Next Article in Journal
Development of Models for Prompt Responses from Natural Disasters
Previous Article in Journal
Urban Form as a Technological Driver of Carbon Dioxide Emission: A Structural Human Ecology Analysis of Onroad and Residential Sectors in the Conterminous U.S.
Font Type:
Arial Georgia Verdana
Font Size:
Aa Aa Aa
Line Spacing:
Column Width:

Enabling Integrated Policymaking with the Sustainable Development Goals: An Application to Ireland

School of Politics and International Relations and UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy, University College Dublin, D04 V1W8 Dublin, Ireland
Visiting Researcher, Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Association, New York, NY 10115, USA
Sustainability 2020, 12(18), 7800;
Submission received: 31 August 2020 / Revised: 18 September 2020 / Accepted: 18 September 2020 / Published: 21 September 2020


This article addresses policy coherence for sustainable development demonstrating the important role that dashboards of interlinked indicators can play as tools to coordinate interrelated government ministries for integrated policymaking at national level. Specifically, a monitoring and coordination tool is proposed based on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) indicators and mappings of SDG responsibilities across ministries. Drawing on studies in sustainability science of SDG interlinkages, the article presents a five-step procedure that government departments can use to construct indicator sets from official SDG indicators to support integrated policymaking for a specific sector. I apply the method to Ireland’s marine sector. Ireland is an interesting case because although many countries report mapping SDG responsibilities across ministries, Ireland’s Voluntary National Review explicitly maps these responsibilities for all 17 SDGs and 169 targets. Using performance gap analysis, concrete recommendations are developed for the lead department of the marine along three dimensions: which departments to cooperate with, on what policy areas discussions should focus, and how Ireland performs in each area compared to a selection of peer countries. In particular, the article recommends cooperation with nine other departments on fifteen policy issues. Relative to peers, Ireland is ranked amongst sustainability “leaders” on three of these issues and amongst “laggards” on nine issues. The proposed procedure, which has wide application (to other countries and sectors) as a starting point for integrated policymaking, can help to raise awareness among policymakers of outcomes in linked policy areas and enable dialogue between ministries on coherent policies to address interrelated gaps in sustainability.

1. Introduction

In official documents, guideline reports, and academic literature, policy makers are called to implement sustainable development in a coherent way [1,2,3,4,5,6]. In addition to aligning national policies with international commitments, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and promoting policy coordination across countries, policy coherence also requires balancing economic, social, and environmental effects of different policies within a country [2,3]. However, the integration of policies across sectors or line ministries (i.e., so called “horizontal policy integration” [3]) is complicated, not least, because governments are not effectively organized to deal with interactions between different policy areas [3,5,6,7,8,9,10,11].
To assist with integrated policymaking, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) offer a broad framework of 17 SDGs and 169 targets covering a wide range of interlinked economic, social, and environmental objectives [1]. Responsibility for implementation is typically divided among ministries who specialize in and prioritize different areas [4,7,12,13]. For example, according to Ireland’s SDG National Implementation Plan 2018–2020, which sets out responsibilities for achieving SDG targets across multiple government departments [14] (p. 34–56), the Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government has primary responsibility for Target 14.1—reducing marine pollution, yet, studies of SDG14 interactions with other Goals show reductions in marine pollution can positively impact livelihoods (SDG1), nutrition (SDG2), and wellbeing (SDG3), whereas agricultural intensification (SDG2) may negatively affect marine health, and wastewater treatment (SDG6) can have a moderating effect, among other interactions [15]. Despite the clear connections, responsibility for these other Goals rests with Departments of Employment and Social Protection, Health, and Agriculture, Food, and Marine.
To enable integrated policymaking, the main approach put forth in the SDG literature and policy debate is to enhance cooperation and coordination among ministries in related policy areas [7,16,17]. For instance, nexus approaches proposed by sustainability scientists seek to use network analysis to identify clusters of highly interlinked targets and propose inter-ministry collaborations for enhancement of policy coherence within clusters [7,8,17]. However, identification of appropriate clusters is technically challenging, context sensitive, and studies do not emphasize how implementation should be organized [6,16]. An alternative systemic approach proposed in the expert literature focuses on identifying targets with broad co-impacts and groups these targets by systems, such as sustainable land-use, oceans, and food systems, assigning to each system an inter-ministry collaboration for coherent implementation of “systemic” targets, e.g., ministries of agriculture, environment, fisheries, and marine resources, forestry, water, and natural resources [16,18,19]. While these approaches have yet to make significant inroads in policy [20,21], taken together, the Voluntary National Reviews display widespread recognition of the need for “whole-of-government” implementation. This recognition has motivated establishment of institutions for inter-departmental coordination; yet, their effectiveness is difficult to assess and there is a risk that current institutions may perpetuate siloed approaches which have been met with limited success in the past [4,12,13,22]. For instance, Glass and Newig [22] use regression analysis to test the impact of different types of governance arrangements on SDG achievement. They did not find strong evidence that current institutions for policy coherence at national level are important for SDG achievement.
A frequently overlooked problem with the cooperative approach is the role that narrow Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) systems can play in restricting integration. In practice, the coordination problem is often compounded by contemporary management practices that assess performance based on sector-specific considerations, typically outputs rather than outcomes, such as meeting report deadlines and small sets of siloed monitoring indicators [23]. Incorporating indicators in related policy areas in ministerial M&E systems could raise awareness among policy makers of outcomes in connected policy areas and restructure incentives for integrated policies. Such an approach would help to broaden the ministry’s objectives by integrating at least to some extent the objectives of ministries in linked policy areas. For example, if poverty reduction and tackling marine pollution are interlinked and each objective is ascribed some priority by respective ministries responsible for Marine and Social Protection, then a negative outcome or trend in one or both policy areas could signal the need to integrate aspects of anti-poverty policy in marine policy and vice versa, helping to ground discussions of possible solutions therein.
The aim of this article is to propose an SDG-based monitoring tool that policymakers can use in the policy preparation stage to coordinate with other ministries for integrated policymaking in support of SDG implementation. To capture interactions with other policy areas and ministries, the article uses a recently developed procedure for indicator selection of Horan [24] that is based on scientific studies of interlinkages with other SDGs [15,25,26,27], and extends this methodology to include ministries’ SDG responsibilities. Aided by the practice of mapping SDG responsibilities across government [12,13], each selected indicator is assigned a corresponding lead government ministry. Focusing for illustrative purposes on Ireland’s marine sector and its international commitments to SDG14, the article uses performance gap analysis to develop specific proposals to coordinate government departments along three dimensions: which departments need to cooperate, on what policy areas discussions should focus, and how Ireland performs in each area compared to a selection of peer countries.
It is widely acknowledged in the literature on sustainability indices that indicators can act as useful communication (and coordination) devices between different groups, helping to raise the salience of different issues, identify performance gaps, and mobilize efforts [28,29,30,31,32]. Regardless of their many shortcomings, indicators are a way to bring data (and as argued in this article, knowledge of interlinkages) into policy discussions [31,33,34]. This potential communicative function and “framing role” of indicators can operate between scientists, voters, and decision makers, or between policymakers in different ministries of national governments [28,31,35,36]. However, in contrast to voters and decision makers, e.g., politicians, who tend to require simple communicative messages and headline indices to identify priorities for action, policymakers tend to require more structured and detailed information to design effective policies, analyze alternatives, and achieve desired outcomes [36]. It is at this policy preparation stage that the framing role of indicators is considered most prominent, helping to identify and bring problems to the agenda as well as frame issues in new ways [31,34,37].
This article’s main contribution to the literature on policy coherence for the SDGs is to present a simple framework for translating knowledge of SDG interdependencies and government departments’ SDG responsibilities into practical proposals useful for coherent policymaking. While much research has focused on assessing interlinkages between SDGs [9,17,38,39,40] much less attention has been devoted to developing approaches that use these interlinkages to foster policy coherence [21]. Most existing studies on this issue tend to focus on the problem’s complexity and the institutional arrangements and challenges for integration [3,5,6,17,21,22,41,42]. This article demonstrates by way of an example the important role that indicators in interlinked policy areas can play as cross-sectoral coordination devices. In addition, similar to recent proposals to embed the SDGs (and their indicators) in budgetary and planning processes at state level [43,44,45,46], this article suggests that embedding the proposed indicator tool in ministry’s M&E systems could help to incentivize integrated policymaking, particularly in the policy preparation stage.

