You are here

Sustainable Progress Index 2020 - Ireland ranks 10th out of EU 15

‘Measuring Progress: Sustainable Progress Index 2020’ ranks 15 comparable EU countries based on their delivery of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  The index publication comes in the same week as UN World Social Justice Day and is a timely reminder that Social Justice is a multi-faceted and multi-departmental issue that must be measured if it is to be accounted for.  2020 is the final year of the current National Implementation Plan for the SDGs in Ireland.  Irelands overall ranking of 10th and the findings of this report serve as a guide to assess which SDGs Ireland is making progress on, and which SDGs require significantly more policy effort. 

Our next Government has the opportunity to lead the way towards a new generation of politics shaped by the economic, social and environmental demands of a truly healthy society. The Sustainable Progress Index is a landmark annual report to enhance the policy decisions of the Irish Government when it comes to progressing the SDGs.  It should be recognised that we are performing well in many areas. However, there are certain areas where we are seriously underperforming, and this is dragging our overall ranking down.  Addressing the complexities of sustainable development requires a joined-up thinking approach. It requires a balance between economic and social progress and sustaining the planet’s environment and resources as well as combatting climate change.

The establishment of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has given national governments clear economic, social and environmental standards against which established policies should be judged and prospective policies should be measured. Equipped with these goals as tools for guidance and accountability, our Government has the opportunity to lead the way towards a new generation of politics shaped by the economic, social and environmental demands of a truly healthy society. The Sustainable Progress Index is another landmark report to inform the policy decisions of the Irish Government when it comes to progressing the SDGs.

Written by Prof. Charles M.A. Clark of St John’s University, New York; Dr. Catherine Kavanagh of University College Cork and Niamh Lenihan of Cork Institute of Technology, the index compares 15 EU countries across all UN SDGs, assesses their performance on each individual SDG and creates a ranking table for performance overall.

Main Findings:

The report finds that Ireland is ranked 11th out of the 15 countries on the economy dimension. Although the record on GDP per capita and unemployment is good - we score best on these indicators - the low score on the economy index is influenced by several factors including low pay, the proportion of youths not in employment, education or training (the NEET rate) and the % of GDP devoted to R&D.  These lower the score on this dimension.

On the social index, Ireland is in the middle of the ranking, in 7th place.  We score highly on goals relating to education, peace and justice; less well on goals reflecting poverty, inequality, gender equality and health and well-being.

Ireland scores last on the environment index which suggests Ireland is facing significant challenges in meeting our environmental targets.   Poor performance on goals relating to responsible production and consumption, clean energy and climate change are the key factors driving the result for this dimension.

The overall Sustainable Progress Index, which includes all 17 goals, concludes that Ireland is in 10th place out of the 15 countries. Countries at the bottom are Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy. Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands top the rankings.

Strengths

The report finds Ireland is in the top third for just 2 SDGs.  Ireland does well on SDGs relating to Quality Education (SDG 4) and Peace and Justice (SDG 16). On these Ireland is ranked 2nd and 5th respectively.  Ireland has a good reputation internationally for quality education, and skilled graduates are in high demand. Ireland is also regarded as a relatively safe place to live with reasonably good, transparent, effective and accountable institutions. 

Weaknesses

SDGs reflecting the environment present an unfavourable picture of Ireland.  Clearly, there are pressing sustainability issues that must be addressed, as reflected by Ireland’s poor ranking on Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG 7), Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG12), Climate Action (SDG 13), and Life below Water (SDG 14).  Of the 15 countries studied, Ireland is ranked 11th, 13th, 13th and 11th, respectively on these.  Significant challenges lie ahead if Ireland is to achieve its objectives on these goals.  Addressing the complexities of sustainable development requires a joined-up thinking approach. Successful implementation of the SDGs requires a balance between economic and social progress and sustaining the planet’s environment and resources as well as combatting climate change.

Somewhere in the Middle 

The remaining SDGs lie in the middle of the rankings. But that does not imply we should be complacent. The objective of the 17 SDGs as part of the 2030 Agenda was to set universal goals that meet the urgent environment, political and economic challenges evident in our world. They focus on identifying global challenges relating to issues on poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, peace, and justice. The results imply Ireland has a long way to go to meet the aims of Agenda 2030. Continuous monitoring of all the indicators that make up the goals is required. The SDGs must be kept at the top of Ireland’s agenda: they must be used to help policy makers develop a plan for sustainable development.

To download the report click here.