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UCC and Queen’s University establish first all-island sustainability network

University College Cork (UCC) and Queen’s University Belfast (Queen’s) have established Ireland’s first all-island network dedicated to delivering on the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Sustainable Development Solutions Network Ireland (SDSN Ireland) launched today at an event in Dublin, will work with local authorities, NGOs, civil society organisations and policymakers to bring the latest research and best practice to bear on producing solutions for the SDGs. It is the first time a university in Northern Ireland and in Ireland have formed a partnership to develop an all-island approach to sustainable development goals.

In 2018, Ireland adopted its first SDG National Implementation Plan. The plan sets out the Government's response to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and commits Ireland to mainstreaming the SDGs across national policy and achieving all 17 of the Goals by 2030. The Irish National Development Plan 2018-2027 allocates 21.8 billion euro to SDG-related projects, including those on renewable energy and energy security.

“Sustainability challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, clean water and air, and achieving a circular economy do not recognise human-made borders” commented Professor John O’Halloran, President of UCC. “While Governments have primary responsibility for implementing the SDG's, the Goals belong to all of society. Achieving the SDG's will require a concerted and integrated effort and together with Queen’s University Belfast we will seek to advance an all island approach in collaboration with other Higher education institutions and stakeholders to our common challenge.”

Professor Ian Greer, President and Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, said:“This unique partnership with UCC will help accelerate further island-wide collaboration on sustainability research, building on important initiatives such as Shared Island Funds, US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership, and The Co-Centre Programme. SDSN Ireland will have a key role to play in driving research and innovation, skills and policy-making and importantly, in enhancing community engagement around all of the sustainable development goals.”

SDSN Ireland will be co-located between both universities and some of the activities that both UCC and Queen’s have agreed through SDSN Ireland include a seed funding scheme to support SDG related development projects, a bursary scheme for students which would enable them to study both sides of the border (an opportunity that no longer exists as Northern Ireland can no longer avail of the future Erasmus programme) and the development of masters and diploma courses on SDGs between both universities.

SDSN Ireland will be part of the global Sustainable Development Solutions Network led by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, which was established in 2012 by the UN to promote integrated approaches to implement the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and now operates in 144 countries across the world.