How do you manage a transition to a fundamentally new economic future? This question had been the focus of work at the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) in the months and weeks before Covid-19. The Council’s work focused on how to manage the transition associated with climate change and digital automation. These challenges will endure beyond the current crisis and the Council have identified recommendations which will help Ireland address these and embrace the significant the opportunities.
Click Here to read the report, entitled Addressing Employment Vulnerability as Part of a Just Transition in Ireland, which the Council has published
Over the course of several decades, government policy successfully reduced the occurrence of hazardous substances in the physical environment, but of late this development is stagnating. The number of hazardous substances is increasing, as is the number of products that contain them. As a result, these substances are accumulating in the physical environment, giving rise to new risks and incidents.
in it’s report the Dutch Council for the environment and infrastructure (Rli) argues that current policies on hazardous substances are not sufficient to adequately control the risks to people and the physical environment. The use and number of hazardous substances is increasing, as is the reuse of products containing such substances. New policy is needed if we are to get a grip on hazardous substances.
Furthermore, the Rli makes 10 recommendations to effectuate a better grip on the dispersion of substances within the environment, reduce the adverse effects of cumulative exposure and move towards a safe circular economy by 2050. The recommendations are partly aimed at involving social parties more actively in assessing the usefulness and necessity of chemical substances. This requires greater transparency. Knowing which substances are in which products and what risks are involved is crucial to achieve safe closed-loop systems.
Click Here to read to report, entitled ‘A grip on hazardous substances’
Following the impact of the SARS-CoV-2, the board and working group chairs of the EEAC Network discussed in a video conference the overarching challenge the Covid19 crisis poses to sustainability, and the role and activities of the EEAC Network in this altered context.
Covid19: An extensive crisis
The impact of the SARS-CoV-2 on public health, life, wellbeing and the economy is vast. Governments respond with measures that focus on immediate containment, control and relief. In addition, medium-term measures to battle the expected economic and social fallout are being prepared. These measures are all necessary. However, some governments and non-governmental actors are already proposing to curtail sustainability policies, in the name of crisis management. At the European level, Member States are also facing substantial difficulties in finding common solutions to the immediate crisis and its aftermath, putting pressure not only on the Green Deal ambitions and related transitions but on the core of the European project itself. We see this as a time for the EEAC to focus on what we can share with and learn from each other.
The role of advisory councils and similar bodies
This extensive crisis requires a proactive and future oriented response from all, including from advisory bodies like ours. Operating at the interface of science, society and policy making, the councils as gathered in the EEAC Network are in a position to suggest steps towards a sustainable response to the crisis.
The major challenges and uncertainties stemming from the crisis require meaningful and creative ideas so that societal, environmental, and economic resilience can be strengthened against future disasters. The EEAC board hopes that the members of the network will be able to share and compile ideas, views and insights which may profit not only ourselves, but also society and policymakers alike. It is therefore that all secretary generals, directors and council representatives of EEAC member councils are invited to join a conference call in early April 2020.
The agenda of this meeting will include a discussion on possible effects of the Covid19 crisis on the work of each council and the EEAC as a whole, as well as on the transition towards sustainable development. The session will facilitate open exchange on how policy initiatives to reboot European societies and economies can be in line with the EU Green Deal ambitions and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The colleagues of the European Sustainable Development Network (ESDN) launched a series of interviews, in which experts in the fields of sustainable development, the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and the SDGs are interviewed. The series addresses current topics in the debate surrounding sustainable development and the SDGs.
The March edition features Finnish scientist Eeva Furman. She was part of a group of fifteen scientists who co-authored the Global Report on Sustainable Development for the UN and is Chair of the Finnish Expert Panel for Sustainable Development, one of the EEAC Network’s members.
In her interview Eeva Furman touches upon e.g. the GSDR ’19, the need a stronger and more diversified sustainability science and finally, she argues that the European Union and the Green Deal has the potential to drive forward real change in Europe. Click Here to see the whole interview.
The Catalan government has approved the National Plan for the 2030 Agenda in Catalonia. The Plan was prepared under the auspices of the Advisory Council for the Sustainable Development of Catalonia, together with the participation of the 13 departments of the Generalitat.
The plan includes 696 unique commitments, reflecting the broad nature of the UN 2030 Agenda and the plan. Of the 920 commitments, 810 are focused on Catalonia and 110 are actions managed from Catalonia that will have a worldwide impact, strengthening the commitment with the international community to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs on a global scale. Read More (in Catalan)
The EEAC Network published it’s Annual Plan 2020 on January 24th 2020. The Network aims to enrich the advice that individual advisory bodies can give to their governments and parliaments, to bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and policy making and to connect the work of the (sub)national councils and the European policy level with regard to climate change, the environment and sustainable development. To achieve these aims, the board of the EEAC Network presents an Annual Plan. The Plan is a framework for action. Including, a list of thematic areas of common interest; proposed exchange and activities as well as an overview of the tentative agendas of the EEAC member bodies. Click here to read more
The EEAC Working Group on Fresh Water Affairs met online with other stakeholders to discuss the outcomes and possible consequences of the recent EU Water Directives fitness check. These Directives are crucial tools for achieving the goals set out by the European Commission in the Green Deal, and are to be considered important pillars to achieve the SDGs, especially SDGs 6, 14 and 15. Hans Stielstra (European Commission, DG Environment) guided the participants through the fitness check and its outcomes. Possible consequences of the fitness check for the work ahead were debated among all participants. In his session outcome letter, Jan Verheeke (Chairman of the EEAC Working Group on Fresh Water Affairs) wishes to share the main observations and findings of our gathering. Click here to read the session outcome letter.
Climate change, raw materials scarcity and loss of biodiversity make the transition to a sustainable economy inevitable. To ensure a smooth transition the government must provide greater direction, and this should be based on a guiding vision that gives primacy to the pursuit of well-being – a broad concept of prosperity and welfare. This is the conclusion of the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure’s advisory report ‘Towards a Sustainable Economy: The governance of transitions’.
Sustainable economy requires a vision based on well-being
The Dutch government has set ambitious goals for sustainability for both the short and long term, such as a 49% CO2 emissions reduction by 2030 and a fully circular economy by 2050. But there is no coherent vision of what a sustainable society will look like, nor a roadmap for getting there. Such a vision should make the connection between economic, social and economic objectives. In view of the limits to growth that the earth sets on our current economic system, this vision should be based on a broad concept of well-being which goes beyond material prosperity to include aspects such as health and quality of life. Furthermore, creating this vision as advocated by the Council is not a one-off exercise, but a gradual process.
The government must strike a balance between old and new
The government wants the transition to a sustainable economy to inflict the least possible damage on society and rightly attaches importance to striking a balance between maintaining the existing economic structures and fostering structural change. However, the Council notes that, in practice, too often the source of economic renewal is sought within the existing economic system, and that this can hamper progress towards the sustainability targets as well as depress long-term national economic prospects. Right from the start of the transition, therefore, the government should pay more attention to phasing out particular economic activities wherever necessary. This will require not just a sector-by-sector approach to sustainability, but also a macroeconomic perspective on a sustainable economy as a whole. Moreover, existing legislation and institutional structures – which includes the government itself – favour established parties and interests over innovative newcomers wanting to enter the market.
The government should be more willing to regulate and adopt pricing measures
During transitions, the government is reluctant to use the effective instruments of pricing and regulation to get producers and consumers to embrace sustainability. This is particularly the case for internationally operating industries. The Council concludes that because these instruments are so effective they should be used sooner and more often in the transition process. In the Council’s view, the argument that sustainability harms international competitiveness is used selectively to avoid introducing appropriate measures, which can lead to unnecessary delays.
Click here to read the report
Hosted by the Irish National Economic and Social Council, the European network of advisory councils on environment and sustainable development (EEAC Network) will hold its Annual Conference in Dublin on the 29th October 2020, ‘Delivering a Just Transition for All: Principles, Policies and Practice.’
The 28th Annual Conference of EEAC Network will focus on how principles of justice, fairness, equality and equity of a just transition can act as a lever and guide to shape policies and practices to deliver the transformation.
With no single definition or blueprint for action, this conference provides a timely forum for Irish and European colleagues to share perspectives, experiences and practices and develop a common understanding and concrete strategies for making progress.
The conference aims to shed light on how other countries are managing the transition process, with special attention paid to managing the impacts of climate policy that might disproportionately impact specific groups in society. This is required because transitions represent enormous challenges and the ambition of the 2030 Agenda states that no one should be left behind.
This unique gathering in Dublin Castle will bring together European and Irish Advisory Councils, their stakeholders, international experts, policy makers and practitioners to reflect on what a just transition means and how it is shaping policy and practice. Read More
The EEAC Network welcomed two new members on 1 January 2020. Both the Danish Council on Climate Change and the Finnish Expert Panel for Sustainable Development have joined the EEAC Network. In his capacity as Chair of the EEAC Network, Mr Queralt Bassa welcomed the two advisory bodies by stating that he looks forward to peer-exchange and informed deliberation with colleagues from Denmark and Finland, ‘in order to mutually strengthen the advice that we give to our governments and parliaments’.
The Danish Council on Climate Change advises on the most effective and cost-efficient ways for Denmark to undertake the transition to a low-carbon economy by 2050. The council is engaged in working with all aspects of the transition to a low-carbon society. Its work therefore includes issues concerning the areas of energy, buildings, transport, agriculture, the environment, nature and the economy. In order to tackle this major task, the Danish Council on Climate Change is composed of experts with knowledge of the various areas. Read more about the Danish Council on Climate Change.
The Finnish Expert Panel for Sustainable Development supports the Finnish Commission for Sustainable Development in order for it to have an impact on decision-making and public discussion by bringing evidence-based understanding. Furthermore, the Panel promotes societal change that considers both the environment and human wellbeing and aims to be the focus of the debate on sustainability. To this end, the Panel is composed of panellists from Finnish universities, research and science institutes. These scientific experts represent many aspects of sustainable development. Read more about the Finnish Expert Panel for Sustainable Development.