UNEP Report Finds “Good Progress” on 23% of Environment-related SDG Indicators
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The report finds “good progress” for 23% of the 93 environment-related SDG indicators, insufficient data to assess progress for 68%, and limited likelihood that the target will be met without increased action for 9%.

More than 30% of the environment-related SDGs indicators still lack an agreed methodology.

SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production) is characterized by the least data availability and funding, and the lowest priority in countries’ Voluntary National Reviews and SDG prioritization processes.

March 2019: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has published a report analyzing progress for 93 environment-related SDG indicators. The report finds that “good progress” has been made for 23% of these indicators, and that it is “likely” that these targets will be met if the current trends persist. However, it warns that, for the other 77% of the environment-related indicators, there is either insufficient data to assess progress (68%) or it is unlikely that the target will be met without increased action (9%).

The report titled, ‘Measuring Progress: Towards Achieving the Environmental Dimension of the SDGs,’ which supplements the sixth report in the Global Environmental Outlook series (GEO-6), analyzes progress made on the environment-related indicators by the SDG and by the region. It notes that more than 30% of the environment-related SDGs indicators still lack an agreed methodology.

The report states that much of the progress made is due to policy changes, improved reporting and increased funding efforts. It cites progress on putting in place policy, financial, and institutional processes that support achievement of the environmental dimension of sustainable development. Specifically, it mentions efforts to improve environment-related mechanisms on, inter alia, investment in water and sanitation (SDG target 6.a), financial assistance to least developed countries (LDCs) (SDG target 11.c), and marine and terrestrial protected areas (SDG targets 14.5, 15.1 and 15.2). Progress was also made on, inter alia: renewable energy (SDG target 7.2); sustainability reporting and mainstreaming in policy; and development assistance for climate change and the environment. Progress in addressing environment-related mortality (SDG target 3.9) were due to improvements in health care systems.

However, mixed progress was reported on improving access to environmental resources and reducing the impacts of environmental degradation on human health and food, as well as on reducing the impacts of environmental degradation, climate change and disasters on people (SDG targets 1.5, 11.5 and 13.1). Regarding all the SDG targets related to the state of the environment, such as biodiversity, ecosystem health, and the concentration of pollution and waste in the environment, either no data exist or no progress was made. Some indicators even showed a negative trend, particularly those related to forest area (SDG 15.1), sustainable fisheries (SDG target 14.4) and endangered species (SDG target 15.5).

Much of the progress made is due to policy changes, improved reporting and increased funding efforts.

The report warns that other indicators without adequate data to assess progress are likely facing a negative trend since they receive less attention in terms of policy interventions and investment in monitoring. These include indicators related to: land degradation and land use (SDG targets 15.3 and 11.3); coastal eutrophication, marine litter and ocean acidification (SDG targets 14.1 and 14.3); water quality and water stress (SDG targets 6.3 and 6.4); and mountains (SDG target 15.4).

On targets related to achieving sustainable consumption and production (SCP), material footprint and domestic material consumption (SDG targets 8.4 and 12.2) continue to rise, with varying degrees of progress on indicators on reducing carbon emissions from infrastructure (SDG target 9.4), reducing fossil fuels subsidies (SDG target 12.c) and promoting renewable energy (SDG target 7.2). The report explains that many SCP-related indicators lack sufficient data, including those on water efficiency (SDG target 6.4), management and generation of waste and hazardous waste (SDG targets 11.6 and 12.4), food waste (SDG target 12.3) and corporate sustainability reporting (SDG target 12.6).

The report explains that SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production) has the least data availability and funding, and countries have accorded it the lowest priority in their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) and SDG prioritization processes.

The report highlights insufficient data and statistics for measuring the environmental dimension of development, with only enough information available to assess global progress for less than 40% of the environment-related indicators. It also notes limited information on the gender-environment nexus.

According to the publication, there is also insufficient information for geospatial analysis, which makes it difficult to understand the challenges facing ecosystems or the relationships between the environment and people. The report explains that 17 environment-related SDGs indicators would require geospatial data, including those related to land tenure and ownership (SDG indicator 1.4.2 and 5.a.1), sustainable agriculture (SDG indicator 2.4.1), water quality (SDG indicator 6.3.2), access to public transportation (SDG indicator 11.2.1), land consumption (SDG indicator 11.3.1), public land in cities (SDG indicator 11.7.1), and marine and terrestrial protected areas (SDG indicators 14.5.1, 15.1.2 and 15.4.1).

In light of these findings, the report recommends:

  • scaling up actions to reduce pollution, improve resource efficiency and better protect the environment to achieve the SDGs;
  • scaling up support for environmental monitoring and analysis;
  • prioritizing the development of SDG indicator methodologies;
  • investing in national statistical systems and building national capacity for environmental monitoring;
  • promoting integrated analysis of the environment and of policy interactions, including reducing data fragmentation and increasing data sharing; and
  • improving SDG follow-up, review and implementation through the use of regional, sub-regional and country-level mechanisms.

The report notes the potential of pollutant release and transfer registers (PRTRs) to facilitate implementation given that, inter alia, many regional and national PRTR databases can be used to improve the review of SDG implementation related to pollution releases. [Publication: Measuring Progress: Towards Achieving the Environmental Dimension of the SDGs] [Report Landing Page]

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