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Frontrunners and laggards: How fast are the EU member states progressing towards the sustainable development goals?

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  • Hametner, Markus
  • Kostetckaia, Mariia

Abstract

Since the adoption of the United Nation's 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, attempts to monitor their status of achievement are increasing by governments, the academic community and non-governmental actors. Particular focus is thereby put on constructing composite indices that allow benchmarking of countries according to their level of SDG achievement. Throughout the different rankings that exist, countries from northern Europe appear to be most advanced regarding SDG implementation. However, this picture is biased as these rankings typically refer to the relative position of countries in relation to all other countries included in the index at a certain point in time. Tracking countries' absolute progress over time towards the SDGs on the basis of such indices can therefore be misleading. The present paper proposes a new progress measure based on the Eurostat method for measuring progress towards the SDGs over time. Applying this measure to the EU Member States on the basis of the official EU SDG indicator set, we show that countries labelled as “SD leaders” hardly make further progress towards the SDGs, while strong movement towards the goals is visible in southern and eastern European countries that score rather low in existing indices. This new perspective suggests that to actually monitor progress towards achieving the SDGs, existing SDG indices should be complemented with a longitudinal perspective to assess development over time towards or away from the 2030 Agenda's objectives.

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  • Hametner, Markus & Kostetckaia, Mariia, 2020. "Frontrunners and laggards: How fast are the EU member states progressing towards the sustainable development goals?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 177(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:177:y:2020:i:c:s0921800919316441
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2020.106775
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