16 May 2017
ICSU Report Identifies SDG Synergies, Conflicts
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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The International Council for Science has presented a tool to promote policy coherence on the SDGs, which identifies conflicts and synergies across the SDGs.

The report features detailed analysis of SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy) and SDG 14 (life below water).

12 May 2017: The International Council for Science (ICSU) released a report that examines the interactions among Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to evaluate both synergies and conflicts. The publication rests on the premise that a science-informed analysis of interactions across the SDGs can increase policy coherence and promote effective decision-making and follow-up and monitoring of progress, to ensure long-lasting sustainable development outcomes.

The report, titled ‘A Guide to SDG Interactions: from Science to Implementation,’ identifies and scores 316 interactions among the Goals and targets, on a scale of -3 (for fundamentally conflicting) to +3 (for very reinforcing). The results identify 238 positive interactions, 66 negative interactions and 12 neutral interactions. The authors find that there are no fundamentally incompatible targets, which would make it impossible to achieve another.

The report features detailed analysis of SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy) and SDG 14 (life below water), all of which are found to be mostly synergistic with the other SDGs. One of the most synergistic relationships, it finds, exists among ensuring access to modern energy for all, combatting climate change, and decreasing death and illness from pollution.

On oceans, the report stresses the role of healthy, productive and resilient oceans and coasts in SDG 1 (no poverty) by enabling poverty alleviation, environmentally sustainable economic growth and human well-being. However, it notes that achieving SDG 14 could limit access to resources and ecosystem services to alleviate poverty. The authors argue that, in order to achieve SDG 14 without compromising achievement of other SDGs, protection and restoration measures must be balanced with sustainable marine resource exploitation as well as strengthening the current ocean governance framework.

As for conflicts and tradeoffs between SDGs, the report notes that achieving food for all could impact efforts to conserve and restore ecosystems, if the efforts entail agricultural practices that limit the availability of clean water and renewable energy, and that lead to deforestation and land degradation, which in turn would jeopardize long-term food security. “A careful balance is needed between initiatives to achieve these goals,” writes ICSU.

The report recommends four policy recommendations to identify and manage SDG interactions to inform planning and implementation. These recommendations are: systematically identifying the interactions between and among the 17 SDGs to inform priority-setting; mapping existing institutions and actors to assess strengths and weaknesses of status quo for delivering the SDGs; enacting changing to enable horizontal management of SDGs; and applying an integrated perspective to monitoring, evaluation and review. For the scientific community, the report suggests actions focused on: continuing to grow the scientific evidence base; applying a systems approach; embedding interactions in monitoring and review; and strengthening the science-policy interface.

The report is being launched at the Second Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the SDGs (STI Forum), taking place in New York, US, from 15-16 May 2017. [ICSU Press Release] [Publication Page] [Publication: A Guide to SDG Interactions: from Science to Implementation] [Executive Summary] [ENB Coverage of STI Forum]

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