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Authored by Sofie Bang Kirkegaard, green guide and MA in city planning

The Sustainable Development Goals: A 101 Guide

You have probably heard about the SDGs, The Sustainable Development Goals. But maybe you have some unanswered questions as to what they exactly cover – in this blog post we will guide you through the SDGs in a short SDG 101 guide.

A United Agreement – An Introduction to the SDGs

On September 25th, 2015, the 193 countries of the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Development Agenda titled “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” and thereby agreed to follow the 17 sustainable development goals. -An action plan for the next 15 years, until 2030, aiming to evaporate extreme poverty and hunger, fight inequality, tackle climate change and achieve sustainable development for everyone across the globe.

The goals build on the 3 pillars of sustainability: economic, social, and environmental, and are further divided by 5 different thematic areas: people, prosperity, peace, partnership, and the planet.

The SDGs are a development of and a follow up on the 8 millennium development goals (MDGs) presented by the UN in 2000. They however differ slightly since the MDGs mainly were targeted towards developing countries whereas the SDGs are universal and cover all countries and are developed from a “leave no one behind”-framework where no goal is met until it is met for everyone, everywhere. Equality both within and between states is thus a significant part of the SDGs.

The Sustainable Development Goals: A 101 Guide

The 17 Goals

Below follows a presentation of the 17 SDGs as an overview:

1: No Poverty, 2: Zero Hunger, 3: Good Health and Well-being, 4: Quality Education, 5: Gender Equality, 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, 7: Affordable and Clean Energy, 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, 10: Reduced Inequality, 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, 13: Climate Action, 14: Life Below Water, 15: Life On Land, 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions, 17: Partnerships for the Goals.

As we see, the targets are broad and cover a wide range of areas, which can make them seem less tangible and a bit “fluffy”. The goals were thus adjusted in 2017 by identifying and adding 169 specific targets and benchmarks such that each of the main SDGs is broken down into more specified targets, making them easier to understand and follow up on.

The Sustainable Development Goals: A 101 Guide

How are we doing? Tracking of the Development Goals

The SDGs are a task that we have agreed to reach as a collective within a limited timeframe, but how can we learn if we are doing progress and heading in the right direction?

For this purpose, there are several tools, indicators, and institutions:

The UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) is making annual monitoring of the SDGs globally, under the auspices of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. And The Global “SDG Index and Dashboards Report” is a publication which tracks countries’ performance on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals. It is an annual publication, which includes rankings and dashboards highlighting key challenges for each country in terms of implementing the SDGs. The reports can be accessed here: www.sdgindex.org

From the latest reports, it becomes evident, that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a clear setback for sustainable development everywhere, mainly due to increased poverty and unemployment. And thus, the global average score for the year 2020 indicates that there, for the first time since the agreement of the goals in 2015, has been a downward trend since the year before.

An SDG-tracking tool that makes the SDGs more accessible and understandable for us as public and interested citizens, is the online publication SDG-Tracker which tracks to which extent the world is making progress towards each of the SDGs, visualizing it by using maps and charts. See how far your country has come: www.sdg-tracker.org/

Green Bike Tours and the Sustainable Development Goals

Green Bike Tours core mission is to educate and teach about sustainability in its many varied forms. We therefore also offer tours about the SDGs from this spring in Berlin. You can find this exciting new offer at: https://greenbiketours.org/tour-4-a-sustainability-walk-through-neukolln/. On this tour, we address the SDGs and bring them into a real-life setting and context where we discuss how we can each take part and contribute to reaching the goals by 2030.

The Sustainable Development Goals: A 101 Guide