Goal 15: Life on Land

Measuring progress in the Nordic countries

Work in progress: This page is under active development.

Adopted in 2015 by all United Nations (UN) members, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a global agenda for making the world a better place by 2030. They are described by the UN as a ‘shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet‘, and goals are to be achieved by all countries, in global partnership, by 2030.

This data tracker uses the latest official data to look at how the Nordic countries are progressing towards achieving the 17 SDGs, with this page looking closer at Sustainable Development Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Data for the other goals can be access via this link.

Each target is presented by first looking at global trends, before zooming in on the Nordic countries and assessing their performance. The assessment is based on work by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in analysing the progress made toward the SDGs in all OECD countries.

Target 15.1

By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements

Indicators:

15.1.1Forest area as a proportion of total land area
15.1.2Proportion of important sites for terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity that are covered by protected areas, by ecosystem type

Global trends

Over the past two decades, the world’s forest area has declined from 31.9% of total land area in 2000 to 31.2% 2020. The main driver behind global deforestation is the conversion of forest into agricultural use, including the expansion of croplands and areas for livestock grazing. This is particularly the case in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, where forest coverage has declined by 8% and 10% respectively.

Substantial progress has been made in expanding the coverage of terrestrial and freshwater Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), which are areas classified as contributing significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity. As of 2021, the world average coverage rate stood at around 44% for both freshwater and terrestrial KBAs.

All regions have made progress in increasing their coverage rates over the past two decades, with Europe and Northern America having the highest degree of protection in 2021.

Note that the regional groupings used in the visualisation above (and all other visualisations on this page with regional data) follow the UN regional classification for the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Nordics

Since 2000 there have been few changes in forest area coverage in the Nordics. The most notable change is Denmark which has seen an increase of around 10% in areas covered, from 14.3% in 2000 to 15.7% in 2020.

Protection of both terrestrial and freshwater Key Biodiversity Areas has increased in all the Nordics over the past two decades. Denmark is almost at full protection level, and so far the only country on track to meet the target for this indicator, which has been operationalised by the OECD at 95% (the level of the best OECD performers in 2015).

Target 15.2

By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally

Indicators:

15.2.1Progress towards sustainable forest management

Global trends

This indicator is composed of five sub-indicators measuring various dimensions of sustainable forest management:

  1. Annual forest area change rate
  2. Above-ground biomass in forest
  3. Proportion of forest area within legally established protected areas
  4. Proportion of forest area under a long-term management plan
  5. Forest area under an independently verified forest management certification scheme

Despite the overall decline in forest area as highlighted in target 15.1, an overall assessment of the five sub-indicators shows that there has been considerable progress worldwide towards sustainable forest management. In particular, the share of world forests within legally protected areas as well as forest areas under long-term management plans has increased in almost all regions. In 2020, 58% of world forest areas were under a long-term management plan, up from 52% in 2000 and 56% in 2015.

The Nordics

Based on available country-level data on the sub-indicators above, as well as an additional indicator on the intensity of use of forest resources, the OECD's overall assessment is that all the Nordics apart from Iceland have achieved the target of sustainable forest management.

Target 15.3

By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world

Indicators:

15.3.1Proportion of land that is degraded over total land area

Insufficient data are available for assessment of progress at the global, regional or Nordic country level.

Target 15.4

By 2030, ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems, including their biodiversity, in order to enhance their capacity to provide benefits that are essential for sustainable development

Indicators:

15.4.1Coverage by protected areas of important sites for mountain biodiversity
15.4.2Mountain Green Cover Index

Global trends

Worldwide protection levels of mountain Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) have increased steadily over the past two decades, although the pace of increase has slowed in the past few years. As of 2021, some 60% of mountain KBAs were still unprotected.

The most recent data from 2020 on the Mountain Green Cover Index, a measure of changes in green vegetation in mountain areas, show that coverage worldwide was approximately unchanged since 2015.

The Nordics

Of the Nordics, Finland has the highest levels of mountain KBA protection at 97%. Given the lack of a required country protection level, the OECD has operationalised the target at the level of best OECD performers in 2015 (91%). As such, Iceland, Norway and Sweden still need to make more progress to reach this target by 2030, according to the OECD assessment.

Note that there is insufficient data for the Nordics to make an assessment of the Mountain Green Cover Index.

Target 15.5

Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species

Indicators:

15.5.1Red List Index

Global trends

The Red List Index measures trends in overall extinction risk for species, and shows a worldwide deterioration in species extinction risk between 2000 and 2022, with the index falling 9% from 0.80 to 0.72. An index value of 1.0 equates to all species being classified as Least Concern, while an index value of 0 equates to all species being extinct.

While the index varies between regions, deterioration was observed in all regions over the last two decades.

The Nordics

While high index levels were observed in all the Nordic countries, indicating a low risk of extinction, the rates have declined marginally since 2000 and are no closer to the target value operationalised by the OECD at 1.0 for 2030.

Target 15.6

Promote fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and promote appropriate access to such resources, as internationally agreed

Indicators:

15.6.1Number of countries that have adopted legislative, administrative and policy frameworks to ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits

Global trends

The indicator consists of 4 policy sub-indicators:

  • Countries that are Contracting Parties to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
  • Countries that are Parties to the Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity
  • Countries that have legislative, administrative and policy measures reported through the Online Reporting System on Compliance of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
  • Countries that have legislative, administrative or policy measures reported to the Access and Benefit-Sharing Clearing-House of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity

A fifth sub-indicator is also included, concerning the number, by country, of Standard Material Transfer Agreements (SMTAs) transferring plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. (This is a cumulative figure per country and not assessed further).

Worldwide adoption of the four policy frameworks has made good progress over the past years, with all four sub-indicators seeing an increase in country adoption in recent years.

The Nordics

Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden all have adopted the legislative, administrative and policy frameworks included in the indicator. Iceland is listed as only having adopted the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

As this is a binary policy target (either the policy is in place or not), the OECD does not provide a dynamic assessment of progress over time.

Target 15.7

Take urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna and address both demand and supply of illegal wildlife products

Indicators:

15.7.1Proportion of traded wildlife that was poached or illicitly trafficked

Global trends

Insufficient data are available for assessment of progress at the global, regional or Nordic country level.

Target 15.8

By 2020, introduce measures to prevent the introduction and significantly reduce the impact of invasive alien species on land and water ecosystems and control or eradicate the priority species

Indicators:

15.8.1Proportion of countries adopting relevant national legislation and adequately resourcing the prevention or control of invasive alien species

Global trends

This target is measured through three policy sub-indicators:

  • the existence of Legislation, Regulation, Act related to the prevention of introduction and management of invasive alien species (IAS)
  • the existence of National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan targets alignment to Aichi Biodiversity Target (ABT) number 9
  • countries with an allocation from the national budget to manage the threat of invasive alien species

Almost all countries (98%) have national legislation to prevent the introduction and management of invasive alien species, while the share of countries aligning their national targets with global targets is also high (84%) and increasing. As regards budget allocations, 55% of countries reported that they made allocations in 2020 from national budgets.

The Nordics

Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden all have policies and plans in existence in line with the two first sub-indicators, as well as making national budget allocations. Available data for Iceland shows they only satisfy sub-indicator on the existence of policies to prevent the introduction and management of IAS.

As this is a binary policy target (either the policy is in place or not), the OECD does not provide a dynamic assessment of progress over time.

Target 15.9

By 2020, integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, poverty reduction strategies and accounts

Indicators:

15.9.1(a) Number of countries that have established national targets in accordance with or similar to Aichi Biodiversity Target 2 of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 in their national biodiversity strategy and action plans and the progress reported towards these targets; and (b) integration of biodiversity into national accounting and reporting systems, defined as implementation of the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting

Global trends

As of 2022, the majority of countries have established national targets in line with the Aichi Biodiversity Target 2. However, progress towards the targets varies considerably. Only 50 countries are on track to achieve or exceed their national targets, while the remaining are either not improving at a sufficient rate, moving away from the targets or have no target at all.

Globally, there has been a steady increase in the number of countries integrating biodiversity values into their national accounting and reporting systems.

The Nordics

As regards the Aichi Biodiversity Target 2, only Finland has a national target reflecting ABT2 and is on track to achieve it. Sweden has a national target reflecting ABT2, but progress is at an insufficient rate. The other countries have no national target reflecting ABT2.

All the Nordic countries have integrated biodiversity into national accounting and reporting systems.

Similar to targets 15.6 and 15.8, as this is a binary policy target (either the policy is in place or not), the OECD does not provide a dynamic assessment of progress over time.

Target 15.a

Mobilize and significantly increase financial resources from all sources to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity and ecosystems

Indicators:

15.a.1(a) Official development assistance on conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity; and (b) revenue generated and finance mobilized from biodiversity-relevant economic instruments

Global trends

While the target sets out a commitment to increase support to developing countries for biodiversity, there is no set numerical target.

The latest data shows that total aid commitments for biodiversity have declined over recent years in absolute terms and stood at 7.2 billion USD in 2020. This is slightly higher than in 2019, but lower than from 2015-2018.

No data is available on the revenue generated and finance mobilized from biodiversity-relevant economic instruments.

The Nordics

No data is shown for each of the Nordic countries, as the sectoral distribution of international flows will depend on national priorities.

Target 15.b

Mobilize significant resources from all sources and at all levels to finance sustainable forest management and provide adequate incentives to developing countries to advance such management, including for conservation and reforestation

Indicators:

15.b.1(a) Official development assistance on conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity; and (b) revenue generated and finance mobilized from biodiversity-relevant economic instruments

This target is measured through the same indicator as target 15.a.

Target 15.c

Enhance global support for efforts to combat poaching and trafficking of protected species, including by increasing the capacity of local communities to pursue sustainable livelihood opportunities

Indicators:

15.c.1Proportion of traded wildlife that was poached or illicitly trafficked

Insufficient data are available for assessment of progress at the global, regional or Nordic country level.

About the data

The data presented on global, regional, and national trends are from the UN SDG Global Database and the OECD unless otherwise stated.

The assessment of the Nordic countries is based on the findings from a recent OECD report, published in April 2022. The OECD uses a three-tier classification for each target:

  • Target is achieved or on track to being achieved
  • Progress has been made, but is insufficient to meet the target
  • No progress or moving away from the SDG target

Note that the OECD methodology uses the current status of a target and calculates a likely trend towards 2030 based on recent progress. Thus, a country that is close to a target, but trending away from it, will be classified as having "No progress or moving away from the SDG target". Conversely, a country that is currently further away from the target, but trending towards it (and has a high likelihood of reaching it before 2030), will be classified as "Target is achieved or on track to being achieved".

Changelog

  • Pilot release 27 September 2022

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