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Sustainable Development Interlinkages and Management

What are the synergies and trade-offs across the sustainable development goals? How can we most effectively meet all of the goals?

Image: Fuso Nerini

While energy projects and policies may have large repercussions on many societal aspects, stakeholders have limited access to the knowledge for mitigating those impacts across disciplines. Conversely, with only ten years remaining until 2030, much more ambitious transformation is necessary to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This research area adds to the knowledge on how to manage and act on synergies and trade-offs among energy and the SDGs.

Main research objectives

  • Methods and applications investigating interlinkages among SDGs
  • Map the scientific evidence concerning the interlinkages between energy projects and programmes and the 169 targets in 17 SDGs of the 2030 Agenda.
  • Development of tools to facilitate access to informations on synergies and trade-offs between energy and the SDGs
  • Exploring possible actions to capitalize on synergies and avoid trade-offs between energy projects and policies and the SDGs
  • Enable policy harmonization with the SDGs

Methods used

We use stakeholder and expert elicitation, in combination with a set of qualitative and quantitative methods. Since the creation of the SDGs a new field of research was created to assess how different goals can be achieved synergetically, avoiding sectorial trade-offs. These include a variety of qualitative and quantitative approaches. at KTH we led some of the most influential studies including assessing how energy, climate action and AI may affect the delivery of each of the SDGs Targets. This mapping will also include transboundary spillover effects.

Key publications

  1. Fuso Nerini, F.; Tomei, J.; To, L.S.; Bisaga, I.; Parikh, P.; Black, M.; Borrion, A.; Spataru, C.; Broto, V.C.; Anandarajah, G.; et al. Mapping synergies and trade-offs between energy and the Sustainable Development Goals. Nature Energy 2017, 3, 10–15.
  2. Fuso Nerini, F.; Hughes, N.; Cozzi, L.; Cosgrave, E.; Howells, M.; Sovacool, B.; Tavoni, M.; Tomei, J.; Zerriffi, H.; Milligan, B. Use SDGs to guide climate action. Nature 2018, 557.
  3. Fuso Nerini, F.; Sovacool, B.; Hughes, N.; Cozzi, L.; Cosgrave, E.; Howells, M.; Tavoni, M.; Tomei, J.; Zerriffi, H.; Milligan, B. Connecting climate action with other Sustainable Development Goals. Nature Sustainability 2019, 1
  4. Vinuesa, R.; Azizpour, H.; Leite, I.; Balaam, M.; Dignum, V.; Domisch, S.; Felländer, A.; Langhans, S.D.; Tegmark, M.; Fuso Nerini, F. The role of artificial intelligence in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Nature Communications 2020, 11.
  5. Castor, J.; Bacha, K.; Fuso Nerini, F. SDGs in action: A novel framework for assessing energy projects against the sustainable development goals. Energy Research and Social Sciences 2020, 68, 101556.
  6. Fuldauer, L.I., Thacker, S., Haggis, R.A. Fuso Nerini, F,. et al. Targeting climate adaptation to safeguard and advance the Sustainable Development Goals. Nature Commun. 13, 3579 (2022).
  7. Leite de Almeida, C.M., Bergqvist, E., Thacker, S. Fuso Nerini F. Actions to align energy projects with the Sustainable Development Goals. Discov Sustain 2, 16 (2021).
  8. Thacker, S., Adshead, D., Fay, M., Hallegatte, S., Harvey, M., Meller, H., et al. (2019). Infrastructure for sustainable development. Nature Sustainability, 2(4), 324– 331.


The interface of sustainability science and bioenergy systems

The deployment of sustainable bioenergy varies significantly across the globe even though there is huge potential to harness it. This project evaluates the sustainability aspects of bioenergy for energy security, climate change mitigation and socioeconomic development in Japan and sub-Saharan African countries. The study uses a systems approach to explore the transition towards modern bioenergy, aiming at identifying the interface of sustainability science and bioenergy systems.

Using the sustainable development goals for shaping holistic energy programs, projects and policies

The 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development is a comprehensive global plan of action for people, planet and prosperity comprised of 17 Goals (SDGs) and 169 Targets to be achieved by 2030 (including SDG7 on affordable and clean energy). The SDGs provide a comprehensive, and internationally agreed, lens to understand and communicate cross-sectoral implications of energy policies, programs and projects. The aim of this research project is to create a framework for using the details of 169 Targets of the SDGs for shaping holistic energy programs, projects and policies. The project will build up from three Nature-journals publications (Fuso Nerini et al. 2017, 2018a, 2018b) led by the applicant, that explored and developed initial methods for assessing interlinkages between energy, climate change and the SDGs. This framework will be tested through a diverse (geographically and topically) selection of case studies. Outputs of the project will include a set of scientific publications, and outreach to the key organizations that could potentially use such framework in their daily operations.