Think-tank’s all-Ireland report sees climate change and biodiversity loss as action areas

NESC finds there is significant support for an all-island approach to the big economic, social, environmental and wellbeing questions

The first all-island report by a Government-backed think-tank has identified climate change and biodiversity loss as a “clear and urgent platform” for ambitious action across the entire island of Ireland.

The National Economic and Social Council (NESC) was commissioned by the Government’s Shared Island initiative to undertake research across all 32 counties for the first time, with detailed focus on the northwest region embracing counties Donegal, Derry and Tyrone.

Its report, published on Tuesday, made three overarching findings on opportunities.

It found there was significant support, in practice, for an all-island approach to the big economic, social, environmental, and wellbeing questions.


Its second finding found that the two jurisdictions had significant potential for future collaboration. It pointed to resources shared between both jurisdictions as well as other factors including political certainty, regulatory coherence and joint projects.

The third was climate change and biodiversity, which NESC argued was “now ripe for further ambition and collaboration”.


In its research, conducted over the course of 2021, NESC said it found “ample evidence” of sharing already on the ground across many areas. They included climate change, mental health services, and social enterprise supports. It said projects should be identified that have a potential for real collaboration on the ground.

Honing in on specifics, the NESC report has made 25 specific recommendations. Primarily it has called for increased investment in infrastructure, including the all-island energy network. It also has concluded that renewable energy opportunities should be further explored through a working group.

Speaking at a meeting of the Shared Island Forum at Dublin Castle, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the report was “ground-breaking work – both for the council to conduct and for Government to receive: the first NESC report with a dedicated and strategic all-island focus”.

He said that earlier this month he had approved a €5 million fund for local authorities to work together on a cross-Border basis on tourism projects such as trails, shared heritage, regional skills and biodiversity protection.

“My hope is that this new initiative will empower councils across the island to develop a pipeline of new cross-Border capital projects.

That will deliver common regional development goals and our Shared Island National Development Plan objectives.


He also listed some of the cross-Border projects that will commence this year under Shared Island funding. They include EV charging points that can be used on either side of the Border; community climate action projects; enterprise developments in the Border regions as well as civil society partnerships spanning the entire island.

“Taken together they represent a prospectus of clear benefits to be gained for both jurisdictions on the island in environmental, social and economic terms.

“The opportunities are there, we need to grasp them,” he said.

Speaking to reporters at the forum, he said the NESC report would give an overarching policy framework for the work that has been under way in respect of a shared island.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times