What progress has been made towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in the EU? All EU’s policies — like the transition to a climate-neutral and resource-efficient economy — work to help us achieve these goals. As of this year, progress made by EU countries towards the goals is integrated in the European Semester. Overall, the EU has made progress towards almost all these goals over the past five years.*
As we battle the dramatic repercussions of the pandemic, let’s not lose sight of global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss and growing social and economic inequality. Implementing policies to reach the global goals is the roadmap to a better world and Europe must be at the forefront of that journey.
Showing the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals in the EU, the report is European Commission’s latest contribution to the debate on the shape of Europe and our world in 2030 and beyond, and on the action we must take to get there:
The figure shows a statistical summary of EU progress towards the SDGs over the most recent five years of available data, based on the average scores of the indicators selected for monitoring these goals in an EU context.
Over this five-year period, the EU made progress towards almost all goals. Progress in some goals has been faster than in others, and movement away from the sustainable development objectives occurred in specific areas of a number of goals.
For two goals — SDG 13 ‘Climate action’ and SDG 5 ‘Gender equality’ — the aggregation of the individual indicator trends shows stagnation or a moderate movement away of the EU from the respective SD objectives over the past five years.
As the figure shows, the EU has made strong progress towards fostering peace and personal security, access to justice as well as trust in institutions (SDG 16) over the past five years. Progress towards the other goals was markedly slower.
Out of the remaining goals, good progress over the past five years was visible in reducing certain aspects of poverty (SDG 1) and in improving the health situation of the EU population (SDG 3). The advances in these areas have also helped to increase the quality of life in cities and communities (SDG 11). These favourable trends can be seen against the background of continued improvement of the EU’s economic situation up to 2019, which was also reflected in the labour market (SDG 8). Improvements were also visible in the viability and sustainability of the EU’s agriculture sector (SDG 2), although some of its environmental impacts have further intensified.
In contrast, the figure shows that goals dealing with environmental aspects of sustainability are positioned at the other end of the spectrum, indicating overall slow or no EU progress over the past few years. Progress towards the EU’s climate and energy targets (SDG 7 and SDG 13) as well as the shift towards a circular economy (SDG 12) have slowed to varying degrees. Meanwhile, ecosystems and biodiversity (SDG 15) remain under pressure from human activities. The goals on education (SDG 4), innovation (SDG 9) and global partnerships (SDG 17) show an equally slow overall EU progress, which is a result of mixed trends during the past five years. The slow progress towards reducing inequalities (SDG 10) reflects a growing divide between EU nationals and non-EU citizens in relation to poverty and employment.
Similarly, in relation to gender equality (SDG 5), the gap between men and women in acquiring education and on the labour market has been widening. Since SDG 5 shows more unfavourable than favourable trends for the EU, the aggregate past five-year progress has been moderately unsustainable. In the case of two goals — SDG 6 ‘clean water and sanitation’ and SDG 14 ‘life below water’ — overall EU trends cannot be calculated due to insufficient data for the past five years.
A more detailed description of individual indicator trends can be found in the 17 thematic chapters of the report.
*The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have negative implications for the EU’s overall progress towards the SDGs ( 6 ). However, the 2020 SDG monitoring report only describes the situation in the EU and its Member States up to the year 2019 at the most, the year before COVID-19 containment measures were widely introduced by EU Member States. As a consequence, first findings of any COVID-19 related implications will only be possible in the 2021 edition of the report, with the full scale of the crisis being revealed in later editions only.