Finalized in 2015, the Paris Agreement and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development both represent universally approved policy visions that signal a paradigm shift: from a “top-down” approach of set, international mandates to a “bottom-up”, country-driven implementation process. Limited interaction between the processes of the two agendas at both global and national levels, however, threatens to impede effective implementation. Furthermore, aggregate analyses are lacking to enhance understanding of potential overlaps, gaps and conflicts between the two agreements’ key implementation instruments:  the NDCs and the SDGs. Such analyses are essential to increase policy coherence of plans and strategies, and to improve effectiveness of implementation of the two agendas. This paper aims to fill this gap.

The authors conduct a global analysis that examines the extent to which climate actions contained in countries’ NDCs connect to the 17 SDGs. The analysis, which builds on the findings of the NDC-SDG Connections tool, reveals both those sustainable development-related areas that are directly addressed through climate action, and those that are currently not included in NDC activities. The paper demonstrates that the actions outlined in the NDCs to various extents foster synergies with national development priorities that reflect the 2030 Agenda. The authors find that a large number of climate activities support, for example, SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG 15 (life on land) and SDG 2 (zero hunger), but that significant gaps exist in relation to SDGs such as SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 1 (no poverty) and SDG 16 (peace and justice).

The authors argue that increasing the transparency about and understanding of these possible connections, gaps and conflicts can facilitate policy coherence and leverage buy-in for ambitious implementation of the two agendas across multiple stakeholder groups, including governments and broader societies.

The authors present two avenues for improving policy coherence. First, they suggest that countries should design their future Nationally Sustainable Development Strategies (NSDS’s) in ways that align with their NDCs. They should complement NDC activities by focusing on issues that have not been addressed, and by avoiding uncoordinated – and costly – duplication of efforts. Second, the authors argue that new and updated NDCs should take account of existing NSDS’s. Countries could use future NDC updates to more closely align their climate actions with the SDGs. The authors point out that this could further promote the buy-in of different types of stakeholders, and could increase chance of promoting higher ambition.