June 19, 2019

Returning from a festival of SDGs – except there’s not much to celebrate yet

It’s been four years since the adoption of the Agenda 2030 and the SDGs are finally getting some deserved limelight – but with this increased focus, shouldn’t we have seen more progress by now?

New Sustainable Development Report 2019 out today shows we still have far to go.

Folkemødet 2019
I just spent three days at the Danish political festival, “Folkemødet” (the people’s meeting). For the first time, the festival had an overall theme: the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Of this there should be little doubt in case you were there and also had your eyes open. The amount of SDG merchandise was comparable to that of Frozen in a young girl’s bedroom. Don’t get me wrong – the focus on the SDGs is good news.

But three years in, shouldn’t we be able to celebrate more than Agenda 2030 finally getting some coverage?

A (brand-new) status of the SDGs
I was asked by Interreg-ÖKS and Greater Copenhagen. to present where we are in our progress with the goals in Scandinavia. This could’ve been a talk about how we’re “in the lead” and granted, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway are some of the countries that are the “furthest ahead” (1, 2, and 6 respectively) on the SDGs – according to the brand-new new Sustainable Development Report 2019. Unfortunately, this says more about the global status than it does about the Scandinavian. ⁣

The Scandinavian countries have a lot going for them with strong public sectors ensuring a comfortable living standard, good health care, free education, legislation for increased equality. As such, the Nordic countries were “far ahead on the goals” before they even existed. ⁣However, this is just an account of some of the global goals.

The Nordics behind on Agenda 2030
We are – globally – worryingly behind on reaching a significant number of the goals. In the Nordics, the score on SDG 12 on Responsible Consumption and Production is consistently low as Denmark, Sweden, and Norway are some of the most consuming countries in the world per capita and equally the most carbon emitting. Despite well-meaning goals and action plans to become “carbon-neutral”, we have yet to address consumption-based emissions, which will continue to place us amongst those performing the poorest.


Results from the Danish status on the Sustainable Development Goals from new report out today.

Key findings in the Sustainable Development Report 2019 show that when it comes to the environmental goals (13, 14, 15), things are looking equally dire in the north – and the world. Deforestation is high, biodiversity is suffering, and spillover effects (e.g. emissions and pollution in Bangladesh when we buy cheap fast fashion here or deforestation due to non-certified palm oil consumption) are rampant. Although the Nordics perform well on the social goals, the performance on the environmental is correspondingly atrocious.

We could show global leadership
One of the main arguments in my presentation at Folkemødet was that we have a unique opportunity to showcase great, global leadership in the Nordics – by taking responsibility of where we’re behind. To communicate about the issues we have when it comes to addressing consumption, deforestation, spillover effect and the other myriad targets we’re currently not progressing on. If we could find the courage to do so, I think we would allow ourselves to opportunity to make real and tangible progress – and perhaps even set us on a course towards Agenda 2030 that will allow us to say we did our best while there was still time. ⁣