Latest publication: Long-term Resilient and Sustainable Cities

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

OECD & EEAC jointly organized a webinar on better policies for food systems

The OECD and EEAC Network organized a joint webinar on the findings from the OECD’s Making Better Policies for Food Systems report. The report brings together decades of OECD research and policy recommendations into a coherent view on food systems to support policy makers around the world develop better policies for food systems. Following a presentation on the report by the authors, an assessment of the report and possible policy implications from the perspective of the European Environment and Sustainable Development Advisory Councils Network was shared. Experts from the German Council on Global Change, the Dutch Council on the Environment and Infrastructure and the Council for the Sustainable Development of Catalonia contributed. Following the presentation and reflections, interaction on the performance of the global food system followed. Participants also discussed the design of coherent policies, factors complicating the task of achieving better policies and key priorities for food system policy approaches. You can view the session recordings here.

Advisory councils share insights on mandate, tasks, composition and governance of a future European Climate Change Council with EU co-legislators

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.


Report presentation // Hydrogen: the missing link

Hydrogen can play a role in making the economy more sustainable in two ways: as an energy carrier, and as a feed stock for industry. The Dutch Climate Agreement, Climate Plan and various sector-specific scenarios all assign an important role to hydrogen. Hydrogen is also receiving considerable attention internationally, as illustrated by the many strategies, vision documents, reports and investments by governments and global companies. Hydrogen, in other words, has potential.

There are however multiple challenges and possible infringing interests when it comes to the use of hydrogen in the future. In this context the Dutch Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli) produced its report aiming to answer the question: What is a realistic prospect for hydrogen as a feed stock and/or energy carrier in a sustainable economy, and what role should the (Dutch) national government and other parties play in that regard? During an online presentation, Folmer de Haan (Deputy Director Rli) introduced the advice and its finding and engaged in collegial exchange. Read More

EEAC reconfirms partnership with the European Sustainable Development Week initiative

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.

Rural areas and economic prospect to farmers

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.

Advisory councils sent letter to EU co-legislators to share views on added value of European Climate Change Council

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.

Latest publication: Interim opinion on the strategic directions of the draft Recovery and Resilience Plan of Belgium

On 12 January 2021, Mr Dermine, Belgium’s State Secretary for Economic Recovery and Strategic Investments, asked the Central Economic Council (CRB-CCE) and the Federal Council for Sustainable Development (FRDO-CFDD) for their opinion on the strategic directions of the draft Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP). This request for an opinion forms part of the European process whereby Belgium, like every

Member State of the European Union, must submit its Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP) to the European Commission by 30 April 2021 in order to benefit from the Recovery and Resilience Facility. The Councils met on 18 and 26 January and on 2, 5 and 8 February to draw up this opinion, which was approved by the CRB-CCE plenary session on 16 February and by the FRDO-CFDD General Assembly on 18 February 2021. Read More

Latest publication: Status update report 2021: Denmark´s national and international climate efforts

The new Danish Climate Act from June 2020 stipulates that the Danish Climate Change Council (DCCC) is to make annual recommendations for and provide a status update on the Government´s climate efforts.

In its resent status update the DCCC concluded that despite a number of climate policy agreements between the Government and the Parliament,  it is not likely that the Government will achieve the target of a 70-percent reduction of greenhouse gases by 2030. The primary reason for this is that the Government has not made a concrete plan for how to fill two thirds of the emissions reduction gap remaining after implementation of the agreements adopted, the DCCC argues. Furthermore, the Government largely bases the remaining effort on new technologies without a proper plan on how to achieve the reductions.

The conclusion is followed by a set of recommendation by the DCCC. The Council recommends the Government to develop a national strategy on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as soon as possibly. The Council also recommends that the Government adopts additional policy measures in order to achieve extra emission reductions. Furthermore, the Council recommends the Government to ensure the implementation of a general greenhouse gas tax, which could support a cost-efficient fulfillment of Denmark`s climate objectives. Finally, the Council on Climate Change recommends a higher price on climate effects in socio-economic calculations and an accelerated re-wetting of drained peat soils.

The status update concludes that Denmark is close at fulfilling current EU energy- and climate obligations for 2030 by means of the policy agreements adopted in the recent year. Additional efforts are required to meet the Non-ETS obligation, though fulfillment of the 70 percent target is very likely to deliver on this obligation too. Expectedly, the EU will increase its overall reduction target for 2030 from 40 percent to at least 55 percent, and this might imply that Denmark and other Member States will be met with tighter obligations than today. Read More

EEAC Conference summary online: How to Deliver a Just Transition for All?

In late 2020, the Irish National Economic and Social Council (NESC) along with the EEAC, organized the 28th EEAC Annual Conference, entitled: ‘Delivering a Just Transition for All.’ The conference focused on possible responses to the pressure for change that follows multiple complex and overlapping pressures and necessary transitions, including: climate change, biodiversity loss, inequality and the impact of digital technology. Following the conference, the NESC published a Conference Report which examines and sumerizes the findings of the conference.

During the conference late 2020, President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins provided the keynote address highlighting that ‘major transitions in our society and economy must be approached with the ‘Just Transition’ concept in mind’. Supporting this call the conference report, written by Sinead Mercier, highlights a number of practical ways to support a just transition and build resilience: These include: A) Targeting supports at impacted workers and their wider communities, taking into account local context and history; B) Developing and co-designing an inclusive participatory process with those most impacted, at an early stage; C) Setting out a clear, coherent vision and pathway forward drawing on just transition principles; D) Creating well-defined personnel restructuring processes to ensure an orderly phase-out for workers; and E) Using public-sector investment and supporting institutions to help drive the transition.

In a response to the Conference Report’s publication, Director of NESC, Dr. Larry O’Connell said that: ‘the conference report helps us to think about how we can deliver the transformation required to address the climate and biodiversity emergencies while at the same time, using the principles of justice, fairness, equality and equity act as a lever and guide to shape policies and practices’. Read More