How has the EU progressed towards the Sustainable Development Goals?

The von der Leyen Commission has made sustainability an overriding political priority for its mandate. All Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) feature in one or more of the six headline ambitions for Europe, announced in the Political Guidelines, 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 European Union (EU) and the progress towards the goals agreed at UN level is regularly monitored and reported.

Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, issues today the publication “Sustainable development in the European Union — Monitoring report on progress towards the SDGs in an EU context – 2020 edition”. It provides a statistical overview of progress towards the SDGs in the EU.

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,

Significant progress towards the objectives for one SDG, 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 almost all of them over the past five years. Progress for some goals has been faster than for others. In addition, in specific areas within goals, the EU moved away from the sustainable development objectives. These trends are described in the thematic chapters on the individual SDGs in the monitoring report.

The EU made strong progress over the last 5 years towards the overall achievement of SDG 16 ‘Peace, justice and strong institutions’.

Good progress, albeit considerably slower, was visible for SDG 1 ‘No poverty’ and SDG 3 ‘Good health and well-being’, followed by SDG 2 ‘Zero hunger’ and SDG 8 ‘Decent work and economic growth’.

For eight SDGs, the EU made overall moderate progress over the past five years. Such moderate trends are visible for SDG 11 ‘Sustainable cities and communities’, SDG 4 ‘Quality education’, SDG 17 ‘Partnership for the goals’, SDG 12 ‘Responsible consumption and production’, SDG 7 ‘Affordable and clean energy’, SDG 10 ‘Reduced inequalities, SDG 15 ‘Life on land’ and SDG 9 ‘Industry, innovation and infrastructure’.

For SDG 13 ‘Climate action’, there was no progress over the last five years, while for SDG 5 ‘Gender equality’  the EU has moved away from sustainable development objectives.

In the case of two goals – SDG 6 ‘Clean water and sanitation’ and SDG 14 ‘Life below water’– overall trends cannot be calculated due to insufficient data over the past five years.

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