Report: EU set to miss all 17 Sustainable Development Goals

Almost every nation within the EU is failing to deliver the amount of progress needed for the bloc to meet any of the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a "major" lack of progress recorded against SDG 13, Climate Action.

The report is the latest in a string of publications highlighting national and business-level challenges in aligning with the SDGs 

The report is the latest in a string of publications highlighting national and business-level challenges in aligning with the SDGs 

That is according to a damning new report from the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP).

The report measures the “distance” between each EU member state’s current position on environmental and social issues covered by the SDGs and the framework’s targets for 2030. It then analyses existing national policy frameworks and business commitments to estimate how rapidly each nation is likely to progress on each Global Goal in the coming decade.

While emphasising that many European nations are global leaders on SDG progress – with  Denmark, Sweden and Finland among the world’s closest to achieving the Goals – the report concludes that no EU nation is on track to achieve all 17 Goals by 2030, meaning the bloc is likely to miss all of their overarching ambitions.

Goals where bloc-wide progress has been broadly slow include SDG 13, Climate Action; SDG 14, Life on Land; SDG 15, Life Below Water; and SDG 12, Responsible Consumption and Production. The EU nations ranked as the most off-track to delivering on these ambitions, and the others detailed in the SDG framework, are Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus.

The UK, meanwhile, ranked 12th out of a possible 28th. According to the report, “major challenges” remain in the UK’s ability to meet SDGs 12, 13, 14 and 15, with national progress having decreased in the past year. Indeed, the only Global Goal which the UK is on track to meet and where progress has increased quickly in recent months is stated to be SDG 9, Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.

Policy overhaul

In order for the EU’s SDG progress to be put on track, the report recommends that the EU and its member states undertake a series of policy “transformations”, aimed at addressing not only the bloc’s negative SDG impacts on a domestic basis, but also its “spillovers” – the ways in which it is hampering progress in other nations through the impact of sectors such as international transport and sourcing goods such as seafood and forestry products.

Its overarching call to action is for a European Green New Deal including measures to completely decarbonise energy by 2050, transform land use and food systems in line with the Paris Agreement and make the circular economy a reality.

European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen recently said she wanted the Green New Deal to become her Administration’s “hallmark”. Her draft version of the policy, which is due to be enshrined in law within the first 100 days of the new Commission,  includes boosting the EU’s 2030 emissions target from a 40% reduction to 50% and setting a 2050 net-zero target.

Other recommendations from the IEEP and SDSN include more investment in low-carbon power and transport infrastructure; further funding for education and innovation; and policies preventing member states from creating negative environmental and social impacts overseas.

Ultimately, the two bodies believe the EU must place the SDGs at the centre of its diplomatic, development, and collaborative work in order to deliver joined-up progress.

"By creating a new, inclusive low carbon circular industry and agriculture, Europe can show the world that it is possible to preserve economic prosperity, while at the same time reducing inequalities and protecting the natural resources that we all depend on for our health and nutrition," the IEEP’s executive director Celine Charveriat said.

Sarah George



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