National Curriculum.

Creagh, Chair of the EAC, which is set up to scrutinise the government’s environmental actions and policies, criticised the general terms in which the SDGs are treated in the government’s response and, citing Greening’s position as Secretary of State for International Development when the SDGs were decided upon, urged her to ‘include a specific aim of raising awareness of the Goals among young people’ within the Department for Education’s Single Departmental Plan and ‘issue guidance to schools on how to incorporate them into the National Curriculum’.

“The government has a once in a generation opportunity to forge a cross-party consensus around implementing the Global Goals in the UK,” said Creagh, expanding on her reasons for sending the letter. “The government’s response... reflects their belief that the Goals are an issue for the developing world but have nothing to do with creating a Britain where no one is left behind.

“I am pleased that the government has taken up my Committee’s recommendation to put the UK forward for a Voluntary National Review by the UN to measure our progress towards the Goals. However, the government’s reluctance to appoint a Cabinet-level Minister with responsibility for implementing sustainable development across the UK, or a sustainability advisory body, suggests a distinct lack of imagination and ambition in their strategy for implementing the Goals in the UK.

“The Office of National Statistics’ tool for measuring progress on the Goals is still in its preliminary working stages, however it shows the UK falling behind other EU nations on tackling child mortality. Without committing to raising the profile of the Goals, the government risks falling behind even further.”

As well as the social benefits offered by the SDGs, the wide-ranging targets for sustainable development could offer economic value across the globe.

Earlier this year, the Business & Sustainable Development Commission, a group of leaders from the business, finance, civil society worlds and international organisations that was formed at last year’s World Economic Forum, published research stating that sustainable business models could open up economic opportunities worth $12 trillion (£9.8 trillion) and create up to 380 million jobs by 2030.

It points to the SDGs as the heart of a movement to build a sustainable market economy and argues that the 17 objectives can provide the private sector with a ‘new growth strategy that opens valuable market opportunities while creating a world that is both sustainable and inclusive’.

“At a time when our economic model is pushing the limits of our planetary boundaries and condemning many to a future without hope, the Sustainable Development Goals offer us a way out”, said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, and a commissioner of the group.

The EAC’s report on the government’s approach to the Sustainable Development Goals can be found in Resource’s previous news story.

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