Towards policy coherence: an assessment of tools linking the climate, environment and sustainable development agendas

Since the adoption of important international frameworks such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2015), the Paris Agreement (2015) and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015), it has become clear that climate action and the concept of sustainability are multidimensional, with complex linkages between economic, social and environmental aspects. It also is an accepted fact that policy coherence is essential to achieve the many interconnected objectives of the several climate, environment and development agendas.

Both the Global Sustainable Development Report (2019) and the discussions at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development have emphasised the importance of taking into account the multitude of interlinkages between the 169 targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in policy formulation, in order to ensure the effective and efficient implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

However, identifying synergies and trade-offs constitutes a considerable challenge, since numerous multilateral processes and frameworks, including Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), cover issues tackled by the SDGs. In addition, the implementation of the SDGs at national level is largely dependent on sectoral policies and strategies. This makes true policy integration across thematic silos, communities and respective institutions difficult.

To help decision-makers identify and address existing interdependencies and interactions, a multitude of quantitative and qualitative methods and tools have been developed. However, due to the lack of a systematic mapping and the large variety of available tools as well as their complexity and different qualities, it is often not clear to policy-makers which tool can be useful for what policy issue.

The aim of this study is to assess the applicability and usefulness of existing tools for policy-makers. The study, which was undertaken by SD Strategies on behalf of GIZ, describes a first attempt to classify existing instruments and evaluate their practical benefits for policy-makers and to support them in identifying the right tool for a specific use.

The analysis shows that there is no ‘silver bullet’. Rather, each tool serves specific purposes, and understanding what each tool can and cannot do is a first step towards using the right tool for a specific task and objective.

If selected and applied wisely, the assessed tools can help identify interrelations between the multitude of goals and actions, provide solid arguments for strategic dialogue as well as strengthen the formulation, implementation and verification of coherent and integrated policies and measures.

Towards policy coherence