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Our latest insight paper explores the impact of Covid-19 on the ability to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals in the UK.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK was not firing on all cylinders. Productivity growth was weak, regional economic imbalances persisted and we faced a significant decarbonisation challenge. ‘Levelling up’, an industrial strategy and the net-zero target were all identified as solutions.
But beyond that, the UK has committed to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 - what was performance like and what impact will Covid-19 have on achieving it?
The Office for National Statistics monitors UK performance against the 232 indicators that sit behind the 17 SDGs and the UK government, in line with treaty obligations, publishes progress against these. The first such progress report, the UK Voluntary National Review (VNR), was published in June 2019. Alongside this monitoring other organisations, including the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD) track progress.
UKSSD reviewed the UK’s performance against the SDGs in 2018, ICE contributed to this review which found that out of the 143 targets relevant to the domestic delivery of the SDGs, the UK is performing well on 24% of them. There are gaps in policy or inadequate performance for 57% of them, and 15% where there is little to no policy in place to address the target, or where performance is poor.
The VNR also showed that:
Addressing these and other SDG indicators will be important as we develop plans for a post-Covid recovery.
ICE's Enabling Better Infrastructure Programme highlighted the role the SDGs can play in providing a baseline for strategic infrastructure planning, ensuring that both national need and national vision are married together in a cohesive plan for the future. Despite this importance, few developed countries use the SDGs or reference them as part of their infrastructure plans.
ICE UK Fellows were surveyed for their views on the likely impact of Covid-19 on the UK’s ability to achieve the SDGs (positive, mixed or negative). Just over a third feel the impact will be mixed.
SDG 1- Ending poverty in all its forms within the UK, and SDG 8 - Sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all, are expected to be negatively impacted.
There is less agreement on which SDGs will be positively impacted. Respondents opinions are spread between SDG 3- Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages, SDG 9- Building resilient infrastructure, inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and fostering innovation and SDG 13- Taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
The impact on climate change, SDG 13- Taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts is not clear as respondents are equally split between positive, negative and mixed impact. The diagram below shows the spread of opinion on positive and negative impacts only.
The results reflect findings from interviews and other sources used for this paper - the economic impact will push more towards the poverty line with uncertainty around the bounce back economically. There may be some benefits for combating climate change (potentially if more work from home), a concerted effort to improve the health system (to increase spare capacity) and the potential for infrastructure investment to support the recovery.
These findings and interviews conducted for our insight paper draws out some crucial lessons; these are explored in further detail in our Green Paper:
The insights paper published today is supporting a wider call for evidence that ICE has recently launched on behalf of the Infrastructure Client Group. The questions contained within the call for evidence are as follows:
The call for evidence runs until June 14. Representations can be made to : [email protected].
Read the Insights paper