Category Archives: Sustainable Development

Maximising Goal Coherence in Sustainable and Climate-Resilient Development? Polycentricity and Coordination in Governance.

New open access chapter with Gabriela Ileana Iacobuta and Ramona Hägele. in: Sachin Chaturvedi / Heiner Janus / Stephan Klingebiel / Xiaoyun Li / André de Mello e Souza / Elizabeth Sidiropoulos / Dorothea Wehrmann (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of development cooperation for achieving the 2030 Agenda, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 25-50, online

This chapter argues that most efforts to mobilise non-state and subnational actor engagement so far has insufficiently contributed to goal coherence—the balanced implementation of internationally agreed goals. Despite the increased level of attention being given to the polycentric nature of sustainable development and climate governance—especially the role of non-state and subnational actors—the predominant focus of both policy-makers and researchers has been on filling functional gaps, for example closing the global mitigation gap, or financing gaps. As a result, voluntariness and self-organisation in polycentric governance could increase the level of incoherence. Insights on emerging polycentric structures should be combined with tools that map (goal) coherence. The combination of these fields of knowledge could inform supportive policies, for instance in development cooperation to ensure greater coherence in implementing sustainable development priorities.

Increasing policy coherence between NDCs and SDGs: a national perspective

Fewer than 10 years remain to achieve Agenda 2030, yet no country is on track to meet all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Countries are also far behind in achieving the low-carbon and climate-resilient society envisioned in the Paris Agreement; their climate pledges, or nationally determined contributions (NDCs), are far less ambitious than required to keep global warming to the Paris target of “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

The goals of the NDCs intersect both positively and negatively with the SDGs; progress on climate goals can therefore either help or hinder progress on the SDGs. The success of both can be helped by policy coherence, wherein countries promote synergies and address conflicts in the implementation of both their NDC and SDG agendas.

In a new SEI Policy Brief we present initial findings on coherence in the joint implementation of these two agendas in 6 countries: Germany, Kenya, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden and the Philippines. We chose these countries to provide a diverse representation with respect to levels of income and domestic dependence on fossil fuels.

Shawoo, Zoha / Adis Dzebo / Ramona Hägele / Gabriela Iacobuta / Sander Chan / Cassilde Muhoza / Philip Osano / Marie Francisco / Åsa Persson / Björn-Ola Linner / Marjanneke J. Vijge (2020) Increasing policy coherence between NDCs and SDGs: a national perspective, SEI Policy Brief, Stockholm Environment Institute

What the LGBT+ community teaches us and how it inspires my fight for Europe

“The queer is not represented as a singularity but as part of an assemblage of resistant technologies that include collectivity, imagination and a kind of situationist commitment to surprise and shock”
(Judith Halberstam, Queer art of failure, 2011)

Diversity in the LGBTQIA community teaches us to collaborate and to go against the mainstream in order to realise a better future. These lessons are more valuable than ever. In six EU Member States there is still no same-sex registration, in half of the Member States there is no same-sex marriage. Violence and discrimination remain the order of the day. The fight is not over.

The resilience that we have learned is also needed in other areas. The spectre of nationalism is once again haunting Europe. Populists inspire fear rather than hope. The EU seems to have more ears for big capital than for its citizens. While the EU defends large companies, climate change is becoming an existential threat. Does the EU care as much about our survival as it cares for big business?

Our freedom and well-being stand and fall with freedom and well-being in Europe. Green and social Europeans must shake the EU up, swim against the current and show alternatives. That is also how I want to fight for Europe.

New publication: Promises and Risks of Non-state Action

The More Engagement the Better?  – Risks of Non-State Action in Sustainability and Climate governance

Article full text link (open access):

Although sustainable development and climate change are governed through separate international processes, they converge on two key assumptions. First, governments fall far short of the goals they set. Second, wide gaps between political commitments and governmental action can be narrowed through efforts by non-state actors, such as businesses, investors, civil society organizations, cities and regions. Encouraged by prominent leaders such as US President Barack Obama and former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Christiana Figueres, international organizations and governments are leading large-scale efforts to promote and mobilize non-state actions. These efforts are based on recurring optimistic arguments, such as: the more action, the better; everybody wins from non-state action; every actor can do its part in implementation; and, action by one will inspire others to take action.

