My submission to the consultation on the Fingal Economic and Community Plan makes the following points:
1. The plan needs to be based in Sustainable Development, i.e. meeting the needs of the current generation without impairing the ability of the planet to meet the needs of future generations.
Ireland committed to following a sustainable development path in Rio in 1992. The current sustainable development framework for Ireland Our Sustainable Future reaffirms that commitment and sets out in some detail the challenges we face. Importantly the Taoiseach and the then Minister for the Environment emphasised the role of all sectors of society and all elements of government:
“Our Sustainable Future provides a platform for a joined-up approach to policy-making across all sectors to ensure cohesive, rigorous and soundly-based decision making. Ultimately, sustainable development is about ourselves, the degree to which we manage our resources and value our natural environment as we move forward as an economy and as a society.
“This framework charts a way for us collectively – Government, at its various levels, and civil society, in its many components – to meet this challenge.”
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, TD
“Decoupling environmental degradation and resource consumption from economic and social development is an enduring challenge in Ireland as elsewhere and requires a paradigm shift in our approach to future development. The ‘business-as-usual’ approach will not suffice; we require a major reorientation of public and private investment, particularly in terms of innovation, research and development in those areas where we need radically new approaches. We need a more developed “green economy” focus, achieving a more mutually supportive interface between environmental protection and economic development, while also ensuring that our approaches are socially sustainable. Our Sustainable Future is premised on this and the measures contained within it are designed to position us firmly on the desired path.
“Getting there will require the support and engagement of all sectors of society and I see the effective implementation of this framework as a key challenge.”
Minister for the Environment Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan, TD
The current Minister for the Environment is equally clear about the central role sustainable development must plan in our planning and governance:
“Sustainable development is the critical global issue of our times, and provides the solution to so many of our environmental, economic and social challenges. It is the bottom line for our planet and needs to be integrated into every decision that we make about how we organise and develop our society. For us here in Ireland, we must face up to this imperative by setting our environment and our economy on a path compatible with a sustainable future.”
Taking this policy context, the proposed goals fall far short of what is required. They do not even mention sustainable development, not to mind putting a sustainable development analysis at the core of the plan. The plan should acknowledge the enormity of the challenge we face in transitioning to sustainability and use sustainable development as an analytical framework to develop the goals and actions to be included in the plan. This means identifying the needs to be met and then exploring how to meet those needs in a sustainable fashion.
2. In the Green Economy area there is a wealth of analysis which should be drawn on. In particular, the Environmental Pillar has developed detailed recommendations which should be considered for application in Fingal.
The plan should draw on experience of local authorities in other countries in driving transition to the Green Economy, including through enterprise policies and supports, local taxation, public procurement, planning requirements, etc. A good starting point for the experiences of a wide range of local authorities is the International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives.
3. The process for making a submission is unnecessarily complex. It should be possible to make a submission by email. In addition, although the closing date is today 22nd April, I found this evening that the website has already closed. The consultation also falls short in that there is no explanation of the origin of the 18 goals proposed for consultation.