Implementing sustainability in the EU: mid-term progress

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Last five years’ analysis of the sustainable development goals implementation in the European Union has shown remarkable progress in progressive socio-economic growth. However, the member states have to continue addressing structural challenges and maintaining the EU-wide commitment to the green and digital transition. In this regard, sustainability goals remain the national governance’s vital compass in national priorities.   

     The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by the United Nations in September 2015, have given a new impetus to global efforts towards achieving sustainable growth. The EU has been since fully committed to delivering on the 2030 Agenda and its implementation, as outlined in some of the most important Commission’s initiatives, such as “the green deal” and a comprehensive analysis of the EU efforts in delivering on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Latest monitoring report by the statistical office of the European Union (Eurostat) is devoted to analysis of the EU-wide sustainable development providing a statistical overview of the mid-term progress towards SDGs implementation. This report – seventh in a series of annual monitoring analysis launched by Eurostat in 2017 – is published together with the European Semester Spring Package, in order to increase its relevance for the EU guidance in decision-making and integrating SDGs with the European Semester. The Eurosta-2023 report provides a vivid picture of EU’s collective efforts towards achievement of the EU-wide medium-term goals with all the reliable data to track progress.
The report shows that the EU has made progress towards most goals over the last five years, in line with Commission’s priorities in key policy areas such as the mentioned green deal, the eighth EU Environment Action Program and the European Pillar of Social Rights’ action plan. The Eurostat data has shown the EU-wide progress towards many socio-economic goals, while more progress is expected in the environmental sectors as the EU member states proceed with the implementation of the green deal and the rest of SDGs.
Source: Commission press-release (24.05.2023) in:

Main report’s key findings
As the report shows, over the last five years,rthe EU member states have made significant progress towards three SDGs and moderate progress toward most others. In particular:
= First, significant progress: it was reached in the SDG 8: i.e. ensuring decent work and economic growth; in 2022, the EU’s employment rate reached a new record high of 74.6 %, while the EU’s long-term unemployment rate fell to a new record low.
Second SDG in significant progress category was made towards the goals of reducing poverty (SDG 1) and improving gender equality (SDG 5). The share of people overburdened by their housing costs has fallen since 2015 and women’s hourly earnings are catching up with those of men.
= In the moderate progress category, good progress towards reducing inequalities (SDG 10), ensuring quality education (SDG 4), and fostering peace and personal security within the EU’s territory and improving access to justice and trust in institutions (SDG 16). The income gaps between the richer and the poorer population groups narrowed and the EU is well on track to meet its target of a share of 45% of the population with tertiary studies. Life in the EU has become safer over the past years, as deaths due to homicide or assault and the perceived occurrence of crime, violence and vandalism in European neighborhoods have fallen considerably.
Moreover, the EU has seen positive progress towards the goals of health and well-being (SDG 3) despite the setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and on innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9).
Among moderately favourable achievements, there are trends in the areas of responsible consumption and production (SDG 12), sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), life below water (SDG 14), zero hunger (SDG 2), clean water and sanitation (SDG 6) and affordable and clean energy (SDG 7).
= As to the so-called expected progress, three goals are mentioned: climate action (SDG 13), life on land (SDG 15) and global partnerships (SDG 17); in this area the EU states are set to implement the higher level of ambition in the environmental targets. Thus, regarding climate action (SDG 13), the EU has set very ambitious and unparalleled climate targets for 2030 and, as compared to past trends, they will require more efforts. The EU has already put in place the policy measures to deliver these additional efforts, notably through ‘Fit for 55′ package, with a revision of the EU emissions trading system (so-called ETS), and the Effort Sharing Regulation that sets binding annual greenhouse gas emissions targets for the states.
In the area of energy, the EU has also set more ambitious targets for 2030. This implies that stronger progress is expected to be visible in the coming years in the area of energy efficiency and renewable energies in the EU, as well.
Concerning life on land (SDG 15), even though terrestrial protected areas have increased since 2013, the EU continues to face steady declines in common bird and grassland butterfly populations.
Additional efforts needed to reverse the degradation of ecosystems are envisaged in the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy, in the EU forest strategy for 2030 launched in 2023and in the EU Soil Strategy: the latter sets a 2030 objective on restoring degraded land and soil and combating desertification.
Finally, regarding partnerships for the goals (SDG 17), the trend partially reflects cyclical effects and notably the increase in public debt resulting from recent pandemic crisis.
References and source (24.05.2023) in:

     Additional information in the following Commission’s websites: = Sustainable development in the European Union – monitoring report on progress towards the SDGs in an EU context, 2023 edition; = Sustainable development in the European Union – Statistical annex to the EU voluntary review, 2023 edition; = Interactive publication “SDGs & me”; = Visualisation tool “SDG country overview”; = Statistics: explained articles on sustainable development in the EU; = Thematic section on the EU sustainable development indicators; = Database on the EU sustainable development indicators; and = Communication from the Commission: “Next steps for a sustainable European future – European action for sustainability”.


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