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Source: Small Island Developing States

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) launched the 2020 edition of the Europe Sustainable Development Report (ESDR). The ESDR 2020 provides an updated SDG Index and Dashboards for European countries, reports on spillover effects on other countries, and makes recommendations for strengthening SDG implementation and the European Green Deal.

The ESDR 2020 is the second report on the SDG progress of the EU, its member states, and other European countries. The report is part of a broader series of Sustainable Development Reports tracking the performances of countries and municipalities around the world on the SDGs. The 2020 ESDR examines six policy levers and tools for implementing SDG transformations in the EU:

  1. A New European Industrial and Innovation Strategy for the SDGs;
  2. An investment plan and financing strategy aligned with the SDGs;
  3. Coherent national and EU SDG policies;
  4. Coordinated Green Deal and SDG Diplomacy;
  5. Regulations on business standards and reporting; and
  6. SDG monitoring and reporting framework.

The report finds that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, “no European country was on track to achieve all 17 SDGs by 2030.” The region faces the greatest challenges on sustainable agriculture and diets (SDG 2), climate (SDG 13), biodiversity (15), and in addressing inequalities in living standards across its countries and regions (SDGs 1 and 10). The authors report that unsustainable diets, high and rising obesity rates, and unsustainable agriculture and farming practices are contributing to the EU and partner countries “performing especially poorly” on SDG 2.

The Nordic countries again performed the best on the SDG Index. Finland placed the highest, with a score of 81.10. Other countries in the top five are: Sweden (81.02), Denmark (80.05), Austria (77.35), and Norway (77.03). Even these countries face challenges on several SDGs. Finland, for instance, received red scores (classified as “major challenges remain”) on SDG 2, SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), and SDG 13. Sweden scored red on SDG 14 (life below water) and SDG 15.

The report features a leave no one behind score that tracks four dimensions of inequality: poverty, services, gender, and income. Countries with a higher score have fewer population groups that are being left behind. Norway (87.03), Finland (86.69), and Iceland (84.23) placed the highest. Greece (57.82), Bulgaria (47.97), and Romania (47.74) ranked the lowest.

On COVID-19, the report observes that suppressing the virus remains an urgent priority for the EU. The EU has recorded more cases and deaths from COVID-19 than the Asia-Pacific region. The authors underscore the need to strengthen the EU’s preparedness, coordination, and resilience for pandemics in order to achieve SDG target 3.d on preparedness for global health security issues, and to prepare for climate-related and other risks. The report further recommends using the SDGs as a framework to build back better and investing in green infrastructure, digitization, and responsible consumption and production, combined with efforts and investments to boost education and skills throughout Europe and coordinated efforts to reform tax systems, particularly digital taxes.

The report highlights the potential of the Next Generation EU-COVID-19 recovery package and the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF 2021-2027) to put Europe on a path towards sustainable, inclusive, and resilient recovery. SDSN Executive Director Guido Schmidt-Traub called on the EU to “provide global leadership on the goals.” He said the EU has the tools in place to achieve the SDGs internally, but they “must be more clearly organized around the six transformations.” In addition the EU must be prepared to “promote SDG and Green Deal diplomacy ahead of the climate and biodiversity COPs in 2021.”

The report includes the 2020 International Spillover report, which shows how unsustainable supply chains and trade-related spillovers from the EU have “serious environmental, social and economic consequences for the rest of the world.” For example, unsustainable supply chains lead to deforestation and increased biodiversity threats, hindering global progress on SDGs 13 and 15. EU imports of clothing, textile, and leather products are linked with 37 fatal workplace accidents and 21,000 non-fatal accidents per year. The report recommends that the EU address negative international spillovers by reducing trade in waste, enacting coherent trade and external policies, strengthening tax cooperation and transparency, and applying EU standards to exports.

The German Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, and the European Network of Political Foundations provided support for the report. SDSN and IEEP produced the report in collaboration with the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), SDSN Germany, and national and regional SDSN networks in Europe. [SDSN press release] [Report landing page] 

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