About Sustainable Development Goals

What is SDG

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),All countries and stakeholders including UNEP are working in collaboration to implement the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets and 241 indicators are there to measure the progress toward achieving this agenda. UNEP is the custodian agency of 25 of the SDG indicators.

SDG1-No poverty

End poverty in all its forms everywhere

A sustainably managed environment is a prerequisite for socio-economic development and poverty reduction. The natural environment supplies ecosystem goods and services that provide income, support job creation, poverty alleviation, contribute to safety nets and reduce inequity.

Climate change and exposure to natural disasters threaten to derail efforts to eradicate poverty. A great bulk of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens live in disaster prone countries and their number keeps increasing. Those groups are disproportionally affected by shocks and stresses. As temperatures rise, the likelihood and severity of climate-related disasters increase affecting lives and livelihoods, hampering the development efforts and reversing gains made in poverty reduction.

Targets linked to the environment

  • Target 1.5: By 2030, build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters.

SDG2-Zero hunger

End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture:

Nature provides direct sources of food and a series of ecosystem services (e.g. pollination, soil formation, nutrient cycling, and water regulation) supporting agricultural activities and contributing to food security and nutrition.

Increasing world population and changes in consumption patterns put pressure on the environment creating the need to produce food for an additional two billion people by 2030, while preserving and enhancing the natural resource base upon which the well-being of present and future generations depends. This is important considering that unsustainable expansion of agriculture has created serious environmental problems such as soil erosion, water pollution through agrochemicals, and emission of greenhouse gases.

Climate change and `natural` disasters such as droughts, landslides and floods greatly affect food security. Disaster risk management, climate change adaptation and mitigation are key to increase harvests quality and quantity.

Targets linked to the environment:

  • Target 2.4: By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality
  • Target 2.5: By 2020, maintain the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and their related wild species, including through soundly managed and diversified seed and plant banks at the national, regional and international levels, and promote access to and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, as internationally agreed.

SDG3-Good health and well-being

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages:

A clean environment is essential for human health and well-being.

On the other hand, air and water pollution as well as poor management of hazardous chemicals and waste contribute to undermine health.

Natural disasters and environmental shocks can have substantial impact on health, including deaths, injuries, diseases, disabilities, psychosocial problems and other indirect effects with damage to health facilities and disruption to the delivery of health services over extended periods of time.

Targets linked to the environment:

  • Target 3.9: By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination

SDG4-Quality education

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all:

Natural disasters greatly affect the education sector by destroying key infrastructures, disrupting the education cycles and forcing children to drop out of school for extended period of time. At the same time education is a powerful tool to build societies’ resilience. Formal and informal education, including, public awareness and training are critical for promoting sustainable development and improving the capacity of the people and countries to address environmental and development issues and to create green and decent jobs and industries.

Targets linked to the environment:

  • Target 4.7: By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.

SDG5-Gender equality

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls:

Understanding the links between gender inequality and environmental degradation, and taking responsive actions, can accelerate positive dynamics and promote sustainable development outcomes.

Enhancing property rights and access to land and natural resources to women can contribute to reduce gender inequalities, improve their livelihood options and poverty status.

Targets linked to the environment:

  • Target 5.a: Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws.

SDG6-Clean water and sanitation

Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all:

Sustainable management of water resources and access to safe water and sanitation are essential for unlocking economic growth and productivity, and provide significant leverage for existing investments in health and education. The natural environment e.g. forests, soils and wetlands contributes to management and regulation of water availability and water quality, strengthening the resilience of watersheds and complementing investments in physical infrastructure and institutional and regulatory arrangements for water access, use and disaster preparedness. Water shortages undercut food security and the incomes of rural farmers while improving water management makes national economies, the agriculture and food sectors more resilient to rainfall variability and able to fulfil the needs of growing population. Protecting and restoring water-related ecosystems and their biodiversity can ensure water purification and water quality standards.

UNEP is working to develop a coherent approach to measuring water-related issues included through. All the SDG indicators under Goal 6 are coordinated by UN Water and UNEP actively works with UN Water and the UN Water partners on these indicators. UN Water has developed a data portal as a hub for SDG 6. Additionally, the Global Environmental Monitoring Initiative for SDG 6 acts a coordinating initiative for all SDG 6 methodologies (all SDG 6 methodologies, including the ones UNEP has developed are available as part of this initiative).


Sustainable Development Goal 6 goes beyond drinking water, sanitation and hygiene to also address the quality and sustainability of water resources, which are critical to the survival of people and the planet. The 2030 Agenda recognizes the centrality of water resources to sustainable development and the vital role that improved drinking water, sanitation and hygiene play in progress in other areas, including health, education and poverty reduction.


SDG7-Affordable and clean energy

Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all:

Lack of access to energy supplies and transformation systems is a constraint to human and economic development. The environment provides a series of renewable and non-renewable energy sources i.e. solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, biofuels, natural gas, coal, petroleum, uranium. 

Increased use of fossil fuels without actions to mitigate greenhouse gases will have global climate change implications. Energy efficiency and increase use of renewables contribute to climate change mitigation and disaster risk reduction. Maintaining and protecting ecosystems allow using and further developing hydropower sources of electricity and bioenergy.


  • 3 billion people rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating
  • Energy is the dominant contributor to climate change, accounting for around 60 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions
  • Since 1990, global emissions of CO2 have increased by more than 46 per cent.
  • Hydropower is the largest single renewable electricity source today, providing 16% of world electricity at competitive prices. It dominates the electricity mix in several countries, developed, emerging or developing.
  • Bioenergy is the single largest renewable energy source today, providing 10% of world primary energy supply.

Targets linked to the environment:

  • Target 7.1: By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services
  • Target 7.2: By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
  • Target 7.3: By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency
  • Target 7.a: By 2030, enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil-fuel technology, and promote investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology
  • Target 7.b: By 2030, expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy services for all in developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States, and land-locked developing countries, in accordance with their respective programmes of support

SDG8-Decent work and economic growth

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all:

Preserving the environment is key to support sustainable economic growth as the natural environment plays an important role in supporting economic activities. It contributes directly, by providing resources and raw materials such as water, timber and minerals that are required as inputs for the production of goods and services; and indirectly, through services provided by ecosystems including carbon sequestration, water purification, managing flood risks, and nutrient cycling.

`Natural` disasters directly affect economic activities leading to very high economic losses throwing many households into poverty. Maintaining ecosystems and mitigating climate change can therefore have a great positive impact on countries` economic and employment sectors

Sustained and inclusive economic growth is a prerequisite for sustainable development, which can contribute to improved livelihoods for people around the world. Economic growth can lead to new and better employment opportunities and provide greater economic security for all. Moreover, rapid growth, especially among the least developed and developing countries, can help them reduce the wage gap relative to developed countries, thereby diminishing glaring inequalities between the rich and poor.


* Agreed methodology only at global level. Not for country level monitoring.

SDG9-Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation:

Constructing new greener infrastructures, retrofitting or reconfiguring existing infrastructure systems and exploiting the potential of smart technologies can greatly contribute to the reduction of environmental impacts and disaster risks as well as the construction of resilience and the increase of efficiency in the use of natural resources.

Data and Statistics / Facts and Figures:

In countries where data are available, the number of people employed in renewable energy sectors is presently around 2.3 million. Given the present gaps in information, this is no doubt a very conservative figure. Because of strong rising interest in energy alternatives, the possible total employment for renewables by 2030 is 20 million jobs.

Targets linked to the environment:

  • Target 9.1: Develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and transborder infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all
  • Target 9.2: Promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and, by 2030, significantly raise industry’s share of employment and gross domestic product, in line with national circumstances, and double its share in least developed countries
  • Target 9.4: By 2030, upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes, with all countries taking action in accordance with their respective capabilities
  • Target 9.a: Facilitate sustainable and resilient infrastructure development in developing countries through enhanced financial, technological and technical support to African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States

SDG10-Reduced inequalities

Reduce inequality within and among countries

By disproportionately affecting the poorest and most vulnerable groups, climate change and `natural` disasters contribute to exacerbate existing inequalities within and across countries. 

On the other hand, environment can contribute to the reduction of inequity, including through sound management of natural resources and critical ecosystems, as well as supporting institutional arrangements regarding the use and access to natural resources.  Lack of access to natural resources on the other hand is a major contributor to inequality.

Targets linked to the environment:

  • Target 10.3: Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard

SDG11-Sustainable cities and communities

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable:

There is a strong link between the quality of life in cities and how cities draw on and manage the natural resources available to them.  To date, the trend towards urbanization has been accompanied by increased pressure on the environment and accelerated demand for basic services, infrastructure, jobs, land, and affordable housing, particularly for the nearly 1 billion urban poor who live in informal settlements.

