Saturday, 23 January 2021

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EU makes mixed progress on SDG goals ahead of UN High-level Political Forum, Eurostat report finds

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The European Union has made mixed progress towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a Eurostat monitoring report has found.

Examining sustainable development in the EU over the past five years, the report was released ahead of the seventh session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF 2019) which takes place from July 9 to July 18 in New York.

The high-level forum, which falls under the theme “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality", will examine progress on six of the UN’s SDGs:

  • SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • SDG 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • SDG 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
  • SDG 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  • SDG 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  • SDG 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development


Eurostat’s report paints a mixed picture of the EU’s advancements on the above goals, finding the 28-nation bloc has made good progress in improving the lives of its citizens but, in areas such as climate change, the continent is no longer on track to meet its 2020 energy consumption targets and is facing declining biodiversity.

SDG4: ‘Quality Education’

On SDG 4, ‘quality education’, significant progress has been made in the EU towards increasing participation in basic and tertiary education, with 95.4 % of young children in early childhood education. Progress in adult learning, however, has been much slower, and the number of underachievers in reading, maths and science has increased. In 2015, for example, 19.7% of 15-year-old pupils in the EU showed insufficient reading skills.

SDG8: ‘Decent work & economic growth’

For ‘decent work & economic growth’, SDG 8, the EU has seen steady improvements thanks to growth in real GDP per capita as well as continued increases in employment. In 2018, 73.2% of 20 to 64-year-olds were employed in the EU, but the report found more women than men are economically inactive and there had been a rise in in-work poverty.

SDG10: ‘Reduced inequalities’

Work remains to be done on ‘reduced inequalities’, SDG 10, with an increased income gap between the rich and poor in 2017 compared to 2012. The income of the richest 20% of the households in the EU was 5.1 times higher than that of the poorest 20% in 2017.

SDG13: ‘Climate action’

On climate action, SDG 13, progress was found in areas such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which were down 15.4% between 2002 and 2017. In other areas, developments have worsened. The EU’s increase in the share of renewable energies has slowed down, and Europe’s mean surface temperature for the decade 2009–2018 increased by 1.61–1.71 °C compared with pre- industrial levels.

SDG 16: ‘Peace, justice and strong institutions’

Life has become safer in the EU over the past few years, indicators show for SDG 16: peace, justice and strong institutions. Homicides have decreased and government expenditure on law courts has increased, with 51 billion euros spent across the EU in 2017. However, overall trends for this goal cannot be calculated due to insufficient data.

SDG 17: ‘Global partnerships’

On global partnerships, SDG 17, the report found the EU has made progress but the bloc needs to ensure its own financial stability and good financial governance in order to help others advance their economies. Shares of environmental taxes, for example, have fallen since the early 2000s, and public debts have increased.

Overall, the report found that while the EU made progress towards almost all of the 17 SDGs, advancement in some goals has been faster than in others, and within goals, movement away from the sustainable development objectives also occurred.

At next week’s HLPF 2019, 47 countries will present their national voluntary views to the forum. From Europe, Croatia, Iceland and the United Kingdom will be among those taking part.



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