Eurostat issued on June 15, 2021 the publication “Sustainable development in the European Union — Monitoring report on progress towards the SDGs in an EU context – 2021 edition”. It provides a statistical overview of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the EU.
The von der Leyen Commission has made sustainability an overriding political priority for its mandate. All SDGs feature in one or more of the six Commission priorities, making all Commission work streams, policies and strategies conducive to achieving the SDGs. In December 2019, the Commission presented ‘The European Green Deal’, the new EU growth strategy, aiming to transform the Union into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where climate and environmental challenges are addressed and turned into opportunities, while making the transition just and inclusive for all.
Sustainable development aims to achieve a continuous improvement in citizens’ quality of life and well-being, without compromising the well-being of future generations. This involves the pursuit of economic progress, while safeguarding the natural environment and promoting social justice. For these reasons, sustainable development is a fundamental and overarching objective of the EU and the progress towards the goals agreed at UN level is regularly monitored and reported.
Eurostat is also publishing a range of materials complementing the monitoring report:
- for a quick overview: a short brochure providing a visual summary of the monitoring report’s main findings,
- to play with: the interactive visualisation tools for a selected choice of the EU SDG indicators in the 2021 edition of the digital publication “SDGs & me” that helps the reader to focus on the issues that are of interest to them and to compare their country with others; and a new visualisation tool “SDG country scores” to see where their country stands compared to the EU average,
- to focus on individual goals: the series of Statistics Explained articles, everything under one roof: Eurostat website section on Sustainable Development Goals.
Significant progress towards the objectives for three SDGs, and good or moderate progress for most others over the past 5-year period
Overall, based on the indicators selected to monitor the SDGs in an EU context, the EU made progress towards most goals over the past five years. Progress in some goals was faster than in others, and movement away from the sustainable development objectives occurred in specific areas of a number of goals as well as for two goals overall. These trends are described in the thematic chapters on the individual SDGs in the monitoring report. Not all indicators are already using 2020 data, which means that the findings presented here sometimes refer to the situation before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The EU made most progress over the last 5 years towards the overall achievement of SDG 16 ‘Peace, justice and strong institutions’.
Significant progress was also visible in reducing poverty and social exclusion (SDG 1) and in improving the EU’s health situation (SDG 3). However, due to the time lag of the respective indicators, the assessment of the two goals on poverty (SDG 1) and health (SDG 3) still refers to the period up to 2019 and therefore does not yet reflect the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The assessment of the remaining goals to some extent already takes into account the pandemic, with COVID-19 markedly slowing the reported average progress. In the area of the economy and the labour market (SDG 8), the COVID-19 crisis has interrupted the continuous improvement observed since 2013. Similar impacts can be observed in the areas of education (SDG 4), gender equality (SDG 5), other inequalities (SDG 10) as well as global partnerships and means of implementation (SDG 17), where 2020 data show a clear deterioration for individual indicators.
Moderate progress is visible for sustainable cities (SDG 11), consumption and production (SDG 12), sustainable agriculture (SDG 2) and R&D and innovation (SDG 9). For these goals 2020 data are not yet available, therefore their assessment reflects the period before the onset of the pandemic.
On the basis of the current set of indicators, the overall assessment of SDG 13 ‘Climate action’ remains more or less neutral. Positive trends are visible for climate mitigation (e.g. the growing share of renewable energy) and support to climate action (e.g. growing financial support to developing countries). The assessment is negatively affected by the intensifying climate impacts such as rising mean temperatures. It is also based on past progress and not on projections of future emissions based on planned or adopted legislation and policy measures. With the recent agreement on the European Climate Law, the existing EU climate and energy legislation will be revised.
Two goals — SDG 7 ‘Affordable and clean energy’ and SDG 15 ‘Life on land’ overall show a slight movement away of the EU from the respective Sustainable Development objectives. In the case of SDG 7, this overall slightly negative assessment is due to increases in the EU’s energy consumption in the period from 2014 to 2019 and thus does not yet reflect the — at least temporary — reductions expected for 2020. The assessment of SDG 15 shows that ecosystems and biodiversity remain under pressure from human activities.
For two further goals — SDG 6 ‘Clean water and sanitation’ and SDG 14 ‘Life below water’ — overall EU trends cannot be calculated due to a lack of sufficient data for the past five years.
In the monitoring report, indicator trends are assessed over two periods (when data availability allows): the short term, accounting for developments over the past five years, and the long term, looking at the trends over the last 15 years, to reflect the 15-year scope of the 2030 Agenda. To provide a snapshot of overall development for each SDG, a synopsis presents a summary at goal level, while thematic chapters, one for each of the 17 SDGs, provide a detailed assessment of each related indicator.
The 2021 edition of the monitoring report contains a new chapter on cross-cutting issues, addressing topics that affect several or all SDGs and that cannot be analysed from the perspective of a single goal. These topics are: (1) the COVID-19 pandemic and how it impacted the EU’s progress towards the SDGs, (2) an analysis of the interlinkages (synergies and trade-offs) that exist between the SDGs at EU level, and (3) the development of experimental indicators for estimating positive and negative impacts of consumption in the EU on other parts of the world (‘spillovers’) in relation to achieving the 2030 Agenda.
An additional chapter presents a graphical overview of the current status and the short term progress towards the 17 SDGs for each of the 27 EU Member States.
For more information:
- Eurostat publication of 2021 edition of monitoring report: “Sustainable development in the European Union — Monitoring report on progress towards the SDGs in the an EU context – 2021 edition“
- Eurostat brochure: “Sustainable development in the European Union. Overview of progress towards the SDGs in an EU context“
- Eurostat digital publication “SDGs & me“
- Eurostat visualisation tool “SDG country scores”
- Eurostat set of Statistics Explained articles on Sustainable development in the EU
- Eurostat website section dedicated to the EU Sustainable development indicators
- Eurostat database on the EU Sustainable development indicators
- Communication from the Commission: “Next steps for a sustainable European future – European action for sustainability“
- Commission Reflection paper: “Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030”
- European Commission Priorities for 2019-2024
- The European Green Deal
- UN webpage dedicated to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development