Global Sustainability Governance and Integration

Sustainable Development Goals

Global sustainability is a societal challenge that reaches far beyond the implementation of individual goals such as Life on Land or Clean Water and Sanitation. At the Copernicus Institute, we pay close attention to the overall governance problems posed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the overarching 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We also study the political challenges that cut across all SDGs, as well as the overall integration and interactions of the 17 goals.

There is no doubt that the implementation of the SDGs poses fundamental questions of national and international equity and justice. We contribute to this challenge, for instance, by launching a new global research network on ‘Planetary Justice’ in order to strengthen research on the global injustices that are blocking achievement of all SDGs.

Strong and effective institutions

Implementing the SDGs requires us to intensify our research on the political institutions that are at the centre of implementing the 2030 Agenda, including core concerns of accountability, legitimacy, democracy, and strong and effective institutions. For that reason, at Copernicus we see SDG 16 (Peace, justice and strong institutions) as a cornerstone of the sustainability agenda, and focus much of our activities in the Environmental Governance group on achieving progress towards this goal.


The launch of the SDGs as a new central mechanism of global politics poses novel research questions on their eventual effectiveness. Will they really advance national politics and sustainability governance?  In 2018, we were awarded a major grant from the European Research Council to study this very question.

A larger system

At Copernicus we do not see the SDGs in isolation. Instead, we view each SDG as part of a larger system, and place great emphasis on their integrated assessment and integration in a global perspective and analysis, which also assesses progress over time in an integrated manner.