Sustainability Insights: interview with Eamon Gilmore

Sustainability Insights: interview with Eamon Gilmore

Could you please share with us a defining moment from your life that sparked your interest in sustainability? Was there one or was it a continuous process?

Reflecting on my journey towards sustainability, I would describe it as a gradual evolution of awareness and understanding that unfolded over the course of my life. However, if I were to pinpoint a pivotal moment that ignited my interest in sustainable development, it would undoubtedly be my encounter with the Brundtland Report during my early adult years. The Brundtland Report, spearheaded by former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, served as a wakeup call to the world, sounding the alarm on critical issues such as pollution, climate change, and sustainable development. It was a sobering moment that profoundly influenced my perspective, prompting me to delve deeper into the interconnectedness of environmental preservation, societal well-being, and economic progress. The report underscored the imperative for global cooperation and concerted action to address the pressing challenges confronting our planet, strengthening my commitment to sustainability in both personal and professional spheres.

What is your perspective on the global efforts towards building sustainable future and battling negative consequences of climate change?

Regrettably, it is evident that we are currently falling short in our collective efforts to combat climate change and secure a sustainable future for generations to come. The targets set forth in various international agreements remain elusive, and the repercussions of climate change are already manifesting in the form of escalating environmental degradation and weather extremes. However, amidst these daunting challenges lies a glimmer of hope rooted in the principle of equitable responsibility sharing. It is imperative that nations, particularly those that have historically profited from carbon-intensive development, acknowledge their role in intensifying the climate crisis and take proactive measures to support less affluent nations in their transition towards sustainable pathways. Achieving a sustainable future demands a paradigm shift towards inclusive, solidarity-based approaches that prioritize environmental awareness and social equity on a global scale.

Given your vast experience in the field of diplomacy, how do you see the role of international relations in advancing sustainability goals in Europe and beyond?

Drawing upon my wide experience in diplomacy, I am acutely aware of the indispensable role it plays in advancing sustainability goals, not only within the realm of traditional state relations but also in broader contexts encompassing business and civil society engagement. The evolution of diplomacy to embrace multifaceted agendas, such as the Business and Human Rights Agenda, underscores the need for inclusive, stakeholder-driven approaches to address complex global challenges. Effective diplomacy transcends geopolitical boundaries, fostering dialogue, cooperation, and mutually beneficial partnerships that are indispensable for sustainable development initiatives. As exemplified by recent EU legislation on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence, diplomatic endeavors can serve as catalysts for policy innovation and normative frameworks that promote environmental responsibility and social justice on a transnational scale.

In your opinion, at the moment, what are the most pressing challenges that the world is facing in relation to achieving sustainable goals?

While climate change undoubtedly ranks among the foremost challenges of our time, it is imperative to recognize that sustainable development is inexorably linked to broader issues of peace and security. In the face of rampant conflicts and humanitarian crises affecting millions worldwide, achieving sustainable goals hinges upon fostering peace and stability. As aptly highlighted by the UN Secretary-General, a quarter of the global population resides in conflict-affected regions, underscoring the urgent imperative for conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts. Without addressing the root causes of conflict and promoting inclusive, rights-based approaches to peacebuilding, our aspirations for sustainability will remain elusive. Therefore, prioritizing conflict prevention, resolution, and post-conflict reconstruction must be integral components of our sustainability agenda, paving the way for enduring peace and prosperity.

How can we facilitate a greater collaboration between governments, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders to accelerate our movement towards more sustainable future?

The path to a more sustainable future necessitates forging robust partnerships and fostering synergies among governments, entrepreneurs, civil society actors, and other stakeholders. Drawing inspiration from Ireland’s experience with Social Partnership, wherein diverse stakeholders collaboratively negotiated policies spanning economic, social, and environmental domains, we must endeavor to replicate and expand such inclusive frameworks at both regional and global levels. By cultivating a culture of dialogue, consensus-building, and collective action, we can harness the collective wisdom and resources of stakeholders across sectors to accelerate progress towards sustainability objectives. The forthcoming Summit of the Future presents a pivotal opportunity to create such collaborative endeavors and lay the groundwork for a transformative partnership paradigm rooted in shared values and common purpose.

Do you think that sustainable themed conferences, such as the Sustainable Economy Summit, have a real impact on decision-makers and future policies?

Sustainable-themed conferences, including the Sustainable Economy Summit, wield significant potential to influence decision-makers and shape future policies. However, their efficiency hinges upon inclusivity and meaningful engagement with diverse stakeholders. Rather than viewing decision-makers as detached entities, such conferences should serve as dynamic platforms for dialogue, knowledge exchange, and co-creation of solutions. By fostering a participatory ethos wherein policymakers, business leaders, and civil society representatives collaborate together, these summits can drive momentum for policy innovation and transformative action. Moreover, they provide invaluable opportunities for networking, forging partnerships, and mobilizing collective action towards shared sustainability goals.

What are some key factors that may curb the enthusiasm of companies with regard to implementing sustainable solutions?

Despite growing awareness of the imperative for sustainable solutions, companies may face various impediments in adopting and implementing such initiatives. Chief among these is uncertainty, stemming from regulatory ambiguity, market volatility, and evolving consumer preferences. To mitigate this uncertainty and stimulate corporate engagement, it is imperative to establish clear, enforceable regulatory frameworks and standards that prioritize sustainability and align with global best practices. Moreover, fostering a culture of corporate social responsibility, wherein sustainability considerations are integrated into core business strategies, can provoke long-term value creation and enhance competitiveness in increasingly sustainability-conscious markets.

How can we ensure that the sustainability efforts we are implementing locally align with global struggle for human rights?

The saying “Think Globally, Act Locally” summarizes a fundamental principle underpinning our sustainability endeavors: the interconnectedness of local actions and global outcomes. By aligning local sustainability efforts with overarching human rights principles and global sustainability frameworks, we can amplify their impact and foster synergies across diverse contexts. This entails integrating human rights considerations into local policy formulation, implementation, and monitoring processes, thereby ensuring that sustainability initiatives uphold fundamental rights and dignity for all. Moreover, fostering multi-level governance structures that facilitate coordination and knowledge sharing between local, national, and international stakeholders can enhance the coherence and effectiveness of sustainability efforts, driving progress towards shared objectives on a global scale.

Eamon Gilmore – Senior European Diplomat, Former Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland (Tánaiste), Former Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

Eamon Gilmore is a European Diplomat, who has just completed a five-year mandate as the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, and an eight-year mandate as the EU Special Envoy for the Peace Process in Colombia. He was Deputy Prime Minister (Tanaiste) in the Government which led Ireland out of the financial and economic crisis to become the fastest growing economy in the EU. As Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade he was responsible for the management of the Northern Ireland Peace Process, and for improving relations with the United Kingdom. He was Leader of the Irish Labour Party for seven years, and played a leading role in the liberalisation of Ireland’s laws, including on abortion and on same-sex marriage. He is an Adjunct Professor at Dublin City University and lectures at the European Diplomatic Academy.

Last Updated on May 16, 2024 by Anastazja Lach