1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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Blogs and Think Pieces by Keyword - Environment

  • Putting Mongla on the Map: The Curious Case of a Coastal Secondary City’s Transformation (22 Apr 2021) | Feisal Rahman, Laura Kuhl
    The smaller scale of secondary cities creates unique opportunities to pilot novel approaches for transformation. Lessons from Mongla, a port town in southwestern coastal Bangladesh, point to the potential for positive outcomes, but also the challenges of ensuring inclusive and just transformations.
  • We Need a Green and Just Transformation to Recover from Covid-19 (2 Jun 2020) | Isabell Kempf, Dunja Krause
    Now more than ever, the world is at a crossroads. Not only are rapid and effective policy interventions, and massive investment, crucial to protect well-being—particularly of vulnerable groups and those at the margins of our societies. At the same time, the sheer amount of public investment to be made in a short amount of time to tackle the unfolding economic downturn presents us with an opportunity to finally put the world on a more sustainable and low-carbon path using new technologies that are now available. Time and again climate scientists, environmentalists and grassroots activists have pointed to the growing urgency of climate action, while policy makers and global elites have chosen profit over people and planet.
  • Including Working Class People in the Transition to Sustainability (20 Dec 2018) | Karen Bell
    According to the IPCC, we need to take urgent and effective action on climate change to prevent irreversible damage to our planet and its ability to sustain us. What is it that stops a critical mass of people from coming together to advocate for environmental and social justice, as well as to make personal choices that will benefit the environment? Karen Bell explores the notion of environmental classism, or how divisions between different social classes undermine a sense of common purpose, and how to ensure that working-class people can be better included in the transition to sustainability.
  • Winning Across the Agenda: Tackling Policy Incoherence to Localize the SDGs (8 Aug 2018) | Paul Ladd
    Trying to get global initiatives to gel with local needs and priorities, and make sure we leave no one behind across all dimensions of sustainable development, has always been a challenge. In this blog, UNRISD Director Paul Ladd thinks aloud about how the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is faring.
  • Just Transition, States and Businesses (4 Jul 2018) | Diego Azzi
    One reason why climate change is such a complex and fascinating issue is that it affects everyone everywhere. It simultaneously touches upon a wide range of interests, both private and public. Within the climate negotiations space, Just Transition is a contentious issue for the various actors involved, primarily states and firms, as well as NGOs, social movements and trade unions that do their best to monitor and influence the negotiation outcomes.
  • The Hidden Pitfalls of the Just Transition Narrative: A Response (4 Jul 2018) | Anabella Rosemberg
    In his recent think piece published in the Just Transition(s) Online Forum, Tadzio Müller questions the "pitfalls" of the Just Transition narrative and argues that it risks wasting precious time in the fight against climate change. As someone who has worked with the labour movement on this concept and its narrative and strategies for more than a decade, I would like to offer some alternative reflections.
  • “As Time Goes By…”: The Hidden Pitfalls of the Just Transition Narrative (14 Jun 2018) | Tadzio Müller
    Rapid climate action is urgently needed to put the world on track for limiting global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Leading scientists suggest that we need to bend the emissions curve significantly by 2020 if globally agreed temperature goals are to remain attainable. So is the Just Transition debate just a waste of time? This piece takes a critical look at pitfalls in the ongoing discussions.
  • The Energy Transition in India: Creating Decent and Inclusive Green Jobs for All? (7 Jun 2018) | Joachim Roth
    Around the globe, the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is accelerating. The economics behind this trend are simple to understand: between 2010 and 2017 solar, wind and renewable energy prices have fallen precipitously. In fact, they have fallen so fast that many of these technologies are now on a par with, if not more competitive than, fossil fuels. Although the benefits of cheaper and cleaner energy are undeniable, it is important to consider the many social and political challenges that need to be addressed if green transitions are to be effective and equitable. This think piece looks at the case of India to discuss how green jobs can become more decent and how to manage change in states that have depended on fossil fuels for their growth.
  • Contesting the Colour of a Just Transition in South Africa (3 May 2018) | Jacklyn Cock
    Reliant on heavy industry and coal-fuelled electricity, South Africa is one of the most carbon intense economies in the world. The Government has made commitments to reduce carbon emissions but is simultaneously promoting the expansion of coal. As resistance to coal is growing, a transformative approach to Just Transition has the potential to overcome differences that currently constrain unified action.
