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Report: Finland making best progress toward SDGs

Finland has landed the top spot in a European comparison of progress made by countries toward the sustainable development goals, having achieved or being on track to achieve seven of the 17 goals.

Harri Tarvainen / Visit Finland

The Europe Sustainable Development Report 2021, the third edition of a quantitative report on progress made toward the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in the EU, sees the country as the global pacemaker for sustainable development.

Finland received the highest total score, 80.75, in the report, having achieved or being on track to achieve seven of the 17 goals: no poverty; quality education; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure; reduced inequalities; and sustainable cities and communities.

The top three of the ranking was rounded out by Sweden (80.57) and Denmark (79.32).

Finland is making progress – albeit not at the required rate – also toward the goals of good health and wellbeing; gender equality; clean water and sanitation; life below water; peace, justice and strong institutions; and partnerships for the goals.

Its progress toward the goals of zero hunger, climate action, and responsible consumption and production has contrastively stagnated, with major or significant challenges yet to overcome. Further measures are required, for example, to reduce the energy intensity of diets by shifting from animal to plant-based food and to protect more terrestrial and freshwater sites that are key for biodiversity.

The country owes its spot at the top of the ranking to the fact that it was less affected by the coronavirus pandemic than most other countries in the EU, according to the authors. Even the best-performing countries, they added, face significant challenges in achieving targets in the areas of sustainable diets and agriculture, climate and biodiversity partly due to spillovers such as deforestation embodied into trade.

“The pace of progress on many goals is generally too slow to achieve the SDGs by 2030 and the Paris Climate Agreement by 2050,” they wrote in the executive summary.

The report was prepared by teams of independent experts at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP).

By: Aleksi Teivainen