2. Method and Data

2.1. The Method Developed for Selecting Indicators and Assigning Responsibilities

For this study, Ireland was chosen because although countries generally report to have mapped SDG responsibilities across ministries in Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) submitted to the UN High-level Political Forum [12,13], Ireland’s VNR makes this division of responsibilities explicit for all 169 SDG targets [47] (pp. 224–290) [14] (pp. 34–56). (UN database of country VNRs is available at In addition, Ireland’s historic low valuation of its marine resources [48] and recent interest in developing these resources through marine planning [49,50] makes it an interesting case for using the SDGs as a framework to identify priorities for integrating marine policymaking. SDG14 is also interesting because among SDGs, it is one of the most interlinked with other goals and several recent studies map out in detail its interactions with other goals and targets [15,27,51].
In general, to develop indicator sets for bridging silos, it is important to have a systematic and transparent procedure for indicator selection. Without procedurally well-designed conceptual indicator selection, SDG assessments may be ambiguous and confusing [28]. Such a procedure also helps to reduce the temptation some ministries may have to handpick indicators that portray performance in a favourable light [31,36]. Adapting the method for indicator selection outlined in Horan [24] to include government departments’ SDG responsibilities, the five main steps are:
  • Define the focal SDG targets and government departments of interest.
  • Choose a method for assessing progress.
  • Identify the main first-degree interlinkages using a study of SDG linkages.
  • Select focal and linkage indicators from official SDG indicator sets.
  • Identify for each indicator the government’s lead department.
Step 1: Define the focal SDG targets and government departments of interest. To start, a particular country, policy area, and set of (focal) SDG targets and government departments relevant to that policy area need to be defined. This article focuses on Ireland’s marine policy and four SDG14 targets for which data is available: tackling marine pollution (Target 14.1), sustainable fishing (Target 14.4), protection of marine areas (Target 14.5), and raising economic benefits from maritime sectors (Target 14.7). In Ireland, responsibility for these targets is divided among three government departments [14,47]. The Department of Housing Planning and Local Government (DHPLG) has primary responsibility for conservation-related targets 14.1 and 14.5. On the other hand, fisheries targets fall within the remit of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (Target 14.4), and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Target 14.7). Among these departments, DHPLG is Ireland’s lead department for marine planning. (Since 2018, in line with SDG14.2 and EU Directives on ocean governance, DHPLG is leading preparation of a new National Marine Planning Framework. To coordinate the plan-making process, an Interdepartmental Group has been established, chaired by DHPLG, including high-level representatives of government departments. A draft consultation report was recently published [50].)
Step 2: Choose a method for assessing progress on individual targets. Several different methods can be applied to assess progress, e.g., baseline, trend, and/or cross-country assessments. [52,53,54]. Each method has its own strengths, limitations, and data requirements [4,52]. Single country studies allow for richer datasets better tuned to national specificities; however, setting target values can be challenging and for transparency, national-level official indicator sets should be developed through an expert-driven consultative process [52]. In contrast, cross-country studies restrict assessment to internationally comparable data; however, data is often readily available [55,56,57] and international benchmarking greatly facilitates target-value setting [18]. As a starting point, this paper conducts a baseline assessment of Ireland’s progress on SDG14. At a basic level, baseline assessments compare an observed value for an indicator against a target or benchmark value established through science, international agreement, or averages of top performers [32,52,58,59]. To assess whether Ireland acts as leader or laggard on particular targets, the article also compares Ireland’s baseline to that of a carefully selected group of four peer countries.
Step 3: Identify the main first-degree interlinkages based on a study of SDG linkages. The next step is the identification of interlinkages between the focal SDG targets and other Goals and targets. To ensure systematic identification, this step should use an existing study of SDG linkages (e.g., [15]) or apply methods from these studies, such as reviewing scientific literature and organizing expert consultations [7]. There is a growing literature that maps out interactions for specific SDGs [15,24,27,51,52,60,61,62,63,64]. Like most of these studies, the results of the analysis of linkages should be summarized in input-output tables, a cross-matrix, or network with the direction of influence clearly indicated. Such tables, matrices, or networks are useful to keep track of multiple interactions and facilitates selection of indicators in the next step.
Based on the International Council for Science (ICSU) [15] analysis of SDG14 linkages, results of first-degree interlinkages are presented in Table 1 and these results are described in [24]. This article focuses on first-order interactions since in a fully networked approach to national policy, second-order interactions are the primary responsibility of related ministries.
Step 4: Select focal and linkage indicators from official SDG indicator sets. The monitoring tool is developed based on finding a good set of socio-economic and environmental SDG indicators satisfying the following criteria:
  • Relevancy to focal targets: select the best available indicator(s) relevant to the focal SDG targets, termed focal indicators.
  • Relevancy to linkages: select the best available indicator(s) relevant to the targets identified in the analysis of linkages with the focal targets, termed linkage indicators.
  • Coverage of official SDG indicators: to ensure transparency and adherence to global guidelines on indicator selection.
  • Be limited in number: the indicators should be limited in number to be an effective tool that can easily support monitoring and evaluation.
Ideally in practice, the indicator set should be developed by national statistical offices in consultation with independent experts using only official indicators and studies of SDG linkages relevant to the context under consideration. Indicator selection from official indicator sets is a transparent way to ensure selected indicators meets global guidelines on measurability, relevancy, comparability (if required), methodological soundness, outcome-focused, and ease of communication and access [1].
Step 5: For each selected indicator, identify the government’s lead department. The fifth step assigns SDG responsibilities. For each selected indicator, this involves identification of the lead department for implementation of the SDG target related to that indicator. Ideally, the departmental SDG responsibilities should be approved by the government.
Since this article is the first to propose this approach, Table 2 presents the indicator set of Horan [24] for the four SDG14 targets based on steps 1–4. The rationale for selecting these indicators can be found in [24]. The article adds departmental SDG’s responsibilities outlined in Ireland’s SDG National Implementation Plan [14]. These responsibilities are reported in column 6 for each selected indicator. Indicators were selected from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s (SDSN’s) global indicator set which comprises both official and proxy indicators [18]. To close data gaps, where insufficient data is available for an official indicator, SDSN uses the most suitable available proxy indicator from official or unofficial sources. Data sources are reported in Column 8 and described in Sachs et al. [18].

