Eurostat Finds Modest Forward Progress on SDGs in Past 5 Years
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The 2020 report on SDG progress in the EU shows each member country’s progress towards each of the 17 SDGs, and provides visual tools to compare a country against the worst and best performers.

The EU’s greatest progress has been achieved in the area of SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), while it has had slow or no progress in the Goals addressing environmental sustainability.

EU Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni highlighted that the EU has moved away from its objectives on SDG 5 (gender equality).

The EU’s statistical office has released its 2020 report on progress towards the SDGs in the region, reflecting trends over the past five years. For the first time, the report includes the status of each country’s progress towards each SDG and visual tools to compare a country against the worst and best performers.

The report titled, ‘Sustainable development in the European Union – Overview of progress towards the SDGs in an EU context (2020 edition),’ was released on 22 June 2020. It is the fourth of Eurostat’s regular reports monitoring progress towards the SDGs in an EU context. The report aims to inform UN Member States ahead of the July 2020 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

The SDGs are being integrated into the EU’s economic policy coordination framework with its new leitmotiv of competitive sustainability.

The analysis in the report is based on the EU’s set of 100 indicators for the SDGs, which was developed in 2017, in cooperation with stakeholders. The indicators are reviewed annually to account for new data sources and new EU priorities.

The authors of the report note that the 2020 assessment is not fully comparable with previous editions, due to changes in indicators for some Goals, and because the EU no longer includes the UK. On two SDGs – Goal 6 (clean water and sanitation) and Goal 14 (life below water) – data were insufficient to calculate EU trends.

As noted by European Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni, the report is based on data from before the COVID-19 pandemic, and “next year will have different findings.”

The 2020 report features a meter graphic to indicate overall movement towards or away from each SDG. Color-coded arrows provide detail at the target level.

In remarks on 22 June, Gentiloni said the EU’s greatest progress has been achieved in the area of SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), followed by SDGs 1 (no poverty) and 3 (good health and wellbeing). Eurostat notes that advances on those Goals have helped to increase the quality of life in cities and communities, strengthening SDG 11.

The publication also reports improvement in the “viability and sustainability” of agriculture in the EU (SDG 2 on zero hunger), but that some environmental impacts of agriculture have intensified.

Gentiloni highlighted particular challenges in the area of SDGs 13 (climate action). The report shows that the EU has had slow or no progress in the Goals addressing environmental sustainability; progress has partly stalled on climate and energy (SDG 7) targets as well as the shift to a circular economy (SDG 12), and this increases pressures on ecosystems and biodiversity (SDG 15), the authors note.

Gentiloni also reported that the EU has “unfortunately moved away” from its objectives on SDG 5 (gender equality).

Gentiloni highlighted some country-specific trends that emerge in the report, noting that Latvia and Romania are “catching up” with the rest of the region in many areas. Luxembourg and Sweden are moving away from SDG achievement in areas such as poverty and inequality.

On the broader context of the report, Gentiloni explained that in 2020 the SDGs are being integrated into the EU’s economic policy coordination framework “with its new leitmotiv of competitive sustainability.” He said the European Green Deal – which sets out plans for a “modern, resource-efficient, competitive economy where climate and environmental challenges are addressed and turned into opportunities, while making the transition just and inclusive for all” – is at the heart of the region’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. He added that the region’s SDG progress in the past five years puts countries in a better position to face the health and economic crisis brought by the pandemic.

Eurostat released a digital publication titled ‘SDGs & me’ and a “light version” or  to accompany the full report. [Eurostat webpage on monitoring SDGs] [Publication: Sustainable development in the European Union – Overview of progress towards the SDGs in an EU context] [Key Findings


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