This report comes at a critical time for Europe. The new President and Commission have already committed to a European Green Deal to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. They have further pledged to place the SDGs at the centre of the European Semester – the Union’s framework for the coordination of economic policies across member states. Indeed, in their mission letters each new Commissioner is asked to ensure “the delivery of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals within their policy area. The College as a whole will be responsible for the overall implementation of the Goals.”
European countries lead globally on the SDGs, but none are on track to achieve the Goals by 2030. According to the global 2019 SDG Index prepared by the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), all ten countries closest to achieving the SDGs are in Europe, a truly remarkable performance in the international perspective. Yet, as the EU SDG Index and Dashboards show, no European country is on track towards achieving the goals.
The EU and its member states face the greatest challenges on goals related to climate, biodiversity, and circular economy, as well as in strengthening the convergence in living standards, across countries and regions. In particular, countries need to accelerate progress towards climate change (SDG 13), sustainable consumption and production (SDG 12), protection and conservation of biodiversity (SDGs 14 and 15), and sustainable agriculture and food systems (SDG 2). Many countries are falling back on “leave no one behind”, so the EU’s SDG strategy must place emphasis on strengthening social inclusion for all people living in its territory. Education and innovation capacities must be improved to raise living standards in poorer member states and accelerate the convergence in living standards.
European countries also generate large, negative spillovers that impede other countries’ ability to achieve the SDGs. Such spillovers comprise environmental spillovers (such as greenhouse gas emissions or biodiversity loss embodied in trade), financial and governance spillovers (such as banking secrecy), and security spillovers (such as weapons exports). The EU’s SDG strategy must identify and address negative international spillovers.
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The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) has been operating since 2012 under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General. SDSN mobilizes global scientific and technological expertise to promote practical solutions for sustainable development, including the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (UNCCD) is a Convention to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought through national action programs that incorporate long-term strategies supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements.