Waste Management, Resilience Targets Best Promote SDG Progress in Europe: SEI-EEA Study
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The report on the SDGs and the environment in the EU finds that eight environmental targets collectively promote progress on all the other SDGs.

The authors find that SDG targets 13.1 (strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related disasters) and 12.4 ((responsible management of chemicals and waste) have the strongest synergistic potential for SDG progress.

The report was commissioned by the European Environment Agency and published by the Stockholm Environment Institute in October 2019.

The Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) has released the results of a study assessing the influence of environmental SDG targets on other SDGs. The study, which was undertaken at the EU level, finds that many more “promoting” than “restricting” interactions exist between the SDGs, and some of the environmental targets are important promoters of progress towards other targets and Goals.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) commissioned the study, with the results released on 29 October 2019, in the SEI report titled, ‘SDGs and the Environment in the EU: A Systems View to Improve Coherence.’ Written by Nina Weitz, Henrik Carlsen, Kristian Skånberg, Adis Dzebo and Vincent Viaud, the study is based on the SDG Synergies approach, a semi-quantitative approach developed by SEI researchers.

The report finds that in the EU, the two environmental targets that seem to have the strongest synergistic potential for SDG progress are: SDG target 13.1 (strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related disasters); and SDG target 12.4 (responsible management of chemicals and waste). While SDG target 13.1 could restrict progress on SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), it would promote progress on other Goals and targets, particularly SDG target 14.2 (sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems), and SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions).

The authors also note that progress on four SDGs – Goal 8 (decent work and economic growth), Goal 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), Goal 10 (reduced inequalities) and Goal 11 (sustainable cities and communities) – could make it more difficult to achieve SDG target 12.4.

The study finds eight environment-related targets that collectively promote progress on all the other SDGs, to varying degrees. In addition to the SDG targets noted above, these are:

  • SDG target 12.2 (sustainable management and use of natural resources);
  • SDG target 13.2 (integrate climate change measures into policies and planning);
  • SDG target 14.4 (sustainable fishing);
  • SDG target 15.1 (conserve and restore terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems); and
  • SDG target 15.5 (protect biodiversity and natural habitats).

However, the collective influence of the eight targets could also be “restrictive” on seven Goals: SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG 8, SDG 9, SDG 10 and SDG 11.

The authors of the report point to several previous studies exploring the integrated nature of the SDGs. Per the 2030 Agenda, the SDGs and their targets are integrated and indivisible, and provide balanced representation of the three dimensions of sustainable development. The 2030 Agenda also notes the “crucial importance” of the interlinkages and integrated nature of the SDGs to ensure the Agenda’s realization. [Publication: SDGs and the Environment in the EU: A Systems View to Improve Coherence]

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