2.2. Analysis and Data

The analysis was divided in two steps: first, an assessment of Ireland’s marine performance (ignoring linkages with other policy areas) and second, an integrated assessment of marine performance (that accounts for interlinkages). To organize selected indicators for the integrated assessment, indicators linked to marine performance were classified in three components (Table 2): pressures, impacts, and responses (PIR) based on causal chain frameworks proposed in Niemeijer and de Groot [25,26] adapted to the logic of SDG linkages [24].
Pressures refer to targets that potentially influence marine performance, e.g., poverty reduction can exacerbate marine pollution. Impacts refer to targets potentially influenced by marine performance, e.g., tackling marine pollution can impact health and well-being. On the other hand, responses refer to capacities of society to manage changes in marine performance, e.g., inclusive decision-making can improve marine protection effectiveness, ICT-use can enhance protection management, lower corruption may reduce overfishing, and marine education can enable sustainable fishing. It should be noted that in this approach some linkages are bi-directional and indicators representing those linkages are classified both as pressures and impacts.
Data was collected from SDSN’s Sustainable Development Report 2019 for the year 2018 (or most recent available). Analysis was based on two types of performance gaps. First, for each indicator, the sustainability gap is defined as the (normalized) distance between the indicator’s baseline value and its target value [18]. For the normalization, each indicator was rescaled as an ascending variable from 0 to 100 with 0 denoting worst performance and 100 describing the best performance (Equation (1)).
y = ( x a b a ) 100 ,
where y is the normalized value; x is the observed value; a is the “minimum” (i.e., worst) value, and b is the “maximum” (i.e., target) value. Target values (see Column 7 of Table 2) were defined according to methods proposed in the SDG Index and Dashboard Report [18,24,58]. Similarly, “worst” values were selected from SDSN’s dataset [18] and are reported in [24].
Following the SDG Dashboard, to help identify sustainability gaps, a visual representation in terms of “traffic light” colour scheme (green, yellow, orange, and red) was used to illustrate distance from particular targets. For clarity, Table 3 summarizes the colour coding and thresholds used:
Second, cross-country comparisons can shed light on whether a country acts as leader or laggard on particular sustainability gaps. Following Glass and Newig [22], this article speaks of considerable differences between countries when they differ in normalized values by more than 20 points. The challenge here is to determine how similar the countries are, i.e., how much of the difference reflects fundamental constraints on sustainability, such as differences in geography, technology, and institutions, [22], and how much reflects non-commitment to more sustainable policies in use elsewhere. For instance, Ireland and Iceland’s performance on renewable energy differs considerably, yet Iceland is not a good comparator for Ireland on this issue because of geographic differences in renewable resources, e.g., geothermal energy. If we could compare countries with similar fundamentals, we could say which country is laggard if its performance differs considerably from the maximal performance [65,66]. Because even similar countries differ in fundamental ways, I hypothesize which potential factors selected in this study–geographic location, level of development, population size, EU membership-might plausibly account for the difference before rating Ireland’s achievements.
In this study, four countries were selected for comparison with Ireland. To minimize fundamental differences, I have chosen the United Kingdom (UK), New Zealand, Iceland, and Japan as comparator island states. This selection includes only high-income island states belonging to OECD with well-developed fishery sectors. For each dimension discussed by Glass and Newig [22] (geographic location, wealth, population size, governance), I have selected one major indicator and specified thresholds described in Table 4. Despite similarities, Table 4 shows differences among selected countries in these variables that need to be accounted for to the extent these factors affect SDG achievements. Ireland is closest to UK, sharing similar geography, EU membership (in 2018), and western lifestyle, yet the countries differ in terms of population size. Ireland is furthest in this group from Japan with differences in governance regime, population size, and lifestyle.

3. Results

3.1. Sustainability Gaps

To identify priorities for action in Ireland, a useful representation of the country’s performance against each target is provided by the radar diagram (Figure 1), highlighting the country’s strong points and where efforts are needed. The data collected for each indicator has been normalized (Equation (1)) and used to produce a radar diagram in which, for each indicator, the higher the distance from the centre the higher the level of sustainability for that indicator.

3.1.1. Assessment of Marine Performance

In relation to marine performance, two target values correspond to science-based targets (marine pollution should be zero, 100% sustainable management of fisheries), one is internationally agreed (protected areas should cover 10% of EEZ), and the fourth is the average achievement of the top three performing OECD island states (economic benefits from fisheries should be $3500 per km2 of EEZ).
According to the radar diagram (top-left panel Figure 1), Ireland faces several challenges on marine performance. First, major challenges are evident on marine protection due to the country’s low amount of protected area, just 2.3% relative to the 10% globally agreed target. This translates to 31,565 km2 of missing protected area in its EEZ. In addition, there are significant challenges on marine pollution as indicated by the country’s clean water score of 61/100. Challenges remain on sustainable fishing and to a smaller extent on economic benefits from fisheries. While Ireland’s ocean productivity from fishing is high at $2700 in 2010 USD per km2 of EEZ, relative to a target of $3500, some room for improvement remains. Almost all fishing In Ireland is industrial (See Sea Around Us), and 21% of fish stocks are over exploited or collapsed, which points to a gap in sustainable fishing.

