Abstract Ensuring policy coherence across environmental, social and economic goals is a key challenge to sustainable development. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their constituent targets and indicators provide a framework to track progress of the multiple dimensions that characterise sustainability. Though the SDGs are all expressly equally important, they vary in complexity, the level of agreement on key concepts and definitions, representativeness of indicators, and availability of data. Here, by analysing quantitatively the implementation of the SDGs in the European Union, we show that the environmental goals are by some distance the most complex and least coherent of the SDGs. We highlight the need to improve data availability and prioritise both monitoring and strengthening of coherence within and among biodiversity and climate SDGs in particular. Our findings inform critical areas for financing sustainable development and provide solutions for designing post-2030 Agendas with improved potential for achieving policy coherence.

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