Ireland Faces Significant Challenges on Environmental SDGs: Social Justice Ireland
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The report finds that Ireland ranks tenth among the 15 EU peers, one step up from its 2019 performance.

The country performs best on SDG 4 (quality education) and SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions).

It is struggling on most of the environment-focused SDGs, ranking 13th on SDG 13 (climate action), with GHG emissions “well above the EU average”.

Compared to 15 other EU countries, Ireland is doing relatively well on SDG 4 (quality education) and SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). It ranks last, however, on progress towards the environment-focused Goals. The assessment was conducted by Social Justice Ireland, for the fourth year in a row.

The report titled, ‘Measuring Progress: Sustainable Progress Index 2020,’ finds that Ireland ranks tenth among the 15 EU peers, one step up from its 2019 performance. Overall, the report concludes Ireland requires a “joined-up thinking approach” to address the complexities of sustainable development and achieve the environment-focused SDGs and the 2030 Agenda as a whole. The authors call for keeping the SDGs at the top of Ireland’s agenda to help policymakers pursue sustainable development.

On environment, the report finds Ireland is lagging behind its EU peers and “facing significant challenges.” Its rankings are as follows:

  • Ireland ranks 13th on SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production) and (climate action), with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions “well above the EU average”;
  • Ireland ranks 11th on SDG 7 (clean and affordable energy), and 11th out of 13 for SDG 14 (life below water); the country is “struggling to achieve its sustainable objectives” on SDG 14;
  • Ireland ranks ninth on SDG 15 (life on land), as it is doing well on its share of protected terrestrial and freshwater areas but finding its share of land dedicated for forestry use well below the EU average; and
  • Ireland ranks eighth on SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) and SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities).

On “society,” Ireland ranks seventh overall. On SDG 1 (no poverty), Ireland is in ninth place. On SDG 2 (zero hunger), Ireland also ranks ninth and faces obesity-related challenges, with over 25% of its population categorized as obese. Additional SDG 2 concerns relate to ensuring the sustainability and long-term productivity of agriculture and the country’s share of organic farming. On SDG 3 (good health and well-being), Ireland ranks seventh.

Ireland has the highest share of the population aged 30-34 that has completed tertiary education.

Ireland’s best performance is on SDG 4, where Ireland is ranked second and has the highest share of the population aged 30 to 34 that has completed tertiary or equivalent education, at 56.3%. The country performs well on reading, math, and science, and has the second-lowest number of students dropping out of education.

On SDG 5 (gender equality), the report finds that Ireland’s performance is mixed and “much more” needs to be done to accelerate the country’s progress. Ireland places in the middle for the gender pay gap and gender employment gap, and well below average on the share of women in senior management roles and in national parliament. In contrast, women are ahead of men in education.

Ireland ranks ninth on SDG 10 (reduced inequalities). On SDG 16, Ireland is ranked fifth. The country’s institutions are considered transparent, effective, and accountable, and Ireland is considered a relatively safe society with a low perceived occurrence of crime, violence, and vandalism. On SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals), Ireland ranks eighth, but the report cautions that better and more reliable quality data are needed.

On SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), Ireland ranks eighth out of the 15 EU countries, with high scores on gross domestic product (GDP) per capita and unemployment. Ireland faces challenges in progress on the proportion of youths not in employment, education, or training (NEET), average wages, and accidents at work. On SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), Ireland ranks 11th overall, and ranks the lowest for its expenditure on research and development. The report concludes there is “significant room for progress” on economic-related SDGs.

The report concludes with a series of SDG-specific policy proposals to accelerate SDG progress at the national and local levels. [Publication Landing Page] [Publication: Measuring Progress: Sustainable Progress Index 2020] [RTE News article on Index findings] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on 2019 Report] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on 2018 Index]

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