Nordic countries led by Sweden and Denmark have cemented their sustainability profiles, occupying the top three spots in the sustainable development goals (SDGs) index.
The SDG index tracks country performance on the 17 SDGs as outlined by the United Nations and is captured in the sustainable development report 2020.
“As in previous editions, three Nordic countries top the 2020 SDG Index: Sweden, Denmark, and Finland,” says the study compiled by Cambridge University Press and Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).
A zero (0) index represents the worst score and 100 the best in sustainability strategies.
For example, Sweden’s overall index score of 85 suggests that the country is on average 85 percent through to the best possible outcome across the 17 SDGs.
Sweden has so far fully achieved four SDG goals – no poverty (goal one), good health and well-being (goal three), gender equality (goal five) and affordable and clean energy (goal seven). The country has made significant progress towards fulfilling the remaining 13 goals ahead of the 2030 deadline.
The United States is ranked at position 31 globally and has not achieved any SDG goal.
The study offers comparative assessment of government strategies and policy actions for climate mitigation as well as policy and monitoring frameworks.
In Africa, Algeria leads the continent at position 56 globally with an index score of 72.3, meaning it is nearly three-quarters through to achieving the SDG goals, followed by Tunisia (position 63 worldwide) and Morocco (64).
In sub-Saharan Africa, Cape Verde leads the pack and is ranked at position 92 across the globe with an index of 67.2, while Ghana is second at position 100 globally and Mauritius is third.
“Low-income countries tend to have lower SDG Index scores. This is partly due to the nature of the SDGs, which focus to a large extent on ending extreme poverty and on access to basic services and infrastructure (SDGs 1–9),” the study says.
“Moreover, poorer countries tend to lack adequate infrastructure and mechanisms to manage key environmental challenges covered under SDGs 12–15.”
Looking at trends, the report indicates, many high-income countries are not making significant progress on sustainable consumption and production.
Further, high-income countries generally generate the largest negative spillovers, which undermine other countries’ efforts to achieve the SDGs. This, in effect, means more advanced economies tend to perform poorly on spillover indicators.
Strategies to achieve the SDGs need to be implemented domestically without generating negative impacts on other countries – “spillovers”. The 2030 agenda and the sustainable goals recognise the importance of international spillovers. SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production) requires developed countries to take the lead in tackling spillovers.
The spillover index measures transboundary impacts generated by one country on others, which undermine their ability to achieve the SDGs.
The spillover index covers three categories namely:
• Environmental spillovers
This covers international spillovers related to the use of natural resources and pollution. Environmental spillovers can be generated in two ways – through transboundary effects embodied in trade, and through direct cross-border flows in air and water.
• Spillovers related to the economy, finance and governance
This covers unfair tax competition, banking secrecy, international labor standards and international development finance such as official development assistance (ODA) which unlike the rest above is a positive spillover.
• Security spillovers This includes negative externalities – such as the trade in arms, particularly in small arms and organised international crime – which can have a destabilising impact on poor countries. Among the positive spillovers are investments in conflict-prevention and peacekeeping, including through the United Nations.