Transitioning to low-carbon economies under the 2030 Agenda: minimizing trade-offs and enhancing co-benefits of climate-change action for the SDGs

Iacobuta, Gabriela / Niklas Höhne / Heleen L. van Soest / Rik Leemans
External Publications (2021)

in: Sustainability 13 (19), 10774

Open access

The 2030 Agenda with its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change were adopted in 2015. Although independently defined, the two agreements are strongly interlinked. We developed a framework that scores the impacts of climate-change actions on all SDG targets based on directionality (i.e., trade-offs or co-benefits) and likelihood of occurrence (i.e., ubiquitous or context-dependent), and categorizes them by dependence on four key context dimensions—geographical, governance, time horizon and limited natural resources. Through an extensive literature review, we found that climate-change mitigation measures directly affect most SDGs and their targets, mostly through co-benefits. Improving energy efficiency, reducing energy-services demand and switching to renewables provide the most co-benefits. In contrast, carbon capture and storage and nuclear energy likely lead to multiple trade-offs. We show how understanding the relevant context dimensions facilitates policy design and policy mixes that enhance co-benefits and minimize trade-offs. Finally, by assessing the prevalence of climate-change mitigation measures in G20 countries, we found that measures with more co-benefits are more frequently adopted. Our study advances the knowledge of climate–SDG interactions, contributing to climate and sustainable development governance research, and facilitating policy design for a joint implementation of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda.

About the author

Iacobuta, Gabriela

Climate and sustainable development policy


Further experts

Aleksandrova, Mariya

Climate risk governance 

Bauer, Steffen

Political scientist 

Baumann, Max-Otto

Political Science 

Beck, Tanja

Political Science 

Brandi, Clara

Economy and Political Science 

Dippel, Beatrice


Droste, Leonie Marie

Political Science 

Ekoh, Susan S.

Environmental Research 

Gronen, Maria Elisabeth

Social Science 

Götze, Jacqueline

Political Scientist 

Hackenesch, Christine

Political Science 

Hilbrich, Sören


Hägele, Ramona

Political Scientist 

Janus, Heiner

Political Science 

Keijzer, Niels

Social Science 

Koch, Svea

Social Science 

Lehmann, Ina

Political Science 

Malerba, Daniele


Mathis, Okka Lou

Political Scientist 

Never, Babette

Political Scientist 

Pegels, Anna


Schwachula, Anna


Srigiri, Srinivasa Reddy

Agricultural Economist 

Vogel, Johanna

International Cultural Economy 

Wehrmann, Dorothea


Weinlich, Silke

Political Science