Mapping synergies and trade-offs between energy and the Sustainable Development Goals

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The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development—including 17 interconnected Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets—is a global plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. SDG7 calls for action to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Here we characterize synergies and trade-offs between efforts to achieve SDG7 and delivery of the 2030 Agenda as a whole. We identify 113 targets requiring actions to change energy systems, and published evidence of relationships between 143 targets (143 synergies, 65 trade-offs) and efforts to achieve SDG7. Synergies and trade-offs exist in three key domains, where decisions about SDG7 affect humanity’s ability to: realize aspirations of greater welfare and well-being; build physical and social infrastructures for sustainable development; and achieve sustainable management of the natural environment. There is an urgent need to better organize, connect and extend this evidence, to help all actors work together to achieve sustainable development.

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The authors would like to thank X. Lemaire, M. Shipworth, O. Adeoye and C. Huggins for their helpful comments. Also thanks to the Energy and Development group at UCL, which provided a platform for this work to be realized.

Author information


  1. UCL Energy Institute, University College London, London, UK

    • Francesco Fuso Nerini
    • , Catalina Spataru
    •  & Gabrial Anandarajah
  2. Unit of Energy Systems Analysis (dESA), KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

    • Francesco Fuso Nerini
  3. Institute for Sustainable Resources (ISR), University College London, London, UK

    • Julia Tomei
  4. Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (UCL STEaPP), University College London, London, UK

    • Long Seng To
    • , Mairi Black
    •  & Yacob Mulugetta
  5. Department of Geography, Loughborough University, Leicestershire, UK

    • Long Seng To
  6. Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (CEGE), University College London, London, UK

    • Iwona Bisaga
    • , Priti Parikh
    •  & Aiduan Borrion
  7. Development Planning Unit (DPU), University College London, London, UK

    • Vanesa Castán Broto
  8. Faculty of Social Sciences, ICOSS, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

    • Vanesa Castán Broto
  9. Faculty of Laws, University College London, London, UK

    • Ben Milligan


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F.F.N. coordinated inputs from other authors, designed and contributed to the expert elicitation process, and wrote the paper. J.T., B.M., L.S.T. and Y.M. designed and contributed to the expert elicitation process, and wrote the paper. I.B., P.P., M.B., A.B., C.S., V.C.B. and G.A. contributed to the peer-reviewed expert elicitation process, and writing sections of the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Francesco Fuso Nerini or Julia Tomei or Ben Milligan.

Electronic supplementary material

  1. Supplementary Table 1

    Full results for answering questions (A) and (B), as summarized in Fig. 2