  • Just Transition(s) and Transformative Change (3 May 2018) | Dunja Krause, Joachim Roth
    Tackling the imminent impacts of climate change will take a profound transformation that is able not only to accelerate decarbonization but also to overcome entrenched inequalities that leave people who least contributed to climate change at the greatest risk from its impacts. Linking the concepts of Just Transition and transformative change could present a progressive way forward.
  • Lessons Learnt and Guiding Principles for a Just Energy Transition in the Global South (3 May 2018) | Thomas Hirsch
    A Just Transition is needed across the globe — but most discussions so far focus on the Global North. We want to break this silo and propose a set of guiding principles for a Just Transition with a particular focus on the Global South. These principles could serve as a shared value base for building new Just Transition alliances, covering a broad range of stakeholders, including civil society.
  • A Just Transition Must Include Climate Change Adaptation (16 Apr 2018) | Romain Felli
    Some effects of climate change — such as extreme weather, including droughts or flooding — are unavoidable, even if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. Adapting to these effects, rather than suffering them, is a necessity. Trade unions should be more aware of climate change adaptation, and should include it when they bargain with employers or the state.
  • Introducing the Just Transition(s) Online Forum (16 Apr 2018) | Edouard Morena
    The Just Transition(s) Online Forum is an initiative of the Just Transition Research Collaborative that collects stories on the Just Transition to low-carbon development. Bringing together a range of experts working on different aspects of this transition, it showcases different case studies, narratives and approaches to the Just Transition and their implications for equity and social justice.
  • Just Transitions as a Process with Communities, not for Communities (16 Apr 2018) | Rebecca Shelton
    Societal transitions towards a new energy regime are underway in order to shift society back towards a more sustainable state of functioning. However, this pathway is not without trade-offs and equity challenges, related not only to the future distribution and production of energy from renewable energy sources, but also for communities that have supported the prior energy regime.
  • Who Deserves a Just Transition? (16 Apr 2018) | Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood
    If a productive, equitable outcome for all workers is the goal of a Just Transition, then we must look beyond the immediate impacts on fossil fuel workers and consider who else may be vulnerable. Failing to put equity considerations first can result in Just Transition policies that ignore the people most in need of support.
  • Participatory Guarantee Systems: A Transformative Public Policy to Boost Organic Farming in Bolivia (26 Jan 2018) | Eduardo Lopez Rosse
    A social and industrial revolution is underway in Bolivia. With a new Constitution in 2009, based on the Vivir Bien, or Living Well paradigm, the country is promoting an eco-social approach to development. As well as nationalizing the main fossil fuel and water services, there is a strong emphasis in the Constitution on the right to safe and nutritious food for all. This think piece reviews policy reforms introduced to guarantee the right to food and considers their transformative potential.
  • Raising the Resilience of Brazil Nut Gatherers in the Amazon Basin: Towards Transformative and Sustainable Change? (26 Jan 2018) | Marcelo Cunha
    How can the resilience of traditional quilombola communities in the Amazon Basin, whose livelihoods depend on trading the Brazil nuts they gather, be improved—while conserving forests? This think piece uses value-chain analysis to provide insights on how the institutions the forest dwellers are embedded in could be improved to provide a more enabling environment. The piece concludes with recommendations on how to achieve social, economic and environmental sustainability, and transformative change, in the region.
  • Life on the Land: Landowners Associations in the Italian Alps (27 Nov 2017) | Cristina Poncibò
    As the rocks collapse and mountainsides crumble into sometimes deadly landslides because of decades of neglect of the land and people leaving for the towns, small groups of mountain villagers in some parts of the Piedmont Region of the Italian Alps are quietly trying to improve the situation. This think piece shows how voluntary local initiatives for unified land management, supported by helpful public policy, are helping to improve sustainable rural development and the social-ecological resilience of mountain regions in Italy.
  • Policy Making in a Globalized World: Is Economic Growth the Appropriate Driver? An Example from Mesoamerica (22 Aug 2017) | Andrea F. Schuman
    This think piece traces transnational influences in national-level economic policies and their impacts on one municipality in Mesoamerica. Policy influences that emphasize economic growth, and propose “modernization” and market-based solutions led by the private sector, are found to undermine resilience at both household and community levels, and pose threats to the sustainable livelihoods generated by the activities and practices historically engaged in by the population. The policy implications are relevant across the region in question, and far beyond.
