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Taking stock of the progress towards the SDGs at the UN High Level Political Forum 2023

AUTHOR: Nora Hiller

The global community is at the midway point of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This briefing looks at how the multiple crises have impacted the path to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and what are the challenges and opportunities for a systemic approach towards these common objectives? 

The countries of the United Nations will come together the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) from 10-19 July 2023 in New York to review these developments. The forum is the main UN platform on sustainable development and focuses on the theme of “accelerating the recovery he coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at all levels” this year.  

This briefing, commissioned by the ENVI committee of the European Parliament in preparation for the HLPF, summarises the EU’s challenges and opportunities at this midway point of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It aims to inform about the thematic discussions of the forum, monitoring reports, the importance of financing for the SDGs and an overview of the EU’s progress towards the SDGs that will be under in-depth review. At every forum, several SDGs are being assessed in detail, which this year are SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and SDG 17 (Partnerships).  

The EU’s SDG progress in the last 5 years 

Source: adapted from Eurostat Monitoring Report 2023  

Research shows that the EU made progress on SDGs related to socio-economic issues but has put insufficient steps in place to advance on environmental challenges. For SDG 6, sanitation, the EU’s progress overall was moderate, with water quality and water stress becoming an increasing issue. For instance, the resulting scarcity from water stress affects at least 11% of Europe’s population, and impacts, among others, food and energy production. Ensuring access to affordable and sustainable energy in SDG 7, in the short term, has been negatively impacted by the invasion of the Ukraine, fuelling the cost-of-living crisis. For SDG 9, significant progress was made. Sustainable infrastructure and R&D efforts are key, still decarbonisation of particularly the transport sector is greatly lagging. The pollution, both noise and air pollution, are affecting the living quality in cities. Modest progress was made by the EU on SDG 11, where more effort should be made towards sustainable mobility, adequate housing and accessible green spaces.  In achieving the SDGs, partnership and SDG 17 are key, yet there is room for the EU to use its position on the world stage for better cooperation, particularly with civil society organisations.  

At the HLPF 2023, the EU will discuss pathways to progress on SDG implementation. Based on the briefing, the Union should act with a greater sense of urgency. When it comes to tackling water pollution and water scarcity, to reduce environmental pressures on ecosystems caused by industry and urban settlement expansion, and to advance the decarbonisation of the transport sector to reduce GHG emission, air and noise pollution, action is required now. 

This work was commissioned by the ENVI committee of the European Parliament, and published on the website of the European Parliament.  

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The UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

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