Project Drawdown solutions meet many Sustainable Development Goals

Here we explore how Project Drawdown’s climate mitigation solutions relate to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We find that Project Drawdown’s solutions can make a positive contribution to all SDGs, not just to Climate Action!

All United Nations (UN) countries are working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. 169 targets and 232 unique indicators measure progress on the 17 SDGs.

Climate Action is one of these 17 SDGs that the world has agreed is of critical importance, and it is underpinned by the Paris Agreement. A separate initiative, Project Drawdown, has identified a range of actionable solutions to limit climate change (“Drawdown Solutions”), ranked via objective measures of CO2-equivalent reduction and costs.

We realised that most Drawdown Solutions provide extra sustainable development benefits, additional to climate action, which relate directly to many of the 17 SDGs. So we attempted to categorise which of Project Drawdown’s top 76 solutions related to which of the 17 SDGs.

This is timely as the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have just published new analysis titled “Maximizing Co-benefits by Linking Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Action”.

The IPCC’s 2018 report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C also provides an indepth analysis of the synergies and trade-offs of climate mitigation action across the SDGs, concluding that the total number of possible synergies exceeds the number of trade-offs. However, the IPCC 2018 report notes that the net effect of mitigation action on the SDGs will depend on how well they are implemented.

The figure and tables below shows our rough assessment that the Drawdown Solutions can make a positive contribution to many of the 17 SDGs, not just to the Climate Action SDG!

While this analysis is not precise, the purpose is to provide a snapshot of the clear positive links between well described and measurable climate change mitigation solutions and the SDGs.

The size of each rectangle corresponds to the number of Drawdown Solutions that could help achieve the SDG. So the bigger the SDG rectangle, the more Drawdown Solutions that apply.

The data pertaining to the plot above

SDGs with more related Drawdown Solutions appear in columns towards the left:
Scroll over the table to navigate

13 Climate Action 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities 12 Responsible Consumption and Production 15 Life on Land 7 Affordable and Clean Energy 9 Industry Innovation and Infrastructure 3 Good Health and Well being 2 Zero Hunger 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth 5 Gender Equality 1 No Poverty 14 Life Below Water 10 Reduced Inequality 16 Peace and Justice Strong Institutions 17 Partnerships to achieve the goal 4 Quality Education 6 Clean Water and Sanitation
Refrigerant Management Refrigerant Management Refrigerant Management Reduced Food Waste Wind Turbines (Onshore) Electric Vehicles Reduced Food Waste Reduced Food Waste Educating Girls Educating Girls Educating Girls Coastal Wetlands Educating Girls Educating Girls Indigenous Peoples’ Land Management Educating Girls Tropical Forests
Wind Turbines (Onshore) Wind Turbines (Onshore) Wind Turbines (Onshore) Plant-Rich Diet Solar Farms Methane Digesters (Large) Plant-Rich Diet Managed Grazing Silvopasture Family Planning Family Planning Nutrient Management
Reduced Food Waste Reduced Food Waste Reduced Food Waste Silvopasture Rooftop Solar Insulation Tropical Forests Improved Rice Cultivation Women Smallholders Women Smallholders
Plant-Rich Diet Tropical Forests Solar Farms Regenerative Agriculture Geothermal Ships Family Planning System of Rice Intensification Telepresence
Tropical Forests Solar Farms Silvopasture Temperate Forests Nuclear LED Lighting (Household) Clean Cookstoves Farmland Irrigation
Educating Girls Rooftop Solar Rooftop Solar Peatlands Clean Cookstoves Bamboo Electric Vehicles
Family Planning Geothermal Regenerative Agriculture Tropical Staple Trees Wind Turbines (Offshore) Alternative Cement Mass Transit
Solar Farms Nuclear Tropical Staple Trees Afforestation Concentrated Solar Trucks Forest Protection
Silvopasture Wind Turbines (Offshore) Conservation Agriculture Conservation Agriculture Wave and Tidal Airplanes Indigenous Peoples’ Land Management
Rooftop Solar Concentrated Solar Tree Intercropping Tree Intercropping Methane Digesters (Large) Building Automation Walkable Cities
Regenerative Agriculture Electric Vehicles Geothermal Managed Grazing Biomass Bioplastic Bike Infrastructure
Temperate Forests District Heating Managed Grazing Farmland Restoration Solar Water Cars Electric Bikes
Peatlands Insulation Methane Digesters (Large) Multistrata Agroforestry In-Stream Hydro Cogeneration Green Roofs
Tropical Staple Trees LED Lighting (Household) Ships Methane Digesters (Large) Cogeneration Smart Glass
Afforestation Bamboo Bamboo Bamboo Landfill Methane High-speed Rail
Conservation Agriculture Alternative Cement Alternative Cement Forest Protection Methane Digesters (Small) Water Distribution
Tree Intercropping Mass Transit Trucks Indigenous Peoples’ Land Management Micro Wind Ridesharing
Geothermal Trucks Heat Pumps Perennial Biomass
Managed Grazing Solar Water Airplanes Coastal Wetlands
Nuclear Heat Pumps Water Saving - Home System of Rice Intensification
Clean Cookstoves LED Lighting (Commercial) Bioplastic Composting
Wind Turbines (Offshore) Building Automation Cars Women Smallholders
Farmland Restoration Water Saving - Home Household Recycling Nutrient Management
Improved Rice Cultivation Bioplastic Industrial Recycling Farmland Irrigation
Concentrated Solar In-Stream Hydro Composting Recycled Paper
Electric Vehicles Cars Nutrient Management Biochar
District Heating Cogeneration Recycled Paper
Multistrata Agroforestry Walkable Cities Water Distribution
Wave and Tidal Household Recycling Trains
Methane Digesters (Large) Industrial Recycling
Insulation Smart Thermostats
Ships Bike Infrastructure
LED Lighting (Household) Composting
Biomass Smart Glass
Bamboo Telepresence
Alternative Cement High-speed Rail
Mass Transit Electric Bikes
Forest Protection Water Distribution
Indigenous Peoples’ Land Management Green Roofs
Trucks Trains
Solar Water Ridesharing
Heat Pumps Micro Wind
LED Lighting (Commercial)
Building Automation
Water Saving - Home
In-Stream Hydro
Perennial Biomass
Coastal Wetlands
System of Rice Intensification
Walkable Cities
Household Recycling
Industrial Recycling
Smart Thermostats
Landfill Methane
Bike Infrastructure
Smart Glass
Women Smallholders
Methane Digesters (Small)
Nutrient Management
High-speed Rail
Farmland Irrigation
Electric Bikes
Recycled Paper
Water Distribution
Green Roofs
Micro Wind

