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NOVA at the forefront for the sustainability of the planet

There are several interdisciplinary projects carried out by the NOVA University Lisbon in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, as established by the United Nations.

There are several interdisciplinary projects carried out by the NOVA University Lisbon in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, as established by the United Nations. Several schools raised questions and outlined ways for a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient future within NOVA Science Day 2020. Confidence was the feeling that dominated the September 22nd meeting, even though everyone warned of new challenges - and the negative impact - of the pandemic of COVID-19. This was the third edition of the event that, given the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, was transmitted in live streaming on NOVA's Youtube channel to the entire academic and scientific community, from the auditorium of the Rectorate.

Júlia Seixas, from the School of Science and Technology (FCT NOVA), was the first to speak during the session dedicated to sustainability. Energy and climate change are the focus of the research carried out by her team. "I believe that it is possible to prosper with minimal resources and without carbon dioxide emissions", she revealed with optimism. To this end, Júlia Seixas considers it essential to invest in the transition of energy systems, especially in urban areas. FCT NOVA is developing studies to respond to the challenges of several public and private companies. For example, for EDP, the faculty is evaluating the potential of hydrogen to apply to the Portuguese energy system. In turn, for the city of Cascais, the possibility of developing projects within the scope of urban agriculture is being studied, with a view to producing food with a lower carbon footprint. Energy efficiency may be the answer to SDGs 7 (Renewable and Accessible Energy), 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and 13 (Climate Action).

The issue of sustainability of cities (SDG 11) was further developed by Miguel Neto, from NOVA Information Management School (NOVA IMS). The coordinator of the Graduate Program in Smart Cities recalled that 50% of the world population currently lives in cities, but that in 2050 it is estimated that it will be 70%. “How can we use technology, our ability to generate and share information to change the paradigm of planning and managing life in cities? Digital transformation may be the answer. ” Miguel Neto believes that data management can be “the oil of the 21st century”, but it is necessary to understand these data and to add value to them. This is, moreover, the objective of one of the research laboratories created by NOVA.

The topic of food security dominated the presentation by researcher Nelson Saibo, from the Institute of Chemical and Biological Technology (ITQB NOVA), who recalled that by 2050 it is urgent to double the production of food to face the growth of the world population (SDG 12 - Sustainable Production and Consumption). Nelson Saibo presented the rice case as an example, talking about the various laboratory tests that have been carried out to increase the efficiency of its production. Another of the ITQB's priorities is the training of researchers from developing countries, often faced with the problem of drought or floods.

Professor Antonieta Cunha e Sá, from NOVA School of Business & Economics (Nova SBE) questioned how economics can contribute to the design of public policies. In this context, she presented several projects that are being developed at the school with regard to the sustainable use of marine (ODS 14) and terrestrial (ODS15) resources. Among these projects, mention was made of the sustainable management plan for sardine fisheries in Portugal, as well as the partnership with Norway in the field of research into the sustainability of the marine ecosystem.

Quality health (ODS 3) was the common denominator of presentations by José Caldas de Almeida from NOVA Medical School (NMS) and Sónia Dias, from the National School of Public Health (ENSP NOVA). Professor José Caldas de Almeida stressed that “global prosperity depends on mental health”. He added that the current pandemic has “reinforced” the importance of mental health, as there are “heavy costs for the economy” when citizens cannot work. NMS developed the first national mental health epidemiological study and has cooperated with other countries such as Brazil, Cape Verde, Greece, Lebanon or India to implement mental health policies. In turn, Professor Sónia Dias spoke of the importance of health literacy. The prevention of diabetes, the promotion of health in migrant communities, access to means of diagnosis for the prevention of cervical cancer among women at risk are some of the ENSP projects. Sónia Dias also said that, in March, was created a “COVID barometer”, a study that aims at the impact of the pandemic based on social opinion.

Claire Bright, from NOVA School of Law, began her presentation by referring to the fact that the current pandemic has made the need for regulation explicit. The role of the law in promoting responsible business conduct dominated the entire discourse (SDG 10 Reducing Inequalities). Examples were presented such as the production of chocolate which, both in Ghana and in Côte d'Ivoire, stems from child exploitation. Claire Bright announced that, in the coming weeks, the new Knowledge, Business and Human Rights and Environment Knowledge Center will start operating in Lisbon. The NOVA School of Law wants to be at the forefront of legislative movements at European and international level (SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Effective Institutions).

With Tiago Correia, from the Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (IHMT NOVA), the audience was led to reflect on what we have already achieved in terms of sustainability. For that, it resorted to the projection of images of recent events such as the pandemic or racial conflicts. In the end, he stressed that SARS-CoV-2 challenges the sustainability of the objectives stipulated by the UN and recalls that international cooperation has shown a lack of trust, transparency and understanding. Assertive, Tiago Correira said that “science needs to do politics”, as this is the only way to fight “fake news” (SDG 3 - Quality Health).

A specialist in the Global History of Work, Raquel Varela, from the School of Social Sciences and Humanities (NOVA FCSH), stressed that the priorities of the UN Agenda for 2030 include education, health, decent working conditions and the reduction of inequalities (SDG 1, 4, 5, 8 and 10). “It is a major issue, because inequality has never been greater in the last 100 years than it is today. Poverty was greater 100 years ago, but inequality is greater today. Poverty is one of the reasons for inequality, but not the only one. ” She added: “Currently, 26 people have as much as the 3.8 billion poor people in the world. Our role is to understand, but also to present solutions to this problem.” Therefore, Raquel has an interdisciplinary working group: historians, sociologists, anthropologists, physicists, specialists in law. “Inequality is, let's say, the mother of all other inequalities. I am sure that our University will have a role in this issue. ”