Intense political debate on the future of EU spending continues apace ahead of the Commission’s May deadline for publishing a proposal for the next seven years of EU finances.

And this week – on World Happiness Day – a host of academic institutions, a diverse range of civil society groups, and a number of businesses and trade unions called on the Commission to underpin the next seven-year budget with funding that serves people’s wellbeing.

Recommendations from the advisory group on the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) called for sustainable development to be incorporated into the EU’s funding priorities and decision making mechanisms in its next budget.

The Sustainable Development Goals were adopted in 2015 and global leaders have committed to achieving them by 2030. The 17 SDGs include 169 targets covering areas such as climate action, environmental protection, and reducing inequality and poverty.

As a member of the special advisory group, Patrizia Heidegger, Director for Global Policies and Sustainability at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said:

The new EU budget must strengthen the EU’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 – which global leaders committed to in 2015 in order to end poverty and protect the planet. While the EU has a plan to achieve the SDGS – its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – so far not enough action has been taken to make it a reality. Europe simply can’t afford a budget full of contradictory investments and wasteful spending.

One of the calls from the group was for more funding for the EU’s only dedicated environment fund – the LIFE programme.

EEB Secretary General Jeremy Wates said:

It’s not just environmentalists who are vocal about the need to support environmental protection under the next EU budget. Now, academic institutions, a number of businesses, trade unions, and social and development groups have also called for a boost to the only direct source of EU environmental and climate funding: the LIFE programme. LIFE is money well spent with predictions showing that the scheme will have created around 74,500 jobs over seven years. And it is estimated that projects funded in 2014 will produce a benefit to society of some €1.7 billion – more than four times the overall LIFE budget for that year.

The Commission’s budget proposal is expected on 2 May.