3.1.2. Integrated Assessment

To provide guidance on priorities for integrated marine policymaking, Figure 1 presents Ireland’s performance on pressures, impacts, and responses. While Ireland performs well on impacts, challenges remain on responses and there are significant challenges in relation to pressures.
As can be seen from the pressures radar diagram (top-right panel), Ireland has several sustainability gaps on potential marine pressures. Specifically, it faces major challenges on municipal waste and climate mitigation. Ireland generates high amounts of household waste (3.58 kg/per day/per capita, well above the target of 0.1) and energy-related CO2 emissions (7.8 tCO2/capita compared to the required zero emissions target). Ireland also faces major challenges on renewable energy: only 9% of total energy consumption comes from renewable sources compared to the 51.7% target. Significant challenges are evident on wastewater treatment and biodiversity threats, whereas challenges remain on quality infrastructure. Ireland’s anthropogenic wastewater treatment is low (44%) and imported biodiversity threats are 14.28 threats per million for a target of 0. Quality of infrastructure in Ireland is 3.29/5, considerably below 4.25 (the average of top performing countries, see [18]). Finally, challenges also remain on nitrogen use in agriculture.
Ireland performs well on most targets linked to impacts (bottom-left panel); however, the radar diagram clearly shows major challenges on obesity (25.3% of adult population are obese), and challenges remain on gender inequality (79% female-to-male labour force participation ratio), as well as income inequality (Gini coefficient is 32). Similarly, Ireland performs well on responses (bottom-right panel), such as education, internet usage, biodiversity protection, and press freedom, but significant challenges can be observed for inclusive decision-making (22.5% female representation in parliament) and public spending on health and education, a proxy for government’s commitment to sustainable development (8.4% of GDP, significantly below the target of 15% of GDP). Challenges also remain on innovation (1.45 journal articles per thousand population, considerably below the target of 2.2.) and corruption (corruption perception index is 73/100 compared to the target of 87/100).

3.2. Comparative Assessment

We can gain important insights into the nature of Ireland’s sustainability gaps that can contribute to a more effective SDG implementation in the future using radar diagrams to compare Ireland’s performance to selected peer island states—UK, Iceland, New Zealand (NZ), Japan (Figure 2).

3.2.1. Assessment of Marine Performance

According to the top-left panel of Figure 2, Ireland (2.3%), along with Iceland (0.4%), clearly lags behind its peers on marine protected areas. Both the UK (18.6%), New Zealand (29.7%), and Japan (7.2%) have considerably higher levels of marine protection. This difference in performance cannot be explained by geographic location, development status, population size, or EU governance. It suggests that for Ireland the 10% target for marine protection is achievable by the adoption of policies in leading nations, e.g., UK or NZ, and an achievable priority for DHPLG. On the other hand, Ireland appears at the frontier of sustainable fisheries (22%), with similar performance to the UK (20%) on this target, well ahead of Iceland (58%), NZ (38%), and Japan (73%), possibly owing to stricter EU regulations on fishing.
In terms of economic benefits from fisheries and marine pollution, the situation is more nuanced. First, Ireland (2716 US$ p. km2 of EEZ) outperforms NZ (378 $/km2) and Iceland (2006 $/km2) with respect to fisheries revenue generated per km2 of EEZ. However, the UK (3903 $/km2) and Japan (4197 $/km2) have stronger performances on this indicator and the difference is considerable. This suggests some potential room for improvement. One countervailing factor is Ireland’s population size which is much smaller compared to these countries and lack of scale economies may be constraining Ireland’s ability to realize further economic gains. Furthermore, it is worth noting that most fishing in Irish EEZ waters is undertaken by foreign fishing fleets from the EU. The lead department in Ireland for this target is DFAT, highlighting the importance of the international dimension of this target. Second, Ireland (61/100), like the UK (63), underperforms on clean waters relative to Iceland (79) and NZ (79). The difference is considerable, yet differences in geographic remoteness may account for a significant portion of the shortfall. On the other hand, the UK slightly outperforms Ireland on this indicator, despite Ireland’s slightly more remote location, suggesting some room for improvement on marine pollution, however the difference is not considerable and the sustainability gap common among selected countries suggests that generally, improving ocean health may require deeper, more fundamental changes to tackling marine pollution.
To summarize, the analysis suggests Ireland is clearly underperforming on marine protected areas, with considerable room for improvement. It is leading on sustainable fisheries, along with the UK. There may be some room for improvement on marine pollution and economic benefits from fisheries.

3.2.2. Integrated Assessment

We can similarly use radar diagrams to compare Ireland’s performance among peers on each target linked to marine performance to get a sense of whether Ireland is a leader or laggard on particular gaps and how much of the gap could be reduced by adoption of better practices implemented in peer countries.
According to Figure 2, it can be observed that while Ireland performs well against its peers on targets linked to impacts and responses, it underperforms on pressures. In terms of potential marine pressures (top-right panel), the diagram clearly shows Ireland as lagging on waste management. First, compared to the UK (98%) and New Zealand (70%), Ireland’s underperformance on wastewater treatment (44%) is considerable. Similarly, compared to Iceland (1.51), the UK (1.79), and Japan (1.79), Ireland (3.58), like New Zealand (3.57), considerably underperforms on household waste generation, and neither of these gaps can be plausibly attributed to Ireland’s size, development status, geographic location, or governance regime. A large performance gap can also be observed for renewable energy. In contrast to Iceland (77%) and NZ (30%), Ireland is similar to the UK and Japan with considerably lower shares of renewable energy in total energy consumption (8–9%). Some of this gap is attributable to geographic variation in renewable resources (e.g., geothermal, hydropower), however, we know from higher comparable shares in EU countries, this gap in sustainability also likely reflects Ireland’s (and the UK’s) underperformance relative to leaders (e.g., Denmark and Germany). Similarly, Ireland (3.29), like Iceland (3.19), appears as a laggard on quality infrastructure, with considerably lower performance to Japan (4.25), the UK (4), and NZ (3.99), though some of the gap may reflect lower population densities.
Compared to peers, Figure 2 shows Ireland underperforms on climate mitigation and biodiversity threats, however these gaps are not considerable, except compared to Japan’s 7.9 imported biodiversity threats per million population. Whereas Ireland may be considered among leaders on sustainable agriculture and urban air pollution (proxy for sustainable urbanization). Ireland is also seen as a leader on economic growth which may involve trade-offs with marine performance and negative spillovers on other countries [18].
In relation to impacts (bottom-left panel Figure 2), as mentioned, Ireland faces major challenges on obesity (25.3% of adult population). Figure 2 shows that relative to peers, e.g., the UK (27.8%), Iceland (21.9%), and NZ (30.8%), there is not a considerable difference in obesity rates, though all are laggards compared to Japan (4.3%). While Ireland underperforms on gender and income equality, these gaps are not considerable relative to peers. In terms of responses (bottom-right panel Figure 2), Ireland appears to lag on inclusive decision-making, science and technology, and public spending on sustainable development. Compared to Iceland and NZ, both with 38%, Ireland’s underperformance on female representation in parliament (22%) is considerable (proxy for inclusive decision-making), whereas compared to Iceland (1.96/1000 pop.), Ireland considerably underperforms on journal articles (1.46/1000 pop.). In addition, public spending on health and education, 8.4% of GDP (proxy for government investment in sustainable development) lags considerably behind all four (12–12.3% of GDP).