  • Reflexiones sobre la transformación social-ecológica en América Latina (1 Jun 2017) | Álvaro Cálix
    Latinoamérica ha sido un espacio de experimentación de varios modelos de desarrollo. En su mayoría estos modelos han enfatizado en el crecimiento y la estabilidad de la economía, lo que ha llevado a desequilibrios ambientales y a exacerbaciones de diferentes tipos de desigualdad en el continente. Este blog propone tres orientaciones macro que, de ser tenidas en cuenta por gobiernos y hacedores de política, podrían construir un enfoque alternativo y transformador de desarrollo.
  • Africa’s Energy Transformation: Rewriting the Global Rules (1 Dec 2016) | Caroline Kende-Robb
    Africa is undergoing a remarkable energy transformation. But African governments and their international partners have to accelerate that transformation if we are to achieve our collective ambitions. Access to clean modern energy, especially in Africa, where 620 million people have no electricity, is critical to the success of global efforts to tackle poverty and achieve the SDGs.
  • The Just Transition: Making Sure a Low-Carbon Economy Leaves No One Behind (2 Nov 2016) | Edouard Morena
    Climate change is without doubt the most urgent and critical issue of our times. Given the scale of the problem and its consequences—which are already being felt, especially by the world’s most vulnerable populations—the climate challenge requires us to adopt a holistic approach and to rethink our growth and development models. This blog post discusses the need for not just a green but also a just transition for workers and their communities.
  • Prosperity, People or Planet? Eco-Social Priorities for Sustainable Development (13 Oct 2016) | Pascal van Griethuysen
    The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development constitutes a major shift in the way development is addressed in international governance, reconnecting it with the imperative to shift towards sustainable development. This blog argues that this means re-thinking our priorities and changing the hierarchy which puts economic choices ahead of sustainable and just social and ecological outcomes.
  • Whose Emissions, Whose Responsibility? Eco-social Policies for Climate Justice (29 Sep 2016) | Dunja Krause
    Just 90 companies are responsible for 63% of global industrial CO2 and methane emissions between 1751 and 2010, according to a pioneering 2014 study on so-called “climate majors” conducted by climate accountability researcher Richard Heede.The ensuing debate has revealed much about the perceived emissions responsibilities of actors beyond the nation state, but also a crucial blind spot.
  • The Paris Agreement (Part II): The First Step on the Long Road Ahead (18 Dec 2015) | Dunja Krause
    Last weekend, the world witnessed a historic success in international diplomacy. Years of international negotiations on a follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol culminated in the adoption of a universal climate agreement at COP21 in Paris. Tireless efforts of a diverse range of stakeholders, including member states, the UNFCCC Secretariat, civil society and scientists seem to have finally exorcized the ghost of Copenhagen. This is the second of two think pieces on COP 21 by Dunja Krause.
  • The Paris Agreement (Part I): Landmark or COP-out? (26 Nov 2015) | Dunja Krause
    As 2015 draws to an end, the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), COP21 in short, marks the concluding milestone in a series of potentially game-changing international agreements aimed at transforming our world towards sustainability. This think piece considers whether the Paris document will be a landmark agreement limiting global warming, or if it will remain simply one small step in an extremely technical and painfully slow negotiation process.
  • Fair Compensation and other Prerequisites to Mining for Development (31 Aug 2015) | Cielo Magno
    This piece challenges conventional approaches to a country’s economic development by suggesting a departure from the mainstream “mining for development” approach. It suggests that mining ventures should follow a set of preconditions that take into account other significant factors such as fair taxing schemes that benefit the state, clear transparency and accountability mechanisms, and an expanded monitoring scheme that covers environmental and social impacts of extractive activities.
  • What Do Cooperatives Have To Do with the Post- 2015 Development Framework and Proposed Sustainable Development Goals? (27 Sep 2013) | Emery Igiraneza
    Cooperative enterprises are instrumental in providing opportunities for productive employment as well as offering services such as health care, education, credit, improved infrastructure and sustainable energy. They are guided by values of social dialogue and democracy, and are often rooted in local communities, making them a sustainable option for achieving development. However, recognition within UN processes crafting the post-2015 framework of the current and potential role of cooperatives in achieving sustainable development, reducing poverty and creating employment is patchy. To remedy this situation, the ILO, in collaboration with the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), UNRISD and other partners has launched an initiative to assess and promote the contribution of cooperatives to sustainable development.
  • Social Enterprises for buen vivir in