The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are designed to reduce environmental, social and economic risks but they are typically not spoken about in this way.
On Tuesday, the Partnership for European Environmental Research (PEER ) hosted a workshop with leading representatives of policy, finance, insurance and industry to address the interface of SDGs and risks. Considering intended and unintended impacts of achieving SDGs, the workshop discussed who experiences risks and who carries the responsibility of managing and governing them.
Starting from the example of extreme weather events – floods and droughts in Europe, the participants brought up the need to consider long-term impacts and the people who are hit by the worst impacts.
“Climate change has driven the development of new insurance products because industries are facing real risks. Developing the risk assessment in these areas has made some non-insurable risks insurable”, said Cristina Mihai, Head of Prudential Regulation & International Affairs at Insurance Europe. A wide range of examples of risk management activities were recognized, including foresight and monitoring systems, coordination and collaboration across authorities and public and private sectors and improving resilience with infrastructure and nature-based solutions.
The representatives of insurance and finance emphasized the role of positive impact investment in managing future risks.
”Most risk management choices have costs that will appear as countering other goals: dealing with risks is about addressing trade-offs.” said Anders Branth Pedersen from PEER partner DCE Aarhus University. This is where the sustainable development paradigm comes in handy. It requires that risks are not considered in isolation.
Sirpa Pietikäinen Member of the European Parliament (EPP), who participated in the panel discussion of the event, said that "the pace of change in the world is accelerating, getting more complex and increasingly disruptive. In this world we need systemic thinking, a back-casting approach and tools like SDGs to guide us."
Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland and a sustainable development authority, also in the panel, said that “such information systems also allow engaging societal actors.” According to her, this is one of the crucial principles of SDGs. Eeva Primmer from the PEER partner SYKE, who was behind today’s event said that exactly such complex non-linear developments need to be tackled collectively. The dialogue that PEER institutes foster with stakeholders is necessary for channelling research to address societally relevant issues. This co-learning approach also supports the communication of research findings to the people and processes that are working with sustainability and managing risks.
The workshop participants recognized the difficulties of dealing with seventeen goals simultaneously in real-world decision-making settings but they saw the SDGs as an important communication tool and framework for assessing societal and private sector decisions. The workshop was highly welcomed by the participants, serving as a unique opportunity to learn from each and find new ways to tackle the questions on hand.
For further information about the SDG work in the PEER Network, please visit www.peer.eu or call: Eeva Primmer, SYKE, organizer of the event +358 20 251521 Kurt Jax, UFZ, leader of the PEER-TRISD project +49 341 235-1648