3.3. Recommendations for Integrated Marine Policy

To help with the identification of priorities for integrated marine policy, Figure 3 matches the results of the integrated assessment of marine performance with SDG responsibilities of government departments. It provides recommendations for DHPLG along three dimensions: which departments to cooperate with, on what policy areas discussions should focus, and how Ireland performs relative to peers.
The rows of Figure 3 list departments to engage and entries highlight policy areas for discussion with each department. Policy areas were identified based on the sustainability gap analysis and graded according to the traffic light system—yellow: challenges remain; orange: significant challenges; red: major challenges. Based on the comparative analysis, Ireland’s performance on each issue relative to peers is reported: leader (L), follower (F), not possible to say (N). Columns categorize each policy area according to four components: marine performance, pressures, impacts, and responses.
Of the sixteen government departments in Ireland, Figure 3 recommends DHPLG cooperate with nine other departments in fifteen policy areas. The greatest engagement is proposed with the Department of Communications, Climate Action, and Environment (DCCAE) (three areas), followed by Department of Agriculture, Food, and Marine (DAFM), Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation (DBEI), Department of Justice and Equality (DJE) and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) (all two areas), and Department of Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht (DCHG), Department of Finance (DFIN), Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and Department of Health (DoH) (all one area). The greatest number of issues for discussion arise on marine pressures (six issues), followed by responses (four issues) and impacts (three issues). There are two marine policy issues to discuss with DAFM (sustainable fisheries) and DFAT (economic benefits from fisheries).
As we can see from Figure 3, for example, in terms of pressures, it is recommended DHPLG cooperate with DCCAE in three policy areas—climate mitigation, renewable energy, and household waste. In each of these areas, Ireland faces major challenges in terms of sustainability and Ireland is also a laggard relative to peers. To take another example, DHPLG should cooperate with DAFM on two issues: sustainable fisheries and nutrient run-off from agriculture. On both issues, Ireland appears at the sustainability frontier and discussion should focus on remaining challenges to closing the sustainability gaps. For responses, it is recommended that the DHPLG address the remaining challenges with (1) the DFIN on public spending (noting Ireland’s laggard status here); (2) the DPER on inclusive decision-making; and 3) the DJE on reducing corruption.
In this way, Figure 3 offers a starting point for discussions between departments on how to achieve sustainable development in the marine sector. It summarizes connections between four types of information: (1) SDG responsibilities across departments; (2) interlinkages between SDGs; (3) sustainability gaps on specific targets; and (4) performance on each target relative to peers. The overall objective is to use this information, as far as possible, as a tool to bridge silos and integrate policies across sectors in a manner that helps to close sustainability gaps.

4. Conclusions

This article presented an SDG-based monitoring tool that ministries could use to coordinate with other ministries for integrated policymaking in specific policy areas. A systematic and transparent approach for construction of the indicator set and assignment of ministries responsibilities was presented based on studies of SDG linkages and mappings of SDG responsibilities across ministries, using a PIR framework to enhance the framing role of the monitoring tool. Its usefulness was demonstrated with application to Ireland’s marine sector and SDG14. Based on performance gap analysis, specific recommendations were developed for Ireland’s marine policy.
This monitoring and coordination tool offers a useful starting point for inter-ministry discussions on integrated policymaking. While the proposed tool does not provide disaggregated or local information, e.g., what is the poverty rate in coastal communities, or information apportioning change to policy interventions, such as the impact on nutrition of lower marine pollution, required for more detailed assessments of appropriate policies, as such, this tool should be seen as a compliment to existing national policy work. At present, Ministry reports tend to provide a wealth of information on distinct policy areas, such as wastewater treatment and disposal, low-carbon energy development. By helping to bring related ministries to the discussion table and highlighting interlinkages between policy areas, this tool can support the discussion of opportunities and challenges for coherent policymaking across sectors. To this end, the radar-diagrams, and recommendations act like signposts, directing conversations towards priorities for integrated policymaking, such as which ministries need to cooperate and on what areas policy discussions should focus.
Adoption of broader M&E systems in government can support the emergence of two-pronged organization within ministries in which some policymakers specialize in core policies (“specialists”) and others (“multi-disciplinarians”) specialize in assessing interlinkages with other ministries. A similar two-pronged organization has to some extent emerged in universities with interdisciplinary research institutes and in businesses with sustainability units. Two-pronged organization enabled by appropriate M&E may provide space within ministries to overcome siloed approaches especially if each prong receives appropriate levels of funding and is managed and incentivized in a way effective to its activities. It is hoped this article can contribute towards an “opening up” of government departments for sustainability.


This project received funding from the European Commission and Irish Research Council Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement 713279.


I wish to thank David Farrell, Emma Torres, Yanis Ben Amor, David O’Connor, Alainna Lynch, and three anonymous referees for valuable feedback on an earlier draft that helped to improve the paper.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.


  1. UN. Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 2015. Available online: (accessed on 10 June 2020).
  2. OECD. Better Policies for Sustainable Development 2016: A New Framework or Policy Coherence; OECD Publishing: Paris, France, 2016; p. 292. Available online: (accessed on 12 June 2020).
  3. UN. Working Together: Integration, Institutions and the Sustainable Development Goals; World Public Sector Report 2018; United Nations, Division for Public Institutions and Digital Government, Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs: New York, NY, USA, 2018; Available online: (accessed on 15 September 2020).
  4. Allen, C.; Metternicht, G.; Wiedmann, T. Initial progress in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): A review of evidence from countries. Sustain. Sci. 2018, 13, 1453–1467. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  5. Tosun, J.; Leininger, J. Governing the interlinkages between the Sustainable Development Goals: Approaches to attain policy integration. Glob. Chall. 2017, 1, 1700036. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  6. Smith, M.S.; Griggs, D.; Gaffney, O.; Ullah, F.; Reyers, B.; Kanie, N.; Stigson, B.; Shrivastava, P.; Leach, M.; O’Connell, D. Integration: The key to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. Sustain. Sci. 2016, 12, 911–919. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  7. Weitz, N.; Carlsen, H.; Nilsson, M.; Skånberg, K. Towards systemic and contextual priority setting for implementing the 2030 Agenda. Sustain. Sci. 2017, 13, 531–548. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed] [Green Version]
  8. Timko, J.; Le Billon, P.; Zerriffi, H.; Honey-Rosés, J.; De La Roche, I.; Gaston, C.; Sunderland, T.C.; Kozak, R.A. A policy nexus approach to forests and the SDGs: Tradeoffs and synergies. Curr. Opin. Environ. Sustain. 2018, 34, 7–12. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  9. Nilsson, M.; Griggs, D.; Visbeck, M. Policy: Map the interactions between Sustainable Development Goals. Nature 2016, 534, 320–322. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  10. IGES. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals: From Agenda to Action; Institute for Global Environmental Strategies: Kanagawa, Tokyo, Japan, 2016. [Google Scholar]
  11. Haas, P. When does power listen to truth? A constructivist approach to the policy process. J. Eur. Public Policy 2004, 11, 569–592. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  12. UNDESA. High-Level Political Forum 2019: Voluntary National Reviews Synthesis Report. Prepared by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Available online: (accessed on 20 March 2020).
  13. Kindornay, S. Progressing National SDG Implementation: An Independent Assessment of the Voluntary National Review Reports Submitted to the United Nations High-Level Political Forum in 2018; Canadian Council for International Co-operation: Ottawa, ON, Canada, 2019. [Google Scholar]
  14. DCCAE. The Sustainable Development Goals National Implementation Plan 2018–2020; Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment: Dublin, Ireland, 2018. Available online: (accessed on 25 March 2020).
  15. ICSU. A Guide to SDG Interactions: From Science to Implementation; International Council for Science: Paris, France, 2017. [Google Scholar]
  16. Sachs, J.D.; Schmidt-Traub, G.; Mazzucato, M.; Messner, D.; Nakicenovic, N.; Rockström, J. Six transformations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Nat. Sustain. 2019, 2, 805–814. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  17. Weitz, N.; Nilsson, M.; Davis, M. A nexus approach to the Post-2015 Agenda: Formulating integrated water, energy, and food SDGs. SAIS Rev. Int. Aff. 2014, 34, 37–50. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  18. Sachs, J.D.; Schmidt-Traub, G.; Kroll, C.; Lafortune, G.; Fuller, G. Sustainable Development Report 2019; Bertelsmann Stiftung and Sustainable Development Solutions Network: New York, NY, USA, 2019. [Google Scholar]
  19. UNDESA. The Future is Now—Science for Achieving Sustainable Development. Prepared by Independent Group of Scientists Appointed by the Secretary-General; Global Sustainable Development Report 2019; United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs: New York, NY, USA, 2019. [Google Scholar]
  20. TWI2050. Transformations to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Report Prepared by The World in 2050 Initiative; International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA): Laxenburg, Austria, 2018; Available online: (accessed on 10 April 2020).
  21. Breuer, A.; Janetschek, H.; Malerba, D. Translating Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) interdependencies into policy advice. Sustainability 2019, 11, 2092. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  22. Glass, L.-M.; Newig, J. Governance for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals: How important are participation, policy coherence, reflexivity, adaptation and democratic institutions? Earth Syst. Gov. 2019, 2, 100031. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  23. IIED. From Monitoring Goals to Systems-Informed Evaluation: Insights from SDG14. International Institute for Environment and Development, Policy Brief. 2019. Available online: (accessed on 20 March 2020).
  24. Horan, D. National Baselines for integrated implementation of an environmental Sustainable Development Goal assessed in a new integrated SDG index. Sustainability 2020, 12, 6955. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  25. Niemeijer, D.; De Groot, R.S. A conceptual framework for selecting environmental indicator sets. Ecol. Indic. 2008, 8, 14–25. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  26. Niemeijer, D.; De Groot, R.S. Framing environmental indicators: Moving from causal chains to causal networks. Environ. Dev. Sustain. 2006, 10, 89–106. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  27. Singh, G.G.; Cisneros-Montemayor, A.M.; Swartz, W.; Cheung, W.; Guy, J.A.; Kenny, T.-A.; McOwen, C.; Asch, R.; Geffert, J.L.; Wabnitz, C.C.; et al. A rapid assessment of co-benefits and trade-offs among Sustainable Development Goals. Mar. Policy 2018, 93, 223–231. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  28. Janoušková, S.; Hak, T.; Moldan, B. Global SDGs assessments: Helping or confusing indicators? Sustainability 2018, 10, 1540. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  29. Newig, J.; Schulz, D.; Fischer, D.; Hetze, K.; Laws, N.; Lüdecke, G.; Rieckmann, M. Communication regarding sustainability: Conceptual perspectives and exploration of societal subsystems. Sustainability 2013, 5, 2976–2990. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  30. Dahl, A.L. Achievements and gaps in indicators for sustainability. Ecol. Indic. 2012, 17, 14–19. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  31. de Sherbinin, A.; Reuben, A.; Levy, M.A.; Johnson, L. Indicators in Practice: How Environmental Indicators Are Being Used in Policy and Management Contexts; Yale and Columbia Universities: New Haven, CT, USA; New York, NY, USA, 2013. [Google Scholar]
  32. Nardo, M.; Saltelli, A.; Giovannini, E.; Tarantola, S.; Saisana, M.; Hoffman, A. Handbook on constructing composite indicators. In OECD Statistics Working Papers; OECD: Paris, France, 2008. [Google Scholar]
