Structural transformation

A shift from lower to higher value-added productive activities is an important condition for long-term growth that is sustainable and provides economic opportunities for everyone. In many countries, this requires investment, adoption of new technologies and a skilled workforce. Statistics show the complex environmental challenges we are facing. To avoid further ecological degradation and climate change, a shift to more resource-efficient and environmentally responsible economic activities will be needed. Productive capacities – human and natural capital, energy, transport, ICT, institutions, private sector and structural change – play a central role in strengthening countries’ resilience to deal with economic and environmental pressures and shocks. This theme of SDG Pulse looks at these three aspects of structural transformation:

To achieve the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement, the world needs to deploy green technologies on a much greater scale. Innovation plays a key role in that process. The climate challenge is immediate, and as statistics in the SDG Pulse demonstrate, we can reduce carbon intensity of the economy through technological and economic transformation, but the challenge is urgent. If there was some hope that the pandemic would have put the world on the right track to achieve at least the 2 °C target, this hope was dashed by the strong rebound of fossil carbon dioxide emissions by 6 per cent in 2021.

We are the last people who can prevent catastrophe on the planet. We have no excuse for failure.UN Deputy Secretary General, Amina J. Mohammed

LDCs’ pace too sluggish to double their manufacturing share in value added by 2030: +0.42 percentage points would have been needed each year from 2005, vs. +0.18 percentage points achieved until 2020.

SDG indicator 9.2.1

Share of manufacturing employment in total employment increased in LDCs by 75% since 2005 – on track for 2030.
SDG indicator 9.2.2
Medium and high-tech manufacturing share increasing in all regions, with Africa lagging behind.
SDG indicator 9.b.1


LDCs spend eight times less on R&D than the world average, relative to GDP.
SDG indicator 9.5.1
CO2 emissions estimated to be almost back at pre-COVID-19 level in 2021, at 37.7 Gt, after an unprecedented 5% decline in 2020.
SDG indicator 9.4.1
Carbon intensity of GDP decreasing in all regions in the world – at different paces.
A growing number of companies prepare sustainability reports, especially in developed regions.
UNCTAD & UNEP SDG indicator 12.6.1
UNCTAD’s PCI reveals weak productive capacities in several LDCs nominated for graduation, especially Angola and Ethiopia.

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