EU progress towards its Sustainable Development Goals

EU progress towards its Sustainable Development Goals - © United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable development is a fundamental objective of the EU, the aim of which is to achieve a better quality of life for present and future generations by integrating immediate and longer-term objectives, local and global action, and by promoting social, economic and environmental issues as interdependent components of human progress.

Sustainable development is a shared responsibility of the EU, the Member States and all stakeholders. The EU is acting as a frontrunner in mainstreaming the sustainable development goals into EU policies and initiatives. The EU is committed to implementing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the international community and running to 2030 and, in this regard, has developed a reference indicator framework for keeping track of progress in a systematic and transparent way. Accordingly, an overview of where the EU and its Member States stand towards the SDGs can be found in the Eurostat publications (e.g. “Sustainable development in the European Union — Monitoring report on progress towards the SDGs in an EU context – 2018 edition”).

Overall, the EU made progress in relation to most of the 17 SDGs over the past five years. In particular, the EU has made the greatest progress towards achieving SDG 3 “good health and well-being”, SDG 4 “quality education” and SDG 7 “affordable and clean energy”.

The EU made some moderate progress in relation to achieving 8 SDGs: SDG 1 “no poverty”, SDG 5 “gender equality”, SDG 8 “decent work and economic growth”, SDG 11 “sustainable cities and communities”, SDG 12 “responsible consumption and production”, SDG 17 “partnership for the goals”, and, to a minor extent, SDG 2 “zero hunger”, SDG 15 “life on land” and SDG 9 “industry, innovation and infrastructure”. By contrast, unsustainable trends remain with regard to SDG 10 “reduced inequalities” and in the case of other goals – SDG 6 “clean water and sanitation”, SDG 14 “life below water” and SDG 16 “peace, justice and strong institutions” – trends cannot be calculated due to insufficient data over the past five years.

In addition, the lack of progress with regard to SDG 13 “climate action” requires urgent action: significant efforts are needed to curb and adapt to climate change and the shift to a sustainable low-carbon society requires a stronger focus now.


Alberton EUreka! Eurac research blogs European electionsPhD in Law and Economics (University of Siena), Mariachiara is Senior Researcher in Environmental Law at the Institute for Comparative Federalism, Eurac Research. Her research focuses on multilevel governance of the environment, water law, public participation in environmental decision-making, climate change, renewable energies and sustainable development.


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