Transitioning to a low-carbon society aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals

Agenda 2030 on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s Paris Agreement on limiting climate change well below 2oC, are two important international agreements that were established in 2015.

Although independently defined, targets within these two agreements are strongly linked and the achievement of one can affect the feasibility of others. From this perspective, low-carbon transitions for climate-change mitigation is one of Agenda 2030’s most complex targets, affecting almost all other SDGs. Therefore, policy coherence across relevant sustainable development policy areas should be strongly considered when designing low-carbon transition pathways. Policy coherence can only be achieved when policy makers are comprehensively informed. This means that the necessary tools to identify and quantify synergies and trade-offs, must be developed and applied. Many countries currently have implemented climate mitigation policies and guiding strategies. Assessing these measures and strategies both in terms of their greenhouse gas emissions reduction effects and their sustainability and development impacts would guide future action towards achieving the SDGs.

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This study assesses the adequacy of proposed policy actions towards national and international low-carbon transitions, and also considers country-specific development needs and opportunities in the context of SDGs. The assessment will be done by developing an integrated policy-adequacy framework that combines emission and development modelling with system-analysis tools, such as multi-criteria analysis. This framework will be applied to score current climate-relevant policy action in the G20 countries. The following research questions will be addressed:

RQ1. What co-benefits and side-effects G20 countries reap from their current climate mitigation actions across all sectors and policy areas, and how do these co-benefits and side-effects relate to country-specific development needs and priorities?

RQ2. How can climate mitigation policies’ adequacy be assessed in the context of country-specific development needs?

RQ3. How do G20 countries perform against the climate-mitigation policy-adequacy framework (develop under RQ2) in the transport and the electricity and heat sectors?


As a first step, the project aims to understand the interactions (including trade-offs and synergies) between climate mitigation and sustainable development. This will be achieved by comprehensively reviewing the literature on the impacts of climate mitigation on other SDGs. Impacts of climate-mitigation measures that are identified in the literature, and potential country-specific limitations will be grouped under several broader themes, such as economic development, food security, water availability, energy access and security, and health.  All these themes are elements of different SDGs.

Furthermore, the project will develop an integrated policy adequacy framework that facilitates the assessment and design of climate-mitigation strategies, in the context of country-specific development needs to realize other related SDGs. This framework will be based on multi-criteria analysis and will assess climate-mitigation policies against climate objectives (meeting the 2oC target) and development benchmarks adjusted to address country-specific development needs and limitations.

Finally, this project will assess climate policy adequacy in G20 countries for two energy related sectors, applying the integrated assessment framework described above. This final step aims to illustrates how the framework can be applied and adjusted by researchers and policy makers.

This project is part of CD-links