Linking SDGs and green inclusive recovery post Covid-19: measuring progress for better implementation

ACCA and ECA lead the debate on Linking SDGs and green inclusive recovery post COVID-19: measuring progress for better implementation

The logos for European Sustainable Development Week, ACCA and the European Court of Auditors

On 7 October, International and EU experts debated SDGs and green recovery at an event jointly hosted by Eva Lindström, Member of the European Court of Auditors and ACCA, during the EU Sustainable Development week.


The COVID-19 crisis highlighted that governments need to move rapidly and use the SDGs to tackle many pressing problems that are now too urgent to ignore, such as the rising frequency of destructive climate change-related events, and also interconnected issues of worsening inequality and the growing difficulties for many in earning a living through work that is becoming more precarious and insecure.

The defining challenge of the next decade will thus be to build the systems that the SDGs need for proper delivery. From the practicalities of achieving SDG-related policy coherence across different parts of government, to validating new data sources and establishing agreed-upon metrics where gaps exist, making delivery a reality requires genuine and ongoing commitment.

And this is precisely with that in mind that Eva Lindström, Member of the European Court of Auditors and ACCA organised, as part of the EU Sustainable Development week, a lively discussion on linking SDGs and green inclusive recovery post COVID-19: measuring progress for better implementation.

The debate, moderated by Cecile Bonino, ACCA’s head of EU Affairs, welcomed, in addition to Eva Lindström; Jimmy Greer, Head of sustainability, ACCA who presented the ACCA report Auditing the SDGs: Progress to 2030; Aimée Aguilar Jaber, Team Leader-Climate Change Mitigation, Environment Directorate, OECD; Asa Johannesson Linden, Deputy Head of the Unit for Impact analysis of EU policies on national economies in DG Economic and Financial Affairs (ECFIN); Tytti Yli-Viikari, Auditor General of Finland and Peter Welch, Director, Chamber 1 (Sustainable Use of Natural Resources), European Court of Auditors, also an ACCA member.

Discussions confirmed that the SDG framework needs to be understood as a baseline on which we can build on. The challenge in the SDGs framework implementation is to monitor complementarities and synergies, while addressing trade-offs between policies. The Von der Leyen’s Commission has committed to integrate the SDGs into the European economic governance framework, notably into the European Semester, including reporting on SDG performance. Work is on-going on a set of key indicators for climate, energy and environmental indicators, to monitor the economic implications of the environmental dimension of the transition to a sustainable economy, but the European Semester is however changing in view of the implementation of the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

Jimmy Greer, Head of Sustainability in the Professional Insights Directorate at ACCA and author of the report Auditing the SDGs: Progress to 2030 that was discussed at the event said: ”The SDGs do give us a roadmap into the future that connects the institutional with interconnected social, environmental and economic issues. Our speakers made clear how COVID-19 adds more dimensions to an already uncertain world. The role of auditors in helping to understand and support what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to the how well governments are taking on the multidimensional SDGs delivery challenge is more vital than ever.

The debate revealed that mitigation policies are likely to be easier to implement politically, economically and socially – and more cost-effective – when there is two-way alignment between climate action and the broader goals of human well-being and sustainable development. Speakers also highlighted that the monitoring and auditing performance, but also the mainstreaming of indicators should be a central criteria for policy and investment decisions, and called for moving from measuring inputs to understanding delivery

By enhancing the transparency and reliability of reporting, auditors can protect the gains already achieved on the path to a more sustainable future, and assess the long term impacts of policy. In this context, the “no harm” principle of Covid19 financial recovery packages is important. The discussions concluded with a clear call for collaboration and co-operation between the different parties to improve and overcome limitations of current SDGs.