  33. McNie, E.C. Reconciling the supply of scientific information with user demands: An analysis of the problem and review of the literature. Environ. Sci. Policy 2007, 10, 17–38. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  34. Hezri, A.A.; Dovers, S. Sustainability indicators, policy and governance: Issues for ecological economics. Ecol. Econ. 2006, 60, 86–99. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  35. Sébastien, L.; Bauler, T.; Lehtonen, M. Can indicators bridge the gap between science and policy? An exploration into the (non)use and (non)influence of indicators in EU and UK policy making. Nat. Cult. 2014, 9, 316–343. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  36. Godemann, J.; Michelsen, G. Sustainability communication—An introduction. In Sustainability Communication; Springer: Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 2011; pp. 3–11. [Google Scholar]
  37. POINT. A Synthesis of the Findings of the POINT Project. No. 15. POINT Policy Use and Influence of Indicators—Current Use of and Emerging Needs for Indicators in Policy; The Bayswater Institute: Aarhus, Denmark, 2011. [Google Scholar]
  38. Zhou, X.; Moinuddin, M. Sustainable Development Goals Interlinkages and Network Analysis: A Practical Tool for SDG Integration and Policy Coherence; Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES): Kanagawa, Japan, 2017. [Google Scholar]
  39. Nilsson, M.; Chisholm, E.; Griggs, D.; Chapman, R.; Mccollum, D.; Messerli, P.; Neumann, B.; Stevance, A.-S.; Visbeck, M.; Smith, M.S. Mapping interactions between the sustainable development goals: Lessons learned and ways forward. Sustain. Sci. 2018, 13, 1489–1503. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  40. Weitz, N.; Persson, A.; Nilsson, M.; Tenggren, S. Sustainable Development Goals for Sweden: Insights on Setting a National Agenda. Available online: (accessed on 15 March 2020).
  41. Breuer, A.; Leininger, J.; Tosun, J. Integrated Policymaking: Choosing an Institutional Design for Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); Discussion Paper 2019/14; German Development Institute: Bonn, Germany, 2019. [Google Scholar]
  42. Horan, D. Compensation strategies to enact new governance frameworks for SDG transformations. Public Sect. Econ. 2019, 43, 375–400. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  43. Hege, E.; Brimont, L.; Pagnon, F. Sustainable development goals and indicators: Can they be tools to make national budgets more sustainable? Public Sect. Econ. 2019, 43, 423–444. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  44. Sachs, J.; McCord, G.; Maennling, N.; Smith, T.; Fajans-Turner, V.; Loni, S.S. SDG Costing and Financing for Low-Income Developing Countries; Sustainable Development Solutions Network: New York, NY, USA, 2019; Available online: (accessed on 15 September 2020).
  45. Niestroy, I.; Hege, E.; Dirth, E.; Zondervan, R. Europe’s Approach to Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals: Good Practices and the Way Forward; European Parliament Policy Department for External Relations: Bruxelles, Belgium, 2019. [Google Scholar]
  46. Hege, E.; Brimont, L. Integrating SDGs into National Budgetary Processes; Study, No. 05/18; IDDRI: Paris, France, 2018. [Google Scholar]
  47. DCCAE. Ireland: Voluntary National Review 2018. Report on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda to the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development; Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment: Dublin, Ireland, 2018. Available online: (accessed on 12 June 2020).
  48. Devoy, R.J.N. Coastal vulnerability and the implications of sea-level rise for Ireland. J. Coast. Res. 2008, 242, 325–341. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  49. HOOW. Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth Review of Progress 2018: An Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland. Government of Ireland Report. 2018. Available online:, (accessed on 20 June 2020).
  50. DHPLG. National Marine Planning Framework Draft Consultation Report. Prepared by the Department of Planning, Housing and Local Government. 2020. Available online: (accessed on 20 March 2020).
  51. Le Blanc, D.; Freire, C.; Vierros, M. Mapping the Linkages between Oceans and Other Sustainable Development Goals: A preliminary exploration. DESA Working Paper No. 149. 2017. Available online: (accessed on 15 April 2020).
  52. Allen, C.; Reid, M.; Thwaites, J.; Glover, R.; Kestin, T. Assessing national progress and priorities for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Experience from Australia. Sustain. Sci. 2019, 15, 521–538. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  53. Allen, C.; Nejdawi, R.; El-Baba, J.; Hamati, K.; Metternicht, G.; Wiedmann, T. Indicator-based assessments of progress towards the sustainable development goals (SDGs): A case study from the Arab region. Sustain. Sci. 2017, 12, 975–989. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  54. Sachs, J.; Schmidt-Traub, G.; Kroll, C.; Lafortune, G.; Fuller, G.; Woelm, F. The Sustainable Development Goals and COVID-19; Sustainable Development Report 2020; Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK, 2020; Available online: (accessed on 22 August 2020).
  55. UN. Tier Assessment for Global Indicators, Updated as of April. 2020. Available online: (accessed on 20 June 2020).
  56. UN. Global Indicator Framework for the Sustainable Development Goals and Targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 2016. Available online: (accessed on 20 June 2020).
  57. European Commission. EU SDG Indicator Set 2018: Result of the Review in Preparation of the 2018 Edition of the EU SDG Monitoring Report. 2018. Available online: (accessed on 20 June 2020).
  58. Lafortune, G.; Fuller, G.; Moreno, J.; Schmidt-Traub, G.; Kroll, C. SDSN Index and Dashboard Detailed Methodology Paper. 2018. Available online: (accessed on 10 March 2020).
  59. Moldan, B.; Janoušková, S.; Hak, T. How to understand and measure environmental sustainability: Indicators and targets. Ecol. Indic. 2012, 17, 4–13. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  60. Collin, J.; Casswell, S. Alcohol and the Sustainable Development Goals. Lancet 2016, 387, 2582–2583. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  61. Vladimirova, K.; Le Blanc, D. Exploring links between education and Sustainable Development Goals through the lens of UN flagship reports. Sustain. Dev. 2016, 24, 254–271. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  62. Van Zanten, J.A.; Van Tulder, R. Towards nexus-based governance: Defining interactions between economic activities and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Int. J. Sustain. Dev. World Ecol. 2020, 1–17. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  63. Mantlana, K.B.; Maoela, M.A. Mapping the interlinkages between Sustainable Development Goal 9 and other sustainable development goals: A preliminary exploration. Bus. Strat. Dev. 2019, 1–12. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  64. Nerini, F.F.; Sovacool, B.; Hughes, N.; Cozzi, L.; Cosgrave, E.; Howells, M.; Tavoni, M.; Tomei, J.; Zerriffi, H.; Milligan, B. Connecting climate action with other Sustainable Development Goals. Nat. Sustain. 2019, 2, 674–680. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  65. Herlitz, A.; Horan, D. A Model and indicator of aggregate need satisfaction for capped objectives and weighting schemes for situations of scarcity. Soc. Indic. Res. 2016, 133, 413–430. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  66. Herlitz, A.; Horan, D. Prioritizing the Worse Off Under Attainability Constraints: An Indeterminacy Problem for Distributive Fairness; UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy Discussion Paper Series; WP2016/08, 2016; UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy: Dublin, Ireland, 2016. [Google Scholar]
