Key findings - Sustainable development indicators

Key findings

How has the EU progressed towards the SDGs?

Over the most recent five years of available data, the EU made progress towards almost all of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDG). However, two goals have moved away from the sustainable development objectives, and this has happened also in specific areas of a number of goals. As previously, progress in some goals has been faster than in others.

The figure below shows a statistical summary of EU progress towards the 17 SDGs over this period.

EU progress towards the 17 SDGs

The EU has made strong progress towards fostering peace and personal security, access to justice and trust in institutions (SDG 16). Good progress was also visible in reducing poverty and social exclusion (SDG 1) and in improving the EU’s health situation (SDG 3). However, due to the time lag of the respective indicators, the assessment of the two goals on poverty (SDG 1) and health (SDG 3) still refers to the period up to 2019 and therefore does not reflect the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The assessment of the remaining goals is to some extent already affected by the pandemic, with COVID-19 markedly slowing the reported average progress. In the area of the economy and the labour market (SDG 8), the COVID-19 crisis has interrupted the continuous improvement observed since 2013. Similar impacts can be observed in the areas of education (SDG 4), gender equality (SDG 5), other inequalities (SDG 10) as well as global partnerships and means of implementation (SDG 17), where 2020 data show a clear deterioration for individual indicators.

Moderate progress is visible for sustainable cities (SDG 11), consumption and production (SDG 12), sustainable agriculture (SDG 2) and R&D and innovation (SDG 9). For these goals 2020 data are not yet available, and their assessment therefore reflects the period before the onset of the pandemic.

While the EU is stepping up its efforts in developing and implementing ambitious climate policies and action, the assessment of the past five years is negatively affected by the intensifying climate impacts Europe is facing. It is worth noting that the assessment of progress towards the target for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is based on past progress and not on projections of future emissions based on adopted and planned legislation and policy measures.

For two goals — SDG 7 ‘Affordable and clean energy’ and SDG 15 ‘Life on land’ — the aggregation of the individual indicator trends shows a slight movement away of the EU from the respective SD objectives over the past five years. In the case of SDG 7, this overall slightly negative assessment is due to increases in the EU’s energy consumption in the period from 2014 to 2019 and thus does not yet reflect the — at least temporary — reductions expected for 2020. The assessment of SDG 15 reflects the fact that ecosystems and biodiversity remain under pressure from human activities.

In the case of two goals – SDG 6 ‘clean water and sanitation’ and SDG 14 ‘life below water’ – trends cannot be calculated due to insufficient comparable data over the past five years or a trend calculation is not applicable.

For more detailed information on the  methodology or the progress of each individual goal, please see the 'Monitoring report'.

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In order to get a quick overview of the progress of each SDG and its subindicators, please click on the images in the wheel below.

Use of the SDG logo and icons

For information on the re-use of the SDG logo and icons, please see the  UN guidelines.