Due to their high concentration of people, infrastructures, housing and economic activities, cities are particularly vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters impacts. Building urban resilience is crucial to avoid human, social and economic losses while improving the sustainability of urbanization processes is needed to protect the environment and mitigate disaster risk and climate change.

Resource efficient cities combine greater productivity and innovation with lower costs and reduced environmental impacts, while providing increased opportunities for consumer choices and sustainable lifestyles.

Data and Statistics / Facts and Figures:

  • The world’s cities occupy just 3 per cent of the Earth’s land, but account for 60-80 per cent of energy consumption and 75 per cent of carbon emissions.

Targets linked to the environment:

  • Target 11.2: By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons
  • Target 11.3: By 2030, enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries
  • Target 11.4: Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage
  • Target 11.5: By 2030, significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters, including water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations
  • Target 11.6: By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management
  • Target 11.7: By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities
  • Target 11.a: Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, per-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning
  • Target 11.b: By 2020, substantially increase the number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters, and develop and implement, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, holistic disaster risk management at all levels

SDG12-Sustainable consumption and production

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns:

One of the greatest global challenges is to integrate environmental sustainability with economic growth and welfare by decoupling environmental degradation from economic growth and doing more with less. Resource decoupling and impact decoupling are needed to promote sustainable consumption and production patterns and to make the transition towards a greener and more socially inclusive global economy.

To ensure sustainable consumption and production practices necessarily entails to respect the biophysical boundaries of the planet and to reduce current global consumption rates in order to fit with the biophysical capacity to produce ecosystem services and benefits.

UNEA 4. Resolution 1 (UNEP/EA.4/Res.1 ) specifies that a circular economy is one of the current sustainable economic models, in which products and materials are designed in such a way that they can be reused, remanufactured, recycled or recovered and thus maintained in the economy for as long as possible, along with the resources of which they are made, and the generation of waste, especially hazardous waste, is avoided or minimized, and greenhouse gas emissions are prevented or reduced.

UNEP’s Economy Division has a project on Global Opportunities for Sustainable Development Goals (GO for SDGs) which aims to strengthen the capacity of countries to achieve SDG 12.

SDG 12 on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) and UNEP’s implementation of SCP and circular economy are fully aligned.  Currently, UNEP is developing an SDG 12 Hub which will provide visualization and coordination across SDG 12. This links to UNEP’s OnePlanet Initiative for Sustainable Consumption and Production. The OnePlanet Initiative and the SDGs are fully aligned in terms of the monitoring approach.  Additionally, the newly developed SCP Hotspots Analysis Tool (SCP-HAT) is an online application with data on the environmental and socio-economic performance of 171 countries over the last 25 years. It allows countries to quickly identify and analyse hotspots at country and sector level and provides key country information in the context of most relevant policy questions. 

Launched at HLPF on July 7th 2021, the SDG 12 Hub is built to support Member States in the achievement of SDG 12, and is the central location for accessing official government reporting against SDG 12 indicators. The SDG 12 Hub consolidates and visualizes the results of national reporting on SDG 12 indicators, and makes these publicly available, allowing Member States to browse progress on SDG 12 by individual targets or by country.

The SDG 12 Hub also provides governments, businesses, civil society and the public with direct and transparent access the data reported by Member States on SDG 12 Targets, as well as linkages to existing knowledge platforms, databases and networks through which stakeholders can share progress, knowledge and solutions for sustainable consumption and production.

Access the Hub here: https://sdg12hub.org


Sustainable growth and development requires minimizing the natural resources and toxic materials used, and the waste and pollutants generated, throughout the entire production and consumption process. Sustainable Development Goal 12 encourages more sustainable consumption and production patterns through various measures, including specific policies and international agreements on the management of materials that are toxic to the environment.

SDG13-Climate action

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts: 

Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts, floods and tropical cyclones, aggravating water management problems, reducing agricultural production and food security, increasing health risks, damaging critical infrastructure and interrupting the provision of basic services such water and sanitation, education, energy and transport.

Data and Statistics / Facts and Figures:

  • From 1880 to 2012, average global temperature increased by 0.85°C
  • Oceans have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished and sea level has risen. From 1901 to 2010, the global average sea level rose by 19 cm as oceans expanded. The Arctic’s sea ice extent has shrunk in every successive decade since 1979
  • Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased by almost 50 per cent since 1990
  • Emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades

Targets linked to the environment:

  • Target 13.1: Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries
  • Target 13.2: Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning
  • Target 13.3: Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning
  • Target 13.a: Implement the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization as soon as possible
  • Target 13.b: Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries and small island developing States, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities

SDG14-Life below water

Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development:

The oceans cover more than 70 per cent of the surface of our planet and play a key role in supporting life on earth. They are the most diverse and important ecosystem, contributing to global and regional elemental cycling, and regulating the climate. The ocean provides natural resources including food, materials, substances, and energy.
Marine Protected Areas contribute to poverty reduction by increasing fish catches and income, creating new jobs, improving health, and empowering women. Increasing levels of debris in the world’s seas and oceans is having a major and growing economic impact.

Oceans, seas and other marine resources are essential to human well-being and social and economic development worldwide. Their conservation and sustainable use are central to achieving the 2030 Agenda, especially for small island developing States. Marine resources are particularly important for people living in coastal communities, who represented 37 per cent of the world’s population in 2010. Oceans provide livelihoods, subsistence and benefits from fisheries, tourism and other sectors. They also help regulate the global ecosystem by absorbing heat and carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. However, oceans and coastal areas are extremely vulnerable to environmental degradation, overfishing, climate change and pollution.

UNEP is working to develop a coherent approach to measuring the ocean condition and the drivers, pressures, impacts and responses. This is through promoting the measurement of the ocean SDGs where UNEP is the custodian and through working to develop an approach for better ocean accounts.

UNEP published a Global Manual on SDG 14.1.1, 14.2.1 and 14.5.1. This manual also provides details related to how the SDGs align with the Regional Seas.


SDG15-Life on land

Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss:

Terrestrial ecosystems provide a series of goods, raw materials for construction and energy, food and a series of ecosystem services including the capture of carbon, maintenance of soil quality, provision of habitat for biodiversity, maintenance of water quality, as well as regulation of water flow and erosion control, therefore contributing to reduce the risks of natural disasters such as floods and landslides, regulate climate and maintain the productivity of agricultural systems. Maintaining those ecosystems greatly support climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

Preserving diverse forms of life on land requires targeted efforts to protect, restore and promote the conservation and sustainable use of terrestrial and other ecosystems. Goal 15 focuses specifically on managing forests sustainably, halting and reversing land and natural habitat degradation, successfully combating desertification and stopping biodiversity loss. All these efforts combined aim to ensure that the benefits of land-based ecosystems, including sustainable livelihoods, will be enjoyed for generations to come.


SDG16-Peace, justice and strong institutions

Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels:

Strengthened institutions, rule of law and enforcement contribute to support the implementation of multi-lateral environmental agreements and progress towards internationally agreed global environmental goals.

A better understanding of the links between environment and human security is vital for effective conflict prevention, post-conflict reconstruction and promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies. 
In the past 60 years, 40 per cent of conflicts have been tied to natural resources and these are twice as likely to relapse into conflict within the first five years.

Targets linked to the environment:

  • Target 16.3: Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all
  • Target 16.6: Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels
  • Target 16.7: Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels
  • Target 16.8: Broaden and strengthen the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance
  • Target 16.10: Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements
  • Target 16.b: Promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development

SDG17-Partnerships for the goals

Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development:

Achieving the ambitious targets of the 2030 Agenda requires a revitalized and enhanced global partnership that brings together Governments, civil society, the private sector, the United Nations system and other actors, mobilizing all available resources. Meeting implementation targets, including the raising of necessary funds, is key to realizing the Agenda, as is the full implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Increasing support to developing countries, in particular the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States, is fundamental to equitable progress for all.

Stronger partnerships will contribute to environmental protection and sustainable development by mobilizing resources, sharing knowledge, promoting the creation and transfer of environmentally sound technologies, and building capacity. There is tremendous scope for making the existing financial system more sustainable by integrating the environment dimension.

Growing cooperation among multilateral organizations, donors and private sector is needed to provide developing countries and beneficiaries with technologies that increase efficiency the use of natural resources, generate low waste, treat the generated pollution and mitigate climate change.


Leave a Reply