Covid-19 lockdowns have seen so much of how we live, work and play move online. There has been a dramatic shift to digital and this is likely to grow in importance in the years to come. However, a new report from the Irish National Economic and Social Council (NESC), entitled ‘Digital Inclusion in Ireland: Connectivity, Devices & Skills’ shows that that there are groups who remain poorly engaged with digital technologies. In particular, it highlights those who are older, have lower levels of education, lower incomes, and live in rural areas; as well as smaller businesses and farms.
The NESC report argues that a digital inclusion strategy would help address the ‘digital’ needs of people in these key groups. Doing so would build on Ireland’s large investment in broadband connectivity. It would also help companies, particularly micro-businesses, compete effectively with other small open economies. And critically in the years to come it could be a key means of combatting social exclusion.
The report highlights furthermore that there are several State policies focused on digital technologies. There are also a range of state agency, business and community programmes. There is a need to co-ordinate across these polices and programmes if digital inclusion is to improve, the NESC argues. The report recommends a stand-alone digital inclusion strategy should be developed. It also recommends a comprehensive framework for digital skills progression and certification. It highlights the need for targeted supports for key groups, including those with low incomes, and smaller businesses and farms. Finally, the report argues that enhanced guidance is needed to develop digital public services which are easily accessed by all, and assisted-digital public services for the groups who will continue to face difficulties going online. Read More
The Belgium Federal Council for Sustainable Development (FRDO-CFDD), the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) and the EEAC Network will organize a webinar “Corporate sustainability reporting: recent developments”. The webinar will take place on June 17th from 10:30 am to 12pm and from 1pm to 2:30 pm CEST. Click here to register.
Since the launch of the European sustainable finance action plan, the financial sector is asking for improved information on the exposure of companies to sustainability risks. Diverse stakeholders think that companies should better account for their social and environmental impacts. Moreover, companies facing increasing transparency requirements consider that the related reporting costs are too high.
The EU Commission’s proposal for a new Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), and the proposal for an EU sustainability reporting standard-setting should address these various expectations and concerns.
Aim of the webinar
To give you further information about these initiatives and to highlight their implications for the financial sector, for stakeholders of sustainable development and for enterprises, the Federal Council for Sustainable Development (FRDO-CFDD) and the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) organize a webinar on June 17th, with the support of the EEAC Network. The morning session focuses on the EU reforms for sustainability reporting, and the afternoon session on their practical implications at the national level.
The EEAC Network joint the Global Forum for National SDG Advisory Bodies in 2019. In February 2020, the Global Forum participants met for the first time in Bogotá, Colombia and jointly developed roadmaps of actions in thematic working groups.
The EEAC Network joint the working group interested in the various governance mechanisms, as well as the potential for establishing and maintaining multi-stakeholder advisory bodies for sustainable development. This group has conceptualized and accompanied a think piece entitled ‘Pathways for consensus-building: multi-stakeholder advisory bodies for sustainable development’.
The Think Piece was funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of the Federal Republic of Germany, and was produced by the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC).
The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) launched a survey in partnership with GlobeScan, , The EEAC Network and seven other organizations, asking 300 sustainability experts about their views on the progress made in implementing the European Green Deal. The survey was concluded early 2021. Today – April 29th – IEEP and GlobeScan launched the report written based on the findings of the survey. The report identifies the challenges to the European Green Deal’s implementation and provides policy recommendations for addressing them.
- The lack of commitment by the Member States is seen as the biggest barrier to the Green Deal Implementation (33% of respondents rank it within the top two barriers), followed by inadequate governance mechanisms (25% of respondents) and unequal progress across the EU Member States (24% of respondents).
- The greatest amount of progress made is in ‘increasing the EU’s climate ambition for 2030 and 2050’ (37% see progress made), followed by ‘supplying clean, affordable, and secure energy’ (24% of respondents). Only 13% say that adequate progress has been made on preserving and restoring biodiversity; and 14% on sustainable and healthy agriculture.
- Moving forward, respondents recommend focusing action on 3 pillars of the Green Deal: mobilizing industry for a clean and circular economy, preserving and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity and fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food systems.
Top three recommendations
- Ensure that the award and use of EU recovery funds are focused on low-carbon and environmental projects.
- Set an absolute reduction target in material footprint consumption as part of the Circular Economy Action plan (CEAP) and mainstream a circular economy approach in the EU industrial strategy.\
- Align the post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform with the ‘farm to fork’ strategy and boost investment in nature-based solutions to preserve biodiversity.
Digital technology and data use are changing our society in fundamental ways. These changes are having a major impact on the sustainability of our living environment. Although digitalisation and sustainability are inextricably connected, government policy fails to recognise this connection. In its advisory report about digitalisation and the transition towards a sustainable society, the Dutch Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli) argues, among others, that the national government must intervene much more actively and utilise the advantages the digital world offers to further the green transformation. Read More
There is no single blueprint for cities on how to develop ocio-economic, environmental and climate resilience strategies, designed to adapt to stresses and shocks. However, a new research paper published by the Irish National Economic and Social Council, entiteled ‘Building Long Term Resilient and Sustainable Cities” explores the conditions required to enable cities to build resilience. The research paper also looks at actions needed to make cities resilient and liveable places, by prioritising the inter-relationship between people and place, especially the natural environment. Read More
Upon the invitation of EU institutions, a group of governmental and parliamentary advisory councils on climate change, the environment and sustainable development shared their insights on the mandate, tasks, composition and governance of a future European Climate Change Council (ECCC).
The insights of the advisory councils were gathered in a so called addendum. This addendum followed a joint letter previously sent to the EU co-legislators on the added value of a future ECCC. Arnau Queralt-Bassa – chairman of the European Environment and Sustainable Development Advisory Councils (EEAC) Network – underlined that the addendum truly touches upon the matters beyond the added value of a European advisory body on Climate Change.
Asked about the mandate, Arnau Queralt-Bassa stated that ‘a future ECCC first and foremost should be mandated to provide evidence-based and integrated policy advice based on the best available scientific knowledge’. In order to do so, Arnau Queralt-Bassa continued, ‘the latest scientific findings of the IPCC and relevant European institutions and agencies should of course be utilized’. A future ECCC should also provide European institutions with a regular and independent assessment of progress on the achievement of GHG emission reduction targets at EU level, and an assessment of the progress made on the implementation of the EU strategy on adaptation to climate change, Queralt-Bassa continued.
In its addendum, the consortium of advisory councils also underlined the importance of a future ECCC to be interdisciplinary, diverse and gender balanced in terms of its composition. But it is not sufficient to ensure just that, Queralt-Bassa warned. For the legitimacy of a future ECCC it is of the utmost importance that its members will be appointed following a fully transparent selection process, underpinned by clear criteria. Of equal importance is that a future ECCC and its members will be completely independent of the institutions they advise. This should be enshrined in law.
Arnau Queralt-Bassa concluded by reiterating the advisory councils’ willingness to cooperate with colleagues of a future ECCC, and by expressing his hope that the ongoing trilogue negotiations will provide the EU with both truly ambitious climate policies and targets, and the institutions to support these policies and targets.
The board of the EEAC Network reconfirmed the network’s partnership with the European Sustainable Development Week initiative. The ESDW is a European-wide initiative to stimulate and make visible activities, projects and events that promote sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In a response to the continued partnership, Arnau Queralt Bassa (Chairman EEAC Network) stated that ‘a transition towards a more sustainable Europe, requires all Europeans to engage. In that context the European Sustainable Development Week initiative is of major importance, he underlined. This year, the ESDW will take place this year from 18 September – 08 October, with the core of the Week taking place 20 September – 26 September.
There is a prevailing narrative around the decline of rural areas in Ireland. This is not unique to the Irish context with international studies also looking at concerns around rural vitality. This narrative is associated predominately with a decline in the agricultural sector, urbanisation and the decline of opportunities in rural areas. The latest NESC paper aims to quantitatively establish how rural areas have changed and qualitatively identify opportunities based on a group of experts.
In the context of this work on rural development and agriculture by NESC, it worthwhile mentioning that the Dutch Rli will publish a report on the possibilities to make farmers’ revenue models compatible with achieving sustainable agriculture. The report will focus on the question what needs to be done by the various links in the value chain in order to offer economic prospect to farmers. The report is expected at year end 2021.
In the context of the ongoing negotiations on the EU climate law, governmental and parliamentarian advisory councils have been following the debate on the establishment of a Climate Change Council at the European level. Following these negotiations, the advisory councils sent a letter to the European Council, The Portuguese Minister on the Environment, The European Commission’s EVP Timmermans, and members of Parliament to share their views on the added value that advisory councils have, and how this added value would also apply to a potential European Climate Change Council.
In the letter we introduced several key aspects in which advisory councils at the subnational, national, and European level can create added value, Arnau Queralt – Chairman of The European Environment and Sustainable Development Advisory Councils (EEAC) Network – explained. Advisory councils give – for example – independent and scientifically sound policy recommendations that focus on increasing overall societal benefits. This is tremendously important given the complexity of mitigating and adapting to climate change.
Of equal importance is the ability of advisory councils to provide a useful and valuable voice in the public debate, Arnau Queralt continued. Councils – gathered in the EEAC Network as members and partners – have been able to highlight important issues for policymakers, interest groups and the general public alike. An advisory council at the EU level could have the same effect, but on a much larger scale, thus, enhancing the public debate on the important decisions that need to be taken on a European level.
The EEAC Chairman also highlighted the ability of advisory councils to provide a holistic and cross-sectorial perspective and to create consistency between policies and long-term goals such as reaching climate neutrality by 2050. This is especially important since the transition does not happen overnight.
Arnau Queralt concluded by saying that he hopes that the joint letter demonstrated a number of the key added values that advisory councils have, and that he – together with twelve councils from ten European countries and regions expect that a European Climate Change Council will have similar added value.