Figure 1. Integrated Assessment of Ireland’s Sustainability Gaps for SDG14.
Figure 1. Integrated Assessment of Ireland’s Sustainability Gaps for SDG14.
Sustainability 12 07800 g001
Figure 2. Comparative Assessment for Ireland. Source [36].
Figure 2. Comparative Assessment for Ireland. Source [36].
Sustainability 12 07800 g002
Figure 3. Priorities for Integrated Marine Policymaking in Ireland. Note. L: Leader. F: Follower. N: Not clear if L or F. Yellow = “considerable challenges,” orange = “significant challenges,” and red = “major challenges.
Figure 3. Priorities for Integrated Marine Policymaking in Ireland. Note. L: Leader. F: Follower. N: Not clear if L or F. Yellow = “considerable challenges,” orange = “significant challenges,” and red = “major challenges.
Sustainability 12 07800 g003
Table 1. Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG14) Interlinkages.
Table 1. Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG14) Interlinkages.
Influence of Focal SDG14 Targets on other SDGs (i.e., from Y to X).
14.1: Marine Pollution+/-++ +/- ++/- ++
14.4. Sustainable Fisheries+/-+/- ++ +/- ++
14.5: Marine Protection+/-+/- ++ +/- +/-+/- ++++
14.7: Economic Benefits+/-+ +/-+++ +
Influence of Other SDGs on Focal SDG14 Targets (i.e., from X to Y).
14.1. Marine Pollution+/-- + +++/-+/- +/-+++++
14.4. Sustainable Fishing+/- + +/-+/-+ + ++
14.5 Marine Protection+/- + +/-+/-+/- +/- ++
14.7. Economic Benefits+/- + +/-+/-+ + + ++
Source: [24]. + (-) indicate potential synergy (trade-off), blank: = neutral. SDG1 Poverty. SDG2 Nutrition and agriculture. SDG3 Health. SDG4 Education. SDG5 Gender equality. SDG6 Water. SDG7 Affordable and clean energy. SDG8 Decent jobs and economic growth. SDG9 Industrialization, innovation and infrastructure. SDG10 Reduce inequalities. SDG11 Sustainable urbanization. SDG12 Sustainable consumption and production. SDG13 Climate action. SDG15 Biodiversity. SDG16 Justice. SDG17 Partnership. Full descriptions of goals and targets are available at [1].
Table 2. Selected Indicators and Ministry SDG Responsibilities.
Table 2. Selected Indicators and Ministry SDG Responsibilities.
DimensionsComponentPolicy AreaSDG/TargetIndicatorLead Dept. *Target ValueData Source
Focal SDGSDG14Marine14.1Ocean Health Index: Clean Waters (0–100)DHPLG100OHI
14.4Fish Stocks Overexploited/Collapsed in EEZ (%)DAFM0FAO/Sea Around Us
14.5Marine Protected Areas (% of EEZ)DHPLG10UNEP
14.7Fisheries Revenue (US$ p. km2 of EEZ)DFAT3500Sea Around Us
Linked SDGsPressuresPoverty1Poverty Headcount Ratio at $3.20/day (%)DEASP0World Bank
Agriculture2Sustainable Nitrogen Management IndexDAFM0EPI
Water5Anthropogenic wastewater that receives treatment (%)DHPLG100EPI
Energy7Renewable Energy Consumption (as % of Total Energy Consumption)DCCAE51.7World Bank
Economy8Adjusted Growth Rate (%)DFIN5SDSN
Infrastructure9Logistics performance index: Quality of trade and transport-related infrastructure (1 = Low to 5 = High)DPER4.25UNU-IAS
Urbanization11Annual mean concentration of particulate matter of <2.5 microns of diameter (PM2.5) in urban areas (μg/m3)DHPLG6.3IHME
Waste12Municipal solid waste (kg/day/per capita)DCCAE0.1ILO
Climate13Energy-related CO2 emissions per capita (tCO2/capita)DCCAE0EPI
Biodiversity15Imported biodiversity threats (per million population)DCHG0EPI
ImpactsPoverty1Poverty Headcount Ratio at $3.20/day (%)DEASP0World Bank
Nutrition2Prevalence of undernourishment (% pop.)DoH0WHO
2Prevalence of obesity BMI ≥ 30 (% of adult population)DoH2.8WHO
Health3Subjective well-being (10 = High to 0 = Low)DoH7.6Gallup
Gender5Female to male labour force participation rate (% female-to-male ratio)DJE100ILO
Economy8Adjusted Growth Rate (%)DFIN5SDSN
8Unemployment Rate (%)DBEI0.5ILO
Inequality10Gini Coefficient for Income (0–100)DFIN27.5SDSN
Urbanization11Annual mean concentration of particulate matter of <2.5 microns of diameter (PM2.5) in urban areas (μg/m3)DHPLG6.3IHME
Climate13People affected by climate-related disasters (per 100,000)DCCAE0SDSN
Biodiversity15Red List Index of species survival (0 = Worst to 1 = Best)DCHG1IUCN
ResponsesEducation4Lower Secondary Completion Rate (%)DES100UNESCO
Science & Technology9Number of scientific and technical journal articles (per 1000 population)DBEI2.2NSF
Biodiversity15Mean area protected in freshwater sites important to biodiversity (%)DAFM100IUCN
Justice16Corruption Perception Index (0 = Low to 100 = High)DJE88.6Transparency Int.
16Freedom of the Press Index (0 = Best to 100 = Worst)DPER10Reporters sans frontiers
16Seats held by women in national parliaments (%)DPER50IPU
Partnership17Government spending on health and education, proportion of GDP (% GDP)DFIN15World Bank
17Population using the internet (%)DFAT100ITU
Source: Indicator set from [24]. Departmental SDG responsibilities are reported in SDG National Implementation Plan 2018–2020 [14,47]. * DHPLG: Department of Housing Planning and Local Government. DAFM: Department of Agriculture, Food, and Marine. DFAT: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. DEASP: Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. DCCAE: Department of Communications, Climate Action, and Environment. DFIN: Department of Finance. DPER: Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. DCHG: Department of Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht. DoH: Department of Health. DBEI: Dept. of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation. DES: Department of Education and Skills. DJE Department of Justice and Equality.
Table 3. Sustainability Assessment.
Table 3. Sustainability Assessment.
Traffic Light SystemGreenYellowOrangeRed
Min-max score yy ≥ 8080 > y ≥ 6060 > y ≥ 40y > 40
InterpretationTarget AchievedChallenges RemainSignificant ChallengesMajor Challenges
Table 4. Ireland’s Peer Group.
Table 4. Ireland’s Peer Group.
CountriesFundamental VariablesFocal Outcomes
RemoteDevPopWestGovMarine PollutionSustainable FishingProtected AreasEconomic Benefits
New Zealand11010715810011
Traffic-light grading: green = “achieved”, yellow = “considerable challenges”, orange = “significant challenges”, and red = “major challenges”. Thresholds: Remote = 1: if country location above 2000 km from major agglomerations of economic activity; Remote = 0 if below. Dev = 1: if high income (GNI per capita above World Bank threshold of $12,376 GNP); Dev = 0, if below. Pop = 1: if country population above 10 million; Pop = 0: if below. Western = 1: if country is part of the “West”; Western = 0, if not. Governance = 1, if country is EU member in 2018; Governance = 0: if not. Focal outcomes: Marine pollution measured by Ocean Health Index: Clean Waters. Sustainable Fishing indicated by Fish Stock Status. Marine protected areas as % of Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ). Economic benefits from fishing measured by 2014 Real Total Revenue from Fisheries (in 2010 USD) per sq. km2 of EEZ based on reported catches for 2014 (see [24]). For outcomes, indicator values are normalized (Equation (1)).

Share and Cite

MDPI and ACS Style

Horan, D. Enabling Integrated Policymaking with the Sustainable Development Goals: An Application to Ireland. Sustainability 2020, 12, 7800.

AMA Style

Horan D. Enabling Integrated Policymaking with the Sustainable Development Goals: An Application to Ireland. Sustainability. 2020; 12(18):7800.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Horan, David. 2020. "Enabling Integrated Policymaking with the Sustainable Development Goals: An Application to Ireland" Sustainability 12, no. 18: 7800.

Note that from the first issue of 2016, this journal uses article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Article Metrics

Back to TopTop