Europe remains 'fully committed' to delivering on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), although progress on areas such as climate action and clean energy remain slow, new data from Eurostat has found.
Eurostat's fifth annual monitoring report on SDG progress in Europe, European Union — Monitoring report on progress towards the SDGs in an EU context (2021 edition), has found that over a five-year period, the EU has made strong headway towards some goals, particularly access to justice and trust in institutions (SDG 16).
Good progress was also visible in reducing poverty and social exclusion (SDG 1) and in improving the EU’s health situation (SDG 3); however Eurostat added that the indicators in this instance run up to 2019, and therefore do not include the COVID-19 period.
With regard to some SDGs, COVID-19 has 'markedly' affected progress – for example, in the area of the economy and the labour market (SDG 8), the crisis has interrupted the continuous improvement observed since 2013.
Similar signs of deterioration have been seen 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); all as a result of the pandemic.
Progress on Climate Action (SDG 13) remains more or less neutral, Eurostat said, with positive trends in terms of climate mitigation negatively affected by intensifying climate impacts across the continent.
'While the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions intensity of energy consumption has continued to improve, further progress will be required to meet the current target of raising the share of renewable energies to 32% by 2030,' said Eurostat.
It is worth noting, however, that the assessment of progress towards the greenhouse gas emissions reduction target is based on past progress and not on projections of future emissions based on planned legislation and policy measures.
In terms of affordable and clean energy (SDG 7) and 'life on land' (SDG 15), there has been a regression against the stated SDG objectives; in the case of SDG 7, this is largely due to increased energy consumption across the EU in the period from 2014 to 2019, and does not reflect the reduction in energy usage last year due to the pandemic.
Regression on SDG 15, however 'shows that ecosystems and biodiversity remain under pressure from human activities', Eurostat said.
European Green Deal
Commenting on the report, Paolo Gentiloni, European Commissioner with responsibility for the economy and Eurostat, said that the European Green Deal represents a "decisive part of the answer" to the climate crisis, and will serve to make the EU economy a sustainable one.
"It is our roadmap for turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities across all policy areas and making the transition just and inclusive for all," he said.
"The fact that in the middle of the pandemic the EU has agreed on the much more ambitious greenhouse gas emission target of 55% reduction by 2030 shows the EU’s determination to use climate action as an opportunity for economic recovery."
He added that the SDGs will continue to provide the "umbrella for all EU policies and for investing EU funds" over the remainder of the decade, adding that sustainable development is now an intrinsic part of the bloc's policymaking and economic coordination processes.
The report also included a breakdown of how well each Member State is performing against the SDGs, with progress shown as an aggregate score of the short-term (five-year) growth rates for all of the indicators assessed for each goal. You can find that here.
Elsewhere, London-based creative agency Don't Panic has put together an explainer on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which you can find here.
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