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Article

How Is Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals Measured? Comparing Four Approaches for the EU

1
Sustainable Development Solutions Network, 75009 Paris, France
2
SDG Index & Dashboards, Bertelsmann Stiftung, 10117 Berlin, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2020, 12(18), 7675; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12187675
Received: 3 August 2020 / Revised: 10 September 2020 / Accepted: 11 September 2020 / Published: 17 September 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Scientific Research on Sustainable Development Goals)
Evidence-based policymaking must be rooted in sound data to inform policy priorities, budget allocations, and tracking of progress. This is especially true in the case of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as they provide the policy framework that all 193 UN member states have pledged to achieve by 2030. Good data and clear metrics are critical for each country to take stock of where it stands, devise pathways for achieving the goals, and track progress. Current assessments of the EU’s performance on the SDGs, however, tend to reach different findings and policy conclusions on where the priorities for further action lie, which can be confusing for researchers and policymakers. In order to demystify the drivers of such differences and make them transparent, this paper compares and contrasts the results obtained by four SDG monitoring approaches. We identify three main elements that are responsible for most of the differences: (i) the use of pre-defined targets for calculating baseline assessments and countries’ trajectories; (ii) the inclusion of measures that track not only domestic performance, but also the EU’s transboundary impacts on the rest of the world; and (iii) the use of non-official statistics to bridge data gaps, especially for biodiversity goals. This paper concludes that there is not one “correct” way of providing an assessment of whether the EU and EU member states are on track to achieve the goals, but we illustrate how the different results are the outcomes of certain methodological choices. More “forward-looking” policy trackers are needed to assess implementation efforts on key SDG transformations. View Full-Text
Keywords: Sustainable Development Goals; Agenda 2030; European Union; statistics; international spillovers; transboundary impacts; policy trackers Sustainable Development Goals; Agenda 2030; European Union; statistics; international spillovers; transboundary impacts; policy trackers
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MDPI and ACS Style

Lafortune, G.; Fuller, G.; Schmidt-Traub, G.; Kroll, C. How Is Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals Measured? Comparing Four Approaches for the EU. Sustainability 2020, 12, 7675. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12187675

AMA Style

Lafortune G, Fuller G, Schmidt-Traub G, Kroll C. How Is Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals Measured? Comparing Four Approaches for the EU. Sustainability. 2020; 12(18):7675. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12187675

Chicago/Turabian Style

Lafortune, Guillaume, Grayson Fuller, Guido Schmidt-Traub, and Christian Kroll. 2020. "How Is Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals Measured? Comparing Four Approaches for the EU" Sustainability 12, no. 18: 7675. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12187675

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