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Climate action and sustainable development

As key Horizon 2020 objectives, climate action and sustainable development are relevant to all areas of the programme. At least 35% of Horizon 2020's total budget is expected to address climate action, while at least 60% is expected to involve sustainable development.

When drafting your proposal, please specify your project's expected contribution to climate action and sustainable development objectives, if applicable.

What is climate action?

Climate action includes:

  • mitigating climate change (helping to cut greenhouse gas emissions)
  • adapting to the impact of climate change by building resilience to phenomena such as flooding, droughts and other extreme weather events
  • contributing to understanding the causes of climate change.

Activities contributing to climate action are varied and can include any of the following:

  • energy efficiency, energy savings or energy recovery in any sector;
  • renewable non-fossil energy (e.g. wind, solar, aero-thermal, geothermal, hydrothermal, ocean energy, hydropower, biomass, landfill gas, sewage treatment plant gas, biogases) & related infrastructure including energy storage and 'smart grids';
  • low-carbon technologies, manufacturing processes, goods & services;
  • carbon capture & storage;
  • reducing road & air traffic emissions; encouraging cycling, walking & use of public transport systems, inland waterways & short sea shipping,
  • biological sequestration/conservation of CO2 emissions (e.g. afforestation, re-vegetation, forest/cropland management, reduced tillage, soil maintenance/remediation), including sinks & reservoirs of greenhouse gases (e.g. soil, peatlands, wetlands, forests);
  • eliminating or substantially reducing emissions of other greenhouse gases such as methane, N2O, PFCs, HFCs, SF6 & NF3;
  • building resilience & reducing vulnerability to climate-related disasters (heatwaves, floods, extreme weather events, etc.), covering any sector including transport, energy, supply chains, communication networks & other infrastructure, planning, insurance; risk prevention & risk/disaster management, ICT for early warning systems;
  • combating heat effects &/or adapting to drought, including water efficiency measures;
  • strengthening coastal defences against erosion, storm surges & sea-level rise;
  • taking advantage of any opportunities that may arise as a result of climate change;
  • integrating climate change concerns in specific policy activities, developing capacity, strengthening the regulatory & policy framework;
  • socioeconomic issues associated with climate change options, such as behavioural patterns, societal acceptance & barriers to uptake of policies or technologies;
  • understanding climate change processes &/or effects, including sea ice/ice sheet/glaciers, permafrost, air and sea surface temperatures, precipitation, biodiversity loss, movement or distribution of plant/fish/animal species, ocean acidity, crop yields, hydropower potential, seasonal tourism patterns, habitats for disease vectors, etc.

What is sustainable development?

Definition - development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs within the planet's physical boundaries.
Sustainable development has economic, social and environmental dimensions:

  • Economic - providing economic added value through new technologies, products, services, governance or business models that improve competitiveness and prosperity, and promoting job creation or safeguarding jobs, together with related policies.
  • Social - addressing and improving human health, quality of life, safety and security of individuals and populations, culture, skill formation, social integration and inclusion, poverty reduction, effective and democratic governance, and related policies.
  • Natural - protecting, reducing/preventing degradation of, or restoring natural resources and ecosystems (e.g. air, water, forests, soil), and the biodiversity that underpins them.

Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, world leaders paved the way for a more sustainable society worldwide by adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Agenda includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030:

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all (incl. business) Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

For a detailed description, see the UN's Sustainable Development Goals page.

Activities addressing one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals contribute to achieving this worldwide objective.

Resource efficiency - sustainable development means improving resource efficiency, an aspect of several Sustainable Development Goals. Resource efficiency is strongly linked with climate action, as more efficient use of resources can mitigate climate change.

Resource efficiency can be achieved through activities with the following aims:

  • making consumption & production in all areas of society/the economy more resource-efficient;
  • avoiding waste; improving waste management; increasing re-use, repair or recycling; using waste from some production processes as a resource in others, in all sectors including food, construction/demolition, processing industries & raw materials;
  • ensuring the provision of clean water in sufficient quantities; promoting efficient & economical water supply & use; helping reduce water shortages, droughts & floods;
  • improving air quality & reducing air pollution (including particulate matter, ground-level ozone, nitrogen dioxide); tackling the effects of air pollution;
  • protecting the soil or improving soil protection; reducing soil-sealing; tackling or helping to prevent erosion, landslides, soil contamination, salinisation & desertification;
  • ensuring that all operators along the value chain manage fishery & marine resources more sustainably, including in the fields of mineral extraction, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology & energy; contributing to good environmental status in marine waters;
  • increasing sustainable chemistry/'green' chemistry; replacing dangerous chemicals by safer, more technologically & economically viable alternatives;
  • producing food in a more resource-efficient way, so that food/drink value chains have less environmental impact (e.g. using water & fertilisers more economically);
  • managing forests more sustainably;
  • reducing noise pollution;
  • improving energy efficiency & cutting greenhouse gas emissions (see 'climate action' above);
  • addressing behavioural patterns, societal acceptance & barriers to uptake of policies or technologies; raising awareness of resource efficiency issues, including through education & training.

Integrating climate action and sustainable development objectives in Research and Innovation

Why is it important to take climate action and sustainable development into account?

If you explicitly mention climate action and/or sustainable development in your project proposal, or if the project you are proposing includes them in some other way, the experts examining your proposal will evaluate these aspects of the proposal in addition to the aspects of the proposal which address the topic description.

For many types of action the proposal template asks applicants to mention any other substantial impacts, including any that would 'address issues related to climate change or the environment, or bring other important benefits for society'. In other words, your proposal must clearly describe any contribution you expect your project to make towards climate action and sustainable development objectives, beyond those mentioned explicitly in the topic description. The experts examining your proposal will assess these aspects along with any other relevant ones.

How can you integrate climate action and sustainable development in your proposal?

  1. Using the guidance above, determine how relevant climate action and/or sustainable development objectives are to your research and innovation proposal. Mention any relevant aspects clearly in your proposal.
  2. Where relevant, say what impact the research or innovation can be expected to have on climate objectives and/or on one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals. The impact may be immediate or longer-term.
  3. Refer to existing evidence or indicators to substantiate your statements.