Optimistic arguments about non-state engagement, however, may not be matched in practice due to governance risks. The current emphasis focus on quantifiable impacts may lead to the under-appreciation of social, economic, and environmental impacts that are less easy to measure. Claims that everybody stands to benefit may easily be contradicted by outcomes that are not in line with priorities and needs of developing countries. Despite the broad acceptance of the role of non-state actors in implementation, their actions may still lead to controversial outcomes. Finally, non-state climate action may not be self-reinforcing, but heavily depend on policies by international organizations and governments. Governments and international organizations should consider governance risk-reduction strategies to maximize the potential contributions of non-state actors in sustainable and climate-resilient development. First, they should create enabling environment that provide incentives to engage, for instance through improving access to knowledge, high-level recognition, material and immaterial support, and by conveying that climate and sustainability action is possible and doable. Second, non-state action needs to be grounded in national and regional contexts; particular attention should be given to strengthening capabilities of, and fostering participation by, developing country-based actors. Third, far-reaching transformations cannot be achieved without critical masses of engagement, therefore the challenge is to stimulate action beyond ‘champions’ and frontrunners. Especially governments need to bring to focus the ramifications of the sustainable and climate-resilient futures they have committed to and give non-state actors a fair chance to adapt.

How the relation between non-state action and more traditional governance will evolve remains to be seen. This relation may develop differently across sustainable development and climate governance. However, maximizing non-state potential will take supportive environments which reduce risks and bolster momentum for transformative actions.

How radical is the Green Economy?

In 2012 the UN Conference on Sustainable Development presented the Green Economy is a strategic development concept and vehicle for realizing sustainability and for eradicating poverty. The UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) defines the green economy as an economy that results in ‘improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities’ (UNEP 2011, p. 2) .  For scholars the Green Economy concept poses multiple challenges. With researchers from different backgrounds taking part in the discussion, interdisciplinary communication and collaboration, for instance between social and natural scientists, becomes key. Morover, the Green Economy poses a trans-disiciplinary challenge for science policy-interactions as it needs to be operationalized bot in academia and in society.
In our latest publication in Environmental Values, we engaged young researchers with different disciplinary backgrounds in a deliberative space to better understand the predominant framings and interpretations of the Green Economy among young scholars. The research question is: How do young scholars percieved the Green Economy, the need for societal change, the potential for the Green Economy to realize such change, and the role of research in promoting this change.
Using a qualitative and participatory research approach, We identified a bottom line of crucial values that are generally shared by the respondents, including a common recognition of the need to address interlinked ecological and social problems, and the need for research to be independent, provide options, guidance and solutions to policy-making. We observed disparate and divergent opinions concerning the Green Economy and its potential to genuinely further sustainable development. We also identified a broad spectrum of opinions regarding the degree and nature of needed societal change and the role of research in the field of Green Economy. We captured these dimensions in a four-quadrant model that includes four different ideological positions of researchers: Radical evolutionist, Pragmatic evolutionist, Radical revolutionary and Pragmatic revolutionary. The Green Economy is not perceived as a particularly revolutionary concept, rather it is understood to incrementally improve the current economic and institutional system. Most of the participants, however, were positioned in the pragmatic revolutionist quadrant; they aspire to a more fundamental systemic change through adopting pragmatic approaches.

The recorded exercise in this study can prove useful in visualising the theoretical landscape across which researchers in the field of the Green Economy move. This article is meant as a moment of self-reflection on the meaning of research itself, and its role in contributing to deliver visions, strategies and instruments towards a more environmentally-committed, just and equitable society – for which the Green Economy appears to be only a partial solution.

D’Amato, D., Droste, N., Chan, S.,  Hofer, A. (2017) “Green economy researchers: between revolution and pragmatism.” Environmental Values. Vol. 26 (4): 413–435. doi: 10.3197/096327117X14976900137331
For a full .pdf of our latest publication, please do not hesitate to contact me.