Data and information form the backbone for all national, regional and international policy analysis and for developing evidenced-based policy. However, a lack of necessary environmental data and statistics, including related to the SDGs, multilateral environmental agreements and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), restricts the ability of policy makers to make informed decisions. Countries have recognized the importance of environment statistics in the context of the SDG. Additionally, there is recognition that a set of global SDG indicators will not be sufficient for fully tracking progress at the national and regional levels and thus there will be a need for supplementary indicators at these levels. This recognition has created a dramatic increase in the demand for environment data and statistics.
This demand for data emphasizes the need for improved data collection, increased use of administrative and other data sources, and enhanced national capacity to turn the data that is collected into information that can be used for policy analysis (i.e. statistics and indicators which follow agreed methodologies and are available at regular intervals). Within this context, there are 3 main areas where UN Environment is working to address these issues:
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UN Environment has an international obligation to report on the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda and progress on the sustainable development goals. Specifically, UN Environment is the custodian for 26 SDG indicators for 26 SDG indicators mainly related to water, sustainable consumption and production, oceans, and biodiversity. It is responsible for leading the methodological development of these 26 indicators and, once the methodology is developed, UN Environment is responsible for compiling and reporting data on these 26 indicators to the Secretary General’s SDG report. The work on methodological development and data compilation spans across the work of UN Environment and involves experts from the UN Environment Science Division, Economy Division, Ecosystems Division and Law Division. Additionally many of the MEA Secretariat’s are involved.
In addition to UN Environment’s work on the 26 indicators for which UN Environment is the custodian, UN Environment also works with a variety of other organizations and partners on the methodological development for other environment-related indicators and on ensuring that the indicators on the environmental aspect of sustainable development can be disaggregated by gender where necessary. As the custodian agency, UN Environment is responsible for developing methodologies, work plans and for collecting and reporting data on these indicators to the UN SDG global database and to the Secretary General's Report on progress towards the goals and targets of the 2030 SD agenda at the global level. The UN Environment works with countries and other UN agencies in the SDG indicator process through the Inter-agency Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDG).
For more information on the indicators under UN Environment’s responsibility and the work plans for those indicators click here.
As the leading global environmental authority, UN Environment also has a role in conducting research on new and emerging areas of environment statistics, including gender-environment statistics, climate change statistics, sustainable consumption and production statistics, chemicals and waste statistics, ocean statistics, biodiversity and ecosystem statistics, and other areas of environment statistics. This work involves UN Environment staff from across the organization. A list of relevant methodological publications and current work is below.
At the regional and global level, scientists, policy analysts, decision-makers, donors and the public rely on consistent, reliable, up-to-date information for guiding research, preparing assessments, developing regional and global approaches for sustainable development, facilitating policy action, allocation of funds and keeping informed on the state and trend of the environment. In order to promote data use, UN Environment plays a key role in providing easy access to a wealth of data and information needed to support and enable implementation of the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda. Data visualization tools, including maps, charts and other graphics, also support users in understanding and using environmental data. UN Environment is working to insure that the SDG indicator work is highlighted in the UNEP-Live platform.
UNEP-Live architecture is currently evolving towards an integrated architecture, which will provide an entry point for accessing and integrating data and information needed the central database allowing access to inform SDG indicator relevant data at country, regional and national level. Additionally, mapping synergies between the SDGs and MEAs supports a coordinated approach to assessing SDG and MEA progress concurrently, highlighting the role of Multilateral Environmental Agreements in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.
The ‘Future We Want’ - outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (2012) included recognition of the “need to support developing countries in their efforts to collect environmental data”. UN Environment is working with the UN Statistics Division (UNSD) and all five UN Regional Commissions to address the lack of necessary environmental data and statistics for making evidence-based decisions, monitoring the SDGs and reporting on environmental agreements, including Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement. The aim of this coordinated effort is to build and strengthen environmental statistical capacity at the national level in relevant institutions such as the Ministries of Environment and the National Statistical Offices. An increased capacity to produce environmental statistics forms a foundation for the delivery of high quality information to be integrated into the SDGs reporting.
The work uses the existing, approved statistical guidelines and standards, including the Framework for the Development of Environment Statistics (FDES) and the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA).
Currently, UN Environment, the UN Statistics Division, and the 5 UN Regional Commissions are jointly implementing a UN Secretariat Programme on Statistics and Data toward the objective of strengthening capacity in developing countries to measure and monitor sustainable development goal indicators in environment statistics areas. The coordinated programme of work ensures that the impact at the country level is maximized through a coordinated approach.
In September 2015 World Leaders committed to an ambitious global agenda ‘Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ through the adoption of General Assembly Resolution 70/1. Governments underscored that a “robust, voluntary, effective, participatory, transparent and integrated follow-up and review framework will make a vital contribution to implementation”. In particular, the importance of improving the availability of and access to data and statistics related to the environment was recognized through the adoption of a wide range of environmental SDG targets.
The global commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development reinforces the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, entitled “The Future We Want” which included recognition of the “need to support developing countries in their efforts to collect environmental data”. The role of UN Environment in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was outlined in United Nations Assembly Resolution 2/5 which “requests the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, the leading global environmental authority, to enhance its activities, in cooperation with other United Nations entities, in support of the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the national, regional and global levels, taking into account the recommendations of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development”. In the context of the SDG indicators, the resolution “encourages the Executive Director to continue UNEP’s work, in a manner that avoids duplication, on indicators to support monitoring the delivery of the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development”.
The SDG Data and Information Unit, Country Outreach, Technology and Innovation Branch in the Science Division acts as the coordinator for work related to the SDG indicators and official statistics within UN Environment.
In order to accelerate progress toward compiling and using environment statistics and the SDG indicators requires collaboration with countries, regional organizations, other international organizations, academics, private-sector organizations and others. We are currently working with a number of partners, but if you are interested in further collaboration with us feel free to contact us.
UN Environment works with a wide variety of partners across many organizations. The methodological work on the SDG indicators requires coordination with partners (as indicators in the workplans for these indicators).
In order to build statistical capacity in countries, UN Environment is leading the implementation of the environmental pillar of a UN Secretariat Programme on Statistics and Data toward the objective of strengthening capacity in developing countries to measure and monitor sustainable development goal indicators in environment statistics areas. This project is in collaboration with the UN Statistical Division, and the 5 UN Regional Commissions. The statistical capacity development support under this project will involve a number of regional and national level activities. Reports from regional meetings and country reports will be added to this page as they become available.
Presentation of SDG indicator collaboration across UN Environment
Links to relevant statistical publications of UN Environment:
Links to other relevant initiatives and publications:
Call for proposals: