Overview - Sustainable development indicators

Sustainable Development Goals – Overview


Image SDG © European Union /  © Colour wheel: United Nations

What are the sustainable development goals (SDGs)?

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their related 169 targets, which are at the heart of the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, provide a new policy framework worldwide towards ending all forms of poverty, fighting inequalities and tackling climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.

What is the EU answer to the SDGs?

Sustainable development objectives have been at the heart of European policy for a long time, firmly anchored in the European Treaties (Articles 3 (5) and 21 (2) of the Treaty on European Union) and mainstreamed in key cross-cutting projects, sectoral policies and initiatives. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by the United Nations (UN) in September 2015, have given a new impetus to global efforts for achieving sustainable development. The EU, in coordination with its Member States, is committed to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and to strive towards a sustainable future for all. The EU's answer to the 2030 Agenda is outlined in the 22 November 2016 European Commission's Communication Next steps for a sustainable European future - European action for sustainability".

What is Eurostat's role?

Eurostat is called to regularly monitor progress towards the SDGs in an EU context. For this purpose it coordinated the development of the EU SDG indicator set and keeps it up to date. It also produces regular monitoring reports on progress towards the SDGs in an EU context.

To find out more about the SDGs in an EU context and the results of Eurostat's monitoring, please see the pages 'Key findings' and 'Indicators' in this section.

How does Eurostat monitor progress towards the SDGs in the EU?

The Communication foresees regular monitoring of progress towards the SDGs in an EU context. The Eurostat publication 'Sustainable Development in the European Union – Monitoring report on progress towards the SDGs in an EU context - 2022 edition’ is the most recent of these regular monitoring exercises. It looks at the aspects of the SDGs that are relevant from an EU perspective and therefore does not aim at exhaustively assessing EU progress towards the 169 targets of the 2030 Agenda. It provides a first statistical assessment of trends in relation to the SDGs in the EU during the past five years ('short-term') and, whenever data availability allows, during the past 15 years ('long-term'). 

The indicator trends are described on the basis of specific quantitative rules. For indicators for which quantitative EU targets exist, the progress is analysed in relation to those targets. This applies to 22 out of the 101 indicators, mainly in the areas of environment, agriculture, energy, education, poverty and employment. All other indicators are analysed according to the direction and speed of change. The indicator trends are presented visually in the form of arrows. The methodology applied is explained in detail in the monitoring report.

The monitoring report builds on the EU SDG indicator set. The 101 indicators (31 of which are multipurpose, i.e. are used to monitor more than one SDG) have strong links with the above-mentioned Communication and the EU policy initiatives mentioned in the accompanying Commission Staff Working Document ‘Key European action supporting the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development’.

The EU SDG indicator set is open to annual reviews to incorporate indicators from new data sources as well as to take into account new targets in line with the priorities of the European Commission, such as the European Green Deal and other initiatives. In preparation of the EU SDG monitoring report 2022, the indicator set was reviewed between October 2021 and January 2022. This​  report describes the process and presents the outcome of the review. The new​​​  EU SDG indicator set 2022 is implemented on Eurostat's website together with the release of the 2022 edition of the EU SDG monitoring report. The previous versions of the indicator set are also available in Excel format:   2021,  2020,  2019,  2018 and 2017.

The EU SDG indicators set is subject to the annual quality assessment along the quality criteria based on the guiding principles of the Code of Practice of European statistics and the Quality Assurance Framework of the European statistical system (ESS), most relevant for the EU SDG monitoring. The  EU SDG Quality assessment 2022 describes the main results of the quality assessment of the 2021 EU SDG indicators set.

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