From the other perspective, which of the Drawdown Solutions relates to the most SDGs?

The table below shows our assessment that the Educating Girls and Reduced Food Waste Drawdown Solutions are related to the most SDGs, linking to at least 7 and 6 SDGs respectively:

  • Educating Girls:
    • Climate Action; Gender Equality; No Poverty; Decent Work and Economic Growth; Reduced Inequality; Quality Education; Peace and Justice and Strong Institutions.
  • Reduced Food Waste:
    • Climate Action; Zero Hunger; Good Health and Wellbeing; Sustainable Cities and Communities; Responsible Consumption and Production; Life on Land.

The table below shows our rudimentary assessment of the number of related SDGs for each of the 76 best Drawdown Solutions

Number of related SDGs for each of the 76 best Drawdown Solutions:
Scroll over the table to navigate

Drawdown Solution Number of related SDGs
Educating Girls 7
Reduced Food Waste 6
Bamboo 5
Methane Digesters (Large) 5
Alternative Cement 4
Bioplastic 4
Cars 4
Cogeneration 4
Composting 4
Electric Vehicles 4
Family Planning 4
Geothermal 4
Indigenous Peoples’ Land Management 4
Managed Grazing 4
Nutrient Management 4
Rooftop Solar 4
Silvopasture 4
Solar Farms 4
Tropical Forests 4
Trucks 4
Water Distribution 4
Wind Turbines (Onshore) 4
Women Smallholders 4
Airplanes 3
Bike Infrastructure 3
Building Automation 3
Clean Cookstoves 3
Coastal Wetlands 3
Concentrated Solar 3
Conservation Agriculture 3
Electric Bikes 3
Farmland Irrigation 3
Forest Protection 3
Green Roofs 3
Heat Pumps 3
High-speed Rail 3
Household Recycling 3
In-Stream Hydro 3
Industrial Recycling 3
Insulation 3
LED Lighting (Household) 3
Mass Transit 3
Micro Wind 3
Nuclear 3
Plant-Rich Diet 3
Recycled Paper 3
Refrigerant Management 3
Regenerative Agriculture 3
Ridesharing 3
Ships 3
Smart Glass 3
Solar Water 3
System of Rice Intensification 3
Telepresence 3
Trains 3
Tree Intercropping 3
Tropical Staple Trees 3
Walkable Cities 3
Water Saving - Home 3
Wind Turbines (Offshore) 3
Afforestation 2
Biochar 2
Biomass 2
District Heating 2
Farmland Restoration 2
Improved Rice Cultivation 2
Landfill Methane 2
LED Lighting (Commercial) 2
Methane Digesters (Small) 2
Multistrata Agroforestry 2
Peatlands 2
Perennial Biomass 2
Smart Thermostats 2
Temperate Forests 2
Wave and Tidal 2
Waste-to-Energy 1

Open data and code from this analysis

We hope this post is interesting and thought provoking. If anybody would like to contribute further to it, here is the spreadsheet containing our rough analysis. Anyone can add comments/suggestions. We will receive an email notification when people comment. Also here is a repository with the code we used to produce everything else in this post (pull requests welcome).


Our rudimentary analysis shows that the Drawdown Solutions provide well described and measurable ways to address climate change while also contributing to a broad range of other SDGs and benefits.

This aligns with UN DESA and UNFCCC’s latest report on the synergies between and need for greater integration of global commitments to climate action and the SDGs.

We hope this is useful for governments, businesses, not-for-profits and others looking for direct ways to contribute towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

By Amy Quinton and Daniel Newman

Written on November 13, 2019