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Responding Sustainably

The Covid-19 crisis has revealed a number of critical challenges in relation to Ireland’s economic, environmental and social sustainability. In recent years, NESC has integrated sustainable development approaches and research into its work programme. This has included a focus on a just transition, climate change, a circular economy, sustainable aquaculture and greening the economy.

The urgent imperative to act sustainably, to address global climate change and biodiversity loss, is ever-present. Investment and policy decisions will be made in the coming months that will be critical in addressing these urgent challenges.

The Covid-19 emergency is revealing a number of further critical challenges that will inform responses going forward, such as:

  • The frailty of business as usual;
  • The human, economic and social costs that have been put dramatically on view;
  • The need to understand the deep and personal connection between the natural world and our health, economy and society;
  • The global nature of the Covid-19 crisis and how our response is strengthened through international cooperation;
  • The shifting nature of the global, EU and national economic, political, social, health and climate contexts; and
  • The extent to which the present crisis has increased societal concerns about inequality (WEF, 2020).

As Ireland works to build a resilient post-pandemic economy and society, the NESC Secretariat will continue to examine key perspectives, approaches and practices in sustainable development that can be used to meet these challenges. Some key questions that underpin this work include:

  • How can policy responses can be aligned and configured to Covid-19 in ways that successfully and urgently drive and deliver sustainable, low carbon development and practices?
  • How can we bridge the sustainability gap: building-in sustainability; and identifying new opportunities?
  • What can the European Green Deal bring to a post-coronavirus recovery?
  • What are the opportunities to do things differently and more sustainably going forward?
    • To explore economic and societal shifts from the crisis;
    • To urgently reduce emissions to meet 2030 targets while also stimulating the economy;
    • To invest in local economy and community responses, the circular economy, bioeconomy, flexible working, and sustainable mobility;
    • To co-build local economies through community wealth measures, social contracts, and community energy etc.;
    • To further enhance Ireland’s natural habitats, air quality and ecosystems, which are anecdotally enhanced by our reduced presence and activity; and
    • To carefully review remote working practices to ensure everyone can benefit.
  • What wellbeing and ‘beyond GDP’ criteria may be used to evaluate Ireland’s progress in achieving the public good of sustainability? and
  • How to identify frameworks and perspectives that can underpin policy actions which help to balance economic, social and environmental limits?

This Secretariat working paper, Progressing Sustainability in the Context of Covid-19: Grasping the Opportunity, examines some of these challenges and opportunities and explores how they could inform and help to deliver low carbon and sustainable policy responses.