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.
About SDSN Ireland
We are an All-Island network of Universities and institutions focussed on high quality education and research, where the Sustainable Development Goals are at the forefront of the work we do.
Established in 2022 by the University College Cork and Queens University Belfast the network encompasses partners across the island of Ireland with the hope to encourage collaborative approaches to sustainable research solutions and education.
SDSN Ireland is a North-South cooperative network focused on developing context-specific solutions and mobilising local action for the SDGs. Engaging universities, research centres, local authorities, NGOs, civil society organisations and policymakers, the Network would bring the latest research to bear on producing solutions to the challenges within the SDGs and would seek to empower individuals and organisations to achieve impact through education and engagement.
University College Cork and Queen’s University Belfast, as co-hosts, will ensure an all-island approach is taken to implementing the UN SDGs. The Network also intends to develop a close connection with SDSN UK delivered out of UCL, with QUB as the conduit to this partnership.
The activities of SDSN Ireland
Activities will be focused on the following objectives:
(i) To capitalise on the teaching, research, and community engagement activities of HEIs, north and south of the island, in support of SDG implementation within our local city and county regions, as well as nationally and transnationally.
(ii) To support capacity building for local implementation of SDGs within communities and cities through training and sharing of best practice.
(iii) To build wider partnerships and research collaborations aimed at co-developing and co-creating solutions for the SDGs with a North-South focus.
(iv) To seek ways to integrate relevant national and regional policies into local policy implementation through collaboration with policy makers north and south of the border with the aim of streamlining policy implementation at an all-island level.
(v) To provide a public leadership role in the societal transition towards the 2030 agenda and demonstrate co-produced solutions to these global challenges. This would include the showcasing and highlighting of best practices for the implementation of SDGs at local, regional, and national level.
(vi) To build on initiatives currently being undertaken at both universities, such as the Queen’s Social Charter Communities and Place project and the Centre for Shared Education and UCC City Lab and CARL
Science Shop to
1. Support educational institutions to better engage with policy makers and the third sector.
2. Provide students with opportunities to undertake research and projects which will have a direct impact on their local communities.
(vii) Provide institutional expertise to organisations, supporting individuals and the wider community, to understand how the SDG’s can be integrated into their day-to-day lives.
(viii) Use the unique position of Northern Ireland, being within both the UK and the Island of Ireland, to build links between the All-Ireland SDSN and the UK SDSN. Use this linkage to share expertise and develop occasional joint activities between the two networks, where appropriate.
Get in touch
University College Cork contact:
Queen’s University Belfast contact:
The SDGs and the island of Ireland In 2018
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 fully achieving all 17 of the Goals by 2030. The SDG National Implementation Plan builds on Ireland’s current national sustainable development strategy, ‘Our Sustainable Future’ and its policy for international development, ‘One World, One Future’, and commits Ireland to mainstreaming the SDGs across national policy. The Plan integrates the 2030 Agenda into national policies and identifies the government ministries and agencies responsible for each of the SDG targets. The Department of Communication, Climate Action and Environment has responsibility for officially reporting on Ireland's progress toward meeting the SDG targets. The Irish Central Statistics Office has a significant role in the identification, management, and presentation of the data needed to meet the requirements of the SDG Indicators. The Irish National Development Plan 2018-2027 allocates 21.8 billion euro to SDGrelated projects, including those on renewable energy and energy security (SDG 7).
In Northern Ireland (NI), the NI Executive is developing a long-term Programme for Government which will be underpinned by a budget and supported by key Executive strategies. As part of this, a strategic Outcomes Framework has been produced (presently in draft form) - once finalised this will set a clear direction of travel for the NI Executive. The intention is that the Outcomes Framework will be the way that progress towards the achievement of SDGs will be demonstrated.
While Governments have primary responsibility for implementing the SDG's, the Goals do not belong to Governments alone. Achieving the SDG's will require a concerted and integrated effort from Governments, businesses, local authorities, communities, and individuals. In recognition of this Ireland established a national SDG Stakeholder Forum, chaired by the Department of Communications, Climate Action, and Environment, to facilitate dialogue among representatives from government entities, civil society, NGOs, the private sector, trade unions and academia. Other networks have also facilitated collaboration on the SDGs, such as Coalition 2030, an alliance of over 100 civil society organisations, and Business in the Community Ireland.
In NI a variety of networks have also been established to address responsibility for environmental sustainability and achieving the SDGs. These include networks such as; Business in the Community, Sustainable NI, Northern Ireland Environment link, and the Belfast Climate Commission. Ireland is currently developing its second SDG National Implementation Plan. In 2020 the Irish Government set out the government’s vision and priorities for the Shared Island initiative, this involves, among other things, working with the NI Executive and the British government to address strategic challenges faced on the island of Ireland. In this context, the timing of this application to establish a Sustainable Development Solutions Network on the island of Ireland is very timely.
The SDGs at University College Cork (UCC)
University College Cork was the first university in the world to be awarded a Green Flag from the Foundation for Environmental Education in 2010 and is currently 8th in the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact ranking (contribution to the SDGs). UCC was the first university outside of North America to be awarded a Gold STARS rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and is the only Irish university to hold observer status on the UNFCCC. UCC is one of Ireland’s most research-intensive universities and has an active research community working on multiple aspects of sustainability. The Environmental Research Institute (ERI) at UCC is a flagship University institute dedicated to facilitating a transformation to a zero carbon, resource efficient, and sustainable society. The Institute brings together over 450 researchers from 25 University schools and departments and 6 research centres to address the global sustainability challenges. UCC hosts the UNEP GEMS/Water Capacity Development Centre, which aims to provide global capacity development in water quality monitoring and assessment directly addressing Sustainable Development Goal 6.3.2. The University also hosts hosts MaREI, the SFI-funded Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine research and innovation.
The SDGs at Queen’s
As laid out in its Strategy 2030, Queen’s as an institution has committed to embedding the SDGs across all activities, from research and education, to adopting a leadership role in the promotion of the SDGs and embedding sustainability within its operational activities. Queen’s was ranked 43rd in the 2021 THE Impact Rankings; this compared to a rank of 87 in 2020, thus reflecting the clear commitment of the university to the SDGs., The University has been awarded Platinum level in the Business in the Community Environmental Benchmarking Survey which covers organisations and businesses across NI and recently received a UK and Ireland Green Gown Award for Student Engagement activities.
Queen’s has prioritized Engaged Research with partners in industry, government, public policy, social and healthcare, the arts and the voluntary sector and has developed a series of Engagement Hubs dedicated to establishing sustainable long-term relationships with external partners; one of which, the SDG Hub will become an integral part of this network. The Queens Social Charter acts as a platform to showcase research with impact including projects such as Queen’s Communities and Place Initiative. This is a new initiative based on partnership between communities, policymakers and academics. Guided by the University’s Social Charter, it will commit the resources of the University to work in partnership to find lasting solutions that tackle disadvantage and improve outcomes for children, young people and communities. Through a place-based approach, the initiative will seek to develop a more durable model of community and place-based working.
Other leading centres at Queen’s involved in sustainability research are the industry led Centre for Advanced Sustainable Energy; the Bryden Center in Advanced Marine and Bio-energy Research which among other things is involved in developing a Net-Zero Skills Academy funded by local government; and the Center for Sustainability, Equality and Climate Action.
SDSN Ireland is a North-South cooperative network focused on developing context-specific solutions and mobilising local action for the SDGs. Engaging universities, research centres, local authorities, NGOs, civil society organisations and policymakers, the Network will bring the latest research to bear on producing solutions for the SDGs and seek to empower individuals and organisations to achieve impact through education and engagement.