Written by Eric Pichon (updated on 07.07.2023).
In 2015, the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to be attained by 2030. Unlike their antecedents, the SDGs commit both developed and developing countries, and embrace the economic, environmental and social aspects of development. The SDGs and the broader 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, of which they form the core, are based on findings that human activities have triggered dramatic changes in the conditions on Earth (climate change and biodiversity loss), which in turn have contributed to the deterioration of human wellbeing. To reverse the trend, there was an urgent need to simultaneously address the multiple causes and consequences of environmental depletion and social inequalities. To this end, it is necessary to develop synergies between the SDGs and manage the trade-offs between them.
Challenges in pursuing the SDGs include the fact that countries do not necessarily have an equal starting point and, even more importantly, that regardless of their stage of development, they can no longer afford to apply the current development model, where production and consumption happen at the expense of natural resources. According to many observers, this model creates unsolvable tensions between SDGs, notably between the safeguarding of natural resources and the aspirations for improved wellbeing. Halfway to the 2030 deadline, progress towards the SDGs is insufficient or, in some cases, has even gone into reverse. The structural transformation that would bring about the needed acceleration requires a joint push by the international community, but an equally strong one by individuals and public or private legal persons. The European Union was a leader in drafting the SDGs; it is also a frontrunner in mainstreaming the SDGs in all its policies. At the high level political forum on sustainable development coming up in July 2023, the EU will present a detailed review of its achievements and plans for each SDG. The European Parliament regularly assesses the EU commitments on achieving the SDGs.
This further updates an earlier briefing; the first edition of which, by Marta Latek and Eric Pichon, was published in December 2019.
Read the complete briefing on ‘Understanding the Sustainable Development Goals‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.
Listen to policy podcast ‘Understanding SDGs: The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals‘ on YouTube.