Launch of the 1st National Implementation Plan on the SDGs
Institute for International and European Affairs,
26 April 2018
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten TD
Check Against Delivery
I am very happy to be here today, to launch the 1st National Implementation Plan for the Sustainable Development Goals.
This is a historic day for our country.
The Plan underlines Ireland's commitment to fully achieve all 17 of the SDGs by 2030, and to support their successful implementation around the world.
My Department has produced the Plan but, in line with Ireland's whole-of-government approach to the SDGs, every Department has been involved in the process.
In particular, I would like to thank the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste for the support provided by their Departments.
I was delighted to be given overall responsibility for promoting the SDGs across Government, and for overseeing their implementation.
And it's not just because, as Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, many of the Goals are directly related to my Department.
It's because the SDGs address the basic reality that many of the social, economic and environmental challenges which we face today require common, integrated, solutions.
My view is that the most exciting thing about the SDGs it that it forces Government, your Government, and the public service to think differently.
None of the 17 Goals fit neatly into any single Government Department. Individual Government Departments and Ministers and others are responsible for delivering each of the 17 Goals and rightly so.
Historically global objectives were the responsibility of the Department of Foreign Affairs, in the main. But with the SDGs, it's everybody's responsibility.
The 'it's not my job' culture won't work if we are to achieve our objectives as set out in the SDGs.
We must bring the public and key players such as NGOs, with us if we are to deliver the SDGs.
For me the SDGs means 'joined up thinking' and getting the basic things right. All 17 of those basic things that will transform Ireland from being a thriving economy to a society that we want to raise our children in.
The words spoken by Bobby Kennedy in 1963 are apt today 'Every generation inherits a world it never made; and, as it does so, it automatically becomes the trustee of that world for those who come after. In due course, each generation makes its own accounting to its children'.
This is not going to be easy. We have effectively a 19th century Government structure for a 21st century economy and things in Government happen slowly.
But we are moving away from the attitude that Government knows best to an era where Government facilitates innovative solutions coming from communities.
This is why, with the SDGs, we are now at a very exciting point in the development of our country as a big community rather than a big economy.
SDGs and Policy Integration
Take energy efficiency as an example. Our homes are a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Renovating homes to be more energy efficient can address not only climate change by reducing emissions, but can also help tackle fuel poverty, and provide decent jobs in parts of the country where people are travelling long distances to work. Insulted and warmer homes also means better health.
So investing in energy efficiency is an economic investment, but it's also an example of climate action, and social action as well.
This is the kind of integrated approach to policy that the SDGs call for, one which doesn't attempt to trade off economic growth against environmental sustainability, or neglect vulnerable members of our society.
As a Minister my job is to provide leadership through policies like this, that integrate social, economic, and environmental action, and that leave no one behind.
Moving from Ambition to Action
I think it's fair to say that the SDGs would not be what they are if not for the work of David Donoghue, who convinced the global community to agree to the most ambitious set of commitments in the UN's history.
David's achievement, as co-chair of the SDG negotiations, is a shining example of Ireland's long commitment to the ideal of a peaceful, prosperous, sustainable and safe world. I think that commitment comes from the Irish people's own shared history of famine and migration, and our sense of solidarity with those in need around the world. So I think we can be proud of helping to establish the SDGs.
But as proud as we are, in order to achieve the SDGs by 2030 we will need to do much more. This First National Implementation Plan marks the beginning of a journey. And it is only the beginning.
The SDGs challenge every country to make a clean break with business as usual, to embrace the sort of transformative changes needed to achieve a sustainable global future by 2030.
That sort of change cannot happen all at once but it has to start somewhere, because the SDGs are more than just a set of global ambitions, they are a call to action.
We can see the same mix of ambition, backed up by concrete action, in the new National Development Plan, which is explicitly about driving Ireland's long term economic, environmental and social progress over the next decade.
One of the most innovative features of the National Development Plan is the allocation of an estimated €4 billion to four new investment funds to support Climate Action, Disruptive Technology Innovation, Urban and Rural Regeneration and Development.
These funds have been established to drive innovative solutions to problems while breaking away from a) the old departmental silo thinking and b) that solutions should be built around Government grants and supports.
Details of the National Implementation Plan
The National Implementation Plan that I am launching here today is the framework for how Government will bring all 17 of the SDGs into cross-Government action, between now and 2030. It spells out, in some detail, which Ministers are responsible for what elements of the SDGs, and how existing policies relate to the Goals.
It also explains how, in future, new policies will take account of Ireland's commitments under the SDGs and how Ireland's SDG activities will be communicated and reported across the whole of Government.
The Plan also focuses on raising public awareness, which I think is absolutely vital. If communities all around the country can see how the SDGs relate to their daily lives, then they can contribute to meeting the Goals themselves. If this happens we will create far more energy, innovation and enthusiasm than Government alone could ever produce.
Which is why under the Plan, my Department will lead a national SDG communications strategy. We will work with 'SDG Champions' to provide concrete examples of how communities, civil society groups and the private sector can support the Goals.
As important as it is to engage the wider public, Government also needs to engage with key stakeholders across all sectors of society. So a national SDG Stakeholder Forum will be established as a priority under the Plan.
I want this new Forum to represent a genuine dialogue between Government and stakeholders, and between stakeholders from different sectors, sharing ideas about how best to implement the SDGs and how to communicate their importance to the public.
I think it can also be a venue for Government to better communicate to stakeholders the challenges around implementing particular policies.
I'm sure there will be a lot of different views within the Forum about what needs to be done to achieve the Goals, and I'm sure that at times not everyone will agree.
But, as I said before, the SDGs, challenge us all to move away from business as usual, to step out of comfort zones, and to work together.
For example, Government will have to break away from its traditional silo approach to national administration, so that co-operation and collaboration between Departments becomes the new normal. I for one stand ready to take up this challenge and I hope that you will be too.
The final element of the Plan is the Government's commitment to regular, transparent, evidence-based reporting on our progress toward achieving the SDGs.
These reports will highlight our successes and draw attention to innovative national policies, but they will be equally upfront and honest about where Ireland needs to do more to meet the Goals. And they will include comprehensive statistical data from the Central Statistics Office, which is fast becoming a world-leader in the field of SDG data through its partnership with the UN.
Government intends to report on its progress to the United Nations four times between now and 2030, beginning this July at the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.
My Department is preparing that report, called a Voluntary National Review. And while it represents a huge job of work, I think it will provide an important baseline for Ireland's SDG performance.
In conclusion, I want to underline that today marks the beginning of a process, not the end. The Sustainable Development Goals will challenge all of us, Government, civil society and the private sector, every day between now and 2030. But I'm optimistic, because I see the enthusiasm in this room today, and I know that if we work together we can achieve that peaceful, sustainable and safe world that we want for ourselves, and our children, and for generations to come.