Cohesion policy 2021-2027 support to the UN Sustainable Development Goals

1. Introduction

The European Commission is strongly committed to the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The von der Leyen Commission has made sustainability an overriding policy priority for its mandate (2019-2024). All Sustainable Development Goals feature in one or more of the six Commission priorities, making all Commission work streams, policies and strategies conducive to achieving the UN SDGs.
EU cohesion policy, with its objective of reducing social, economic and territorial disparities within the Union,  is strongly aligned to the UN sustainable development goals.
This interactive data story allows you to explore the investment contribution of Cohesion policy funds programmed for the period 2021-2027 to the relevant SDGs. 
As in the 2014-2020 data story on the SDGs we have matched the 2021-2027 cohesion policy intervention fields to specific SDGs on a one-to-one basis, which shows that 94% of Cohesion Policy resources are directly aligned. However, for 2021-2027 we go beyond this one-to-one matching to draw attention to a number of cross cutting monitoring tools that better reflect the support planned to the SDGs on Gender Equality, Sustainable Cities and Communities and Climate action and that also reflects the overlapping nature of the SDGs.
The UN's SDGs  
The Sustainable Development Goals are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015. Sustainable development aims to achieve a continuous improvement in citizens’ quality of life and well-being, without compromising the well-being of future generations. This involves the pursuit of economic progress, while safeguarding the natural environment and promoting social justice.
Cohesion policy
For 2021-2027, Cohesion policy funds consist of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Cohesion Fund and the European Social Fund plus (ESF+) and the Just Transition Fund . Out of the 17 goals, we track below Cohesion policy 2021-2027 direct support to 12 Sustainable Development Goals as follows:
  • SDG 1 No poverty: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • SDG 3 Good health and well-beingEnsure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  • SDG 4 Quality education: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • SDG 5 Gender Equality:  Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • SDG 6 Clean water and sanitation: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  • SDG 7 Affordable and clean energy: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • SDG 8 Decent work and economic growth: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • SDG 9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • SDG 11 Sustainable cities and communities: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • SDG 12 Responsible consumption and production: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • SDG 13 Climate action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  • SDG 15 Life on land: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Cohesion Policy funding indirectly supports other goals, notably SDG 10 Reduced inequality, which overlaps with Cohesion Policy funding mapped against SDGs 3, 4 and 8. 
Other EU spending programmes, out of scope for this presentation, also support specific SDGs (i.e. the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund contributes to SDG 14 Life below water). 

2. Overview of Cohesion Policy planned amounts by SDG

Before digging into the data, it is important to explain how we have mapped Cohesion policy thematic financial allocations to the SDGs.
Under Cohesion policy 2021-2027 a initial list of 182 intervention fields were used to breakdown the EU budget into thematic actions (find out more in this data story).  The intervention fields are mapped to the SDGs as follows:
  • We have made a initial 1-to-1 correspondence between the intervention fields and SDGs, leading to the identification of a "prevailing" SDG for each intervention field. (This primary approach excludes double counting the investment under the intervention fields. However, it presents a simplified understanding of how cohesion funding serves the SGDs, in some cases understating the contribution to SDGs.)
  • As intervention fields may contribute to more than a single SDG, this data story also presents cross cutting views on the contribution of cohesion policy investments to specific SDGs. Cross-cutting views have been developed for SDG 5 "Gender Equality" featuring a dedicated data story, an SDG 11 focused data story on "Sustainable Urban Development 2021-2027", and a data story relevant to SDG 13 presenting "climate tracking" action for 2021-2027 on Cohesion Policy.
In 2023, the European Commission produced an inaugural EU Voluntary review on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In this report, the European Union highlights its commitment to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Sustainable development is firmly embedded at the core of the EU's agenda, and it is actively working to advance the 2030 Agenda on both domestic and global fronts. The EU is dedicated to supporting partner countries in their implementation efforts, reflecting its commitment to the SDGs. To learn more, you can visit the Voluntary Reviews of SDG implementation page
Global filter
Use the global filter below to filter all charts on this page by EU fund, member state or programme.
- The underlying dataset of planned investments is updated regularly when programme allocations are formally modified. 
The bulk of EU Cohesion policy funding - 94% - contributes to the 11 UN SGDs identified across.
The interactive pie chart on the right shows the volume of 2021-2027 Cohesion Policy funding contributing to the 11 relevant SGDs based on a one to one mapping of intervention fields.
Of the total budget 46% is allocated to 2  SDGs - SDG 9 Industry, innovation, infrastructure and SDG 8 Decent work and economic growth.
(NB: The 12th relevant SDGs on Gender Equality is tracked separately from the Intervention fields - see below.)
1. Use the filter at the top right of the chart to explore the investments in the SDGs by EU fund and country .
2. Toggle to "summary table" in bottom right of chart to see and copy the EU values by SDG. 

3. Explore Cohesion policy's contribution to twelve SDGs

This section allows you to explore the planned Cohesion policy contribution in the 2014-2020 programming period by SDG. 
The first chart shows the share of the EU planned amounts to each SDG by % of the financial contribution by Member States. The largest beneficiaries of cohesion policy naturally appear as the largest contributors in all SDG. To see the relative importance of SDGs within the national plans use the pie chart above and filter by country. 
In the second chart the EU allocation is broken down by intervention field. Looking at the intervention fields helps to better understand what actions are financed by Cohesion policy under each SDG.
The text accompanying the charts refers to the planned investment position as of April 2024. The underlying data is refreshed based on reprogramming activities that may take place over time. 
- In the charts on the left, explore the chart by fund and country using the drill down buttons (top left) or filters (top right);  
- In the charts on the right, click on the coloured bar of an intervention field to see the Member States that most contribute to it. Use the drill down buttons (top left) or filters (top right) to explore by intervention field and country. 

SDG 1. No Poverty 
"End poverty in all its forms everywhere."
SDG 1 between 2021 and 2027 constitutes 10% of the total EU planned amount with EUR 38.8 billion allocated.  
SDG 1 is playing a fundamental role in Cohesion Policies. Notably, the largest share of the EU allocations are in Italy (16%), Poland (14%), and Spain (13%).

Examining intervention categories, significant emphasis is placed on "Access to quality, sustainable, and affordable services" at 14% of the total allocated, and "Employment integration for disadvantaged people" at a share of 19%. Another relevant category is "Equal opportunities and participation in society," accounting for a total of 12% in planned interventions.

SDG 3. Good Health and Well-being 
"Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages."
SDG 3 between 2021 and 2027 constitutes 2% of the total EU planned amount with EUR 8 billion.  
However, within this allocation, Poland stands out with a substantial share of the total for SDG3 at 24%, equivalent to planned investment of EUR 1.8 billion. Following closely are Romania with a share of 18% and Spain with 15%.

In terms of intervention categories, the most widespread is "Health Infrastructure," constituting 51% of the total, primarily attributed to how European funds support infrastructure development, totaling around 4 billion. Additionally, the second most prominent category is "Health Equipment," accounting for 26%.

SDG 4. Quality education
"Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all."
SDG 4 accounts for a total of 9%, with a projected investment of EUR 32 billion.
Examining Member States, Poland leads with a share of 16% investment in SDG 4, followed closely by Italy with 14%.

Within the SDG 4 framework, the primary objective is to bring quality education. Consequently, we observe that "Primary and secondary education" is the predominant intervention category, with an investment of nearly 13 billion, constituting 40% of the total.

SDG 5. Gender Equality 
In the period 2021-2027 a new gender equality dimension has been added to the cohesion policy monitoring of investments. This investment dimension overlaps with the intervention fields used for most other SDGs. Under this separate dimension the programmes are calculated to mobilise 30% of EU Cohesion Policy investments to supporting the gender equality dimension between 2021 and 2027.

Data story on supporting gender equality 
A separate data story has been created to explain how cohesion policies address gender equality.

Discover more in this data story.

SDG 6. Clean water and sanitation
"Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all."
SDG 6, "Clean water and sanitation," has been utilized by more than half of  Member States at a rate of 4%, amounting to a total EU planned investment of EUR 13 billion.

At the member state level, Romania leads with the highest utilization of SDG 6, accounting for 17%, equivalent to around EUR 2 billion. Following closely are Poland with 15% of investments in SDG 6 and Spain with 10%.

To understand where SDG 6 investments have been allocated in terms of intervention categories, the most significant portion is attributed to "Waste Water Collection and Treatment," constituting 36% or EUR 4.7 billion. Additionally, investments related to "Water for Human Consumption" come second, representing 18%.

SDG 7. Affordable and Clean Energy
"Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all."
SDG 7, "Affordable and Clean Energy," constitutes 12% of the total, with a total planned EU investment of EUR 43 billion.
Poland leads in supporting SDG 7 with 26%, followed by Spain at 15%, and Italy at 9%. 

In terms of intervention categories, the most substantial, representing 20% or 8 billion, is dedicated to efficiency investments in public infrastructure. Under this SDG "Smart Energy Systems and Related Storage" and "Renewable Energies: Solar" comprise 11% each of the total EU allocation.

SDG 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
"Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all."
SDG 8 is one of the most important objectives under Cohesion policy accounting for nearly 18% of the total budget with and EU planned investment of  EUR 69 billion.
It is crucial as it addresses economic growth and the quality of employment in Europe. Italy leads among member states with 17%, totaling EUR 11 billion, followed by Poland at 16%, amounting to EUR 10 billion.

In terms of intervention categories, several are considered relevant to SDG 8, but the most prominent, representing about 25% or around EUR 17 billion, is defined as "SME business development and internationalization." Following this is the category addressing youth employment and socio-economic integration, totaling EUR 11 billion, representing 16% of the total.

SDG 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
"Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation."
SDG 9 is the most significant in terms of investments under cohesion policy, totaling 28% of the overall amount, approximately EUR 104 billion of EU planned investment.
Regarding the distribution among Member States, Poland has the highest EUR allocation, totaling 29% of the EU total, equivalent to EUR 28 billion. The Czech Republic contributes and allocation 8% of the EU total, amounting to EUR 8 billion.

Numerous intervention categories are mapped to SDG 9 as it encompasses various elements related to industry, innovation, and infrastructure. The category concerning "clean urban infrastructure" is the most utilized, totaling EUR 8 billion, representing 8% of the SDG 9 total. Another category with the same percentage and a similar amount addresses Research and Innovation (R+I) activities in SMEs. These are just two examples of the broad themes covered by this SDG.

SDG 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
"Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable."
SDG 11 accounts for a total of 3% of cohesion policy investment, approximately EUR 15 billion.
Among the member states, Poland leads with 21% of the EU planned amount, equivalent to EUR 2 billion. Next is Italy with 15%, and Romania with 8%.
In terms of intervention categories, the highest allocation is for cycling infrastructure accounting for 29% of the EU allocation, equivalent to EUR 3.2 billion, while "Physical Regeneration and Security of Public Spaces" amounts to EUR 3 billion.
Wider view on support to Sustainable Urban Development
The allocations to SDG 11 above cover only those intervention fields mapped 1-to-1.

It is important to consider the data from the territorial dimensions which shows that over EUR 24.4 billion of EU Cohesion Policy investments are dedicated to sustainable urban development in cities.

Discover more in this data story.

SDG 12. Responsible consumption and production
"Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns."
SDG 12, "Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns," represents a total EU planned amount of EUR 8.4 billion, 2% of the cohesion policy budget across the member states
Greece takes the lead with 15% of the EU planned total, totaling EUR 1.2 billion, followed by Italy at 14%, and Poland in third place with a total of 12%.
Regarding intervention categories, the most significant is "Household Waste Management"  comprising 35% of the total investment, totaling EUR 3 billion. In second place, we have approximately EUR 2 billion invested in "Environmentally Friendly Production Processes in SMEs".

SDG 13. Climate Action
"Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts by regulating emissions and promoting developments in renewable energy."
This SDG has a share of cohesion policy investment of 4%, amounting to EUR 14.4 billion based on a 1-to-1 mapping of intervention fields.

Within this framework, there is a notable allocation in Poland, which accounts for 25% of teh EU planned amount or EUR 3.4 billion, followed by Italy with 10%. 

In terms of intervention fields, a significant 45% of the total, around EUR 6.5 billion, is dedicated to the "prevention or management of floods and landslides". The intervention field category focusing on "climate change measures, prevention, and management" holds 29%, totaling EUR 4.2 billion.
However, that investment volume underestimates the climate action relevance of cohesion policy as it uses the simplified 1-to-1 allocation of intervention fields to SDGs. 
Wider view on tracking climate action 
For the 2021-27 period, cohesion policy funding is delivering more that EUR 118 billion investment in climate action. This represents a significant contribution to EU climate goals in line with the European Green Deal, to secure a sustainable path towards a climate neutral Europe.

Discover more in this data story.

SDG 15. Life on Land
"Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss."
SDG 15, Life on Land, has a total of EUR 11. 2 billion, accounting for 3% of the total SDGs developed among the member states.
It is noteworthy that Poland leads in allocating a total of EUR 1.8 billion of the planned EU amount, equivalent to 17% of the total, followed by Italy and TC/Interreg with 10% each of the EU allocation.
In terms of intervention categories, there are only 5, with the most utilized being at 46%, totaling EUR 5 billion, representing the crucial theme related to the "nature and biodiversity protection". Following closely is the category representing the "rehabilitation of industrial sites and contaminated land", at 26%.

4. More information

The #CohesionOpenData dataset underlying this data story is available on this link.
Key EU initiatives to support the SDGs are listed below: 
Follow us on Twitter: @EUinmyRegion - @REGIOEvaluation - #CohesionOpenData 
Find out more about cohesion open data: Website Blog FAQ User Guide - Browse other data stories
Author: Giulia OLIVIERI, John WALSH 
Date of text: April 2024