Currently, the world is only on track to meet 22% of the environment-related SDGs if current trends continue and for 68% of the environment-related SDGs there is not sufficient data at the global level to assess progress.

Closing Data Gaps Essential to Achieving SDGs

Editorial by Jillian Campbell, UNEP Chief Statistician

We need to be able to track progress to better target interventions and investment; to ensure that the right actions are taken; and to verify that the actions taken are producing results without unintended consequences.

The fact that we lack data for 68% of the SDG indicators means that, we are not able to do this. The lack of data has also corresponded to a lack of investment toward achieving the environmental dimension of the SDGs.

Progress has been made on all 11 environmental-related SDGs indicators related to policy, financial and institutional processes with available data Mixed progress in improving access to environmental resources and reducing the impacts of environmental degradation on human health and food security.

Either no data or no progress towards all 12 of the SDGs targets related to the state of the environment. Across the SDG indicators, efficient use of natural resources towards achieving sustainable consumption and production remains a global challenge due to economic growth.

Shifts in policy, local investment and changes in consumption and production patterns are required to protect terrestrial and marine ecosystems and biodiversity; prevent pollution; reduce climate change and the impacts of climate change; and manage natural resources effectively.

Data is needed to explore interlinkages across environmental areas together with social and economic information in order to produce insights. There is a need not only for national level statistics, but for geospatial data and data which can be disaggregated for vulnerable populations. In order to achieve this, it will require bringing together new and existing data: citizen science, satellite, in situ, survey, transactional and other forms of data. This is the case for building a digital ecosystem for the environment. There is a need to scale up support for environmental monitoring and analysis and to promote using data for action in order for the environmental dimension of the SDGs to be met.

Measuring Progress: Towards Achieving the Environmental Dimension of the SDGs is a derivate product of the sixth edition of the Global Environment Outlook. The publication was launched on the 10th of March 2019 during the Science Policy Business Forum 2019, at UN Environment Headquarters in Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya by the lead author Jillian Campbell from UN Environment. Thematic and Regional experts also contributed to the publication. It provides an overview of the current state of the environmental dimensions of sustainable development based on the SDG indicators – including the availability of statistical and spatial data, analytical methods and visualizations – and identifies knowledge and information gaps in terms of assessing progress towards the environmental dimension of the SDGs.


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The information, views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UN Science-Policy-Business Forum or the United Nations Environment Programme.

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