Implementing sustainable development goals in an incoherent world: Aligning climate action and reduced inequalities (ClimEQ)

Despite less than 10 years remaining to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, no country is on track to meet all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts - through SDG 13 “Climate action” and in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement - remains the single biggest challenge to pursuing sustainable development. Equally important is to address the distributional impacts and inequality outcomes of climate action efforts. This project seeks to analyse conditions for policy coherence between climate change, reducing inequality and other SDGs when implemented nationally in six studied countries: Germany, Kenya, Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Sweden. To that end, it additionally aims to provide tools to identify synergies and to make trade-offs transparent between the two agendas. The focus is primarily on investigating how the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement are being implemented locally, drawing on the comparative politics literature, and in particular on the role of institutions, ideas and interests in influencing the politics of policy coherence.

This project directly builds on previous work on ‘Overcoming incoherence in implementing the Paris Climate Agreement and the 2030 Agenda’. During this past endeavour, IDOS and its project partners built a diverse and interdisciplinary international consortium of partners from the six studied countries and from pertinent international organisations. Future research under the new project will be carried out in cooperation with this larger consortium of partners.

Project Lead:
Ines Dombrowsky
Adis Dzebo

Project Team:
Sander Chan
Alexia Faus Onbargi
Gabriela Iacobuta

FORMAS, Ett Forskningsråd För Hållbar Utveckling, A Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development

Time frame:
2021 - 2025 / ongoing

Co-operation Partner:

Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), Linköping University, Utrecht University

Project description

This project seeks to enable significant advancement in evidence-based policy learning and tool development in its aim to address three critical knowledge gaps: i) the nature of goal conflicts and synergies between climate change, inequality and other SDGs from a comparative perspective; ii) policy coherence as a politically contested rather than purely administrative approach to overcome goal conflicts; and iii) sources of incoherence as found not only in terms of institutions, but also interests and ideas. The project’s research questions are as follows:

  • What are key goal conflicts and/or untapped synergies between climate (SDG 13), inequality (SDG 10) and other SDGs at national levels? To what extent, if at all, are they exacerbated by incoherent policies?
  • Do efforts to pursue coherence in policy process and outcomes lead to the achievement of the SDGs, and if so, in what way? Are policy coherence efforts politically contested, and how are they navigated by actors?
  • What is the relative role of ideas, interests and institutions for explaining the policy coherence achieved or not in process and outcome?
  • How can interactive tools help visualise goal conflicts and synergies and facilitate dialogue?


To address the above research questions, all six country case studies will be compared at the national and sub-national levels, supplemented by a global cross-country analysis and a regional study of the EU. For the country and regional case studies, a two-tiered approach to the unit of study is adopted. First, the initial empirical entry point is a country’s national climate policy, as described in its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and other national climate plans, and its national SDG implementation strategies. Second, based on this, we select a particular issue area exhibiting critical synergies and goal conflicts in the studied country. For the global investigation, various climate- and SDG-relevant indicators will be addressed through big-data analyses. This will include in-depth analyses of key documents such as the NDCs, Voluntary National Reporting (VNRs) and National Sustainable Development Strategies (NDSDs).



Policy (in)coherence in Germany’s Energiewende

The evolution of connections between Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda in the NDCs