nullIndeed, working on one SDG will have an impact on one or several other(s). For example, progress in achieving SDG 1 No poverty, has direct and indirect positive impacts on Health and Wellbeing (SDG3), Quality Education (SDG4), Gender Equality (SDG5), Clean water and sanitation (SDG6), and potentially also leads to reduced inequalities (SDG10).

On the other hand, for instance, using coal to improve energy access and deliver on SDG 7 Affordable and clean energy, would accelerate climate change and acidify the oceans. This would undermine SDG 13 Climate action and SDG 14 Life below water. It would also exacerbate other problems, such as damage to health from air pollution, which in turn would affect SDG 3 Good health and wellbeing. AER is therefore of the opinion to promote an integrated approach to the SDGs.

Most policies are a shared responsibility across levels of government. According to the OECD, it is estimated that 65% of the 169 targets underlying the 17 SDGs will not be reached without the engagement of and coordination with local and regional governments. This means that cities and regions have an important role to play in the achievement of the SDGs. Many, if not all, regions, are working towards this in one form or another. Indeed, they are key actors for addressing the most urgent societal challenges European economies are facing. In Europe, regions and cities hold competencies in the provision of basic and social services. Examples would be health, education, urban planning and resources, as well as waste management, among others. However, there is no standard solution when it comes to the mainstreaming process. Each region needs to take into account their own realities and circumstances in implementing the SDGs. ?

Is the question really Growth vs Sustainability?

The contrast in the paradigm does not need to be so clear cut. Regions, national governments and international organisations are looking beyond economic growth alone for indicators of progress. Social and environmental factors, as well as happiness indices, can also be used as measures that we are moving in the right direction.

How best should regions approach the SDGs?

Whether undergoing regional restructuring or simply reflecting on how to move forward on the Global Goals, regions need to anchor the SDGs in an interdisciplinary way, taking a whole of government approach, involving all stakeholders and avoiding that the Goals are siloed into the work of the regional department for the environment, for example.
Additionally, when looking at the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, regions need to go ‘all-in’ rather than focusing on one or two goals that suit their current work plans or are likely to lead to successful outcomes.

An integrated approach is fundamental to ensuring progress made has the widest possible impact. As such, comprehensive implementation is therefore essential to ensuring success. Emphasis needs to be placed on including reporting and evaluation into a regional SDG strategy to avoid ‘greenwashing’. It may be demanding & time-consuming to implement SDGs into regional planning but the effort is undoubtedly worthwhile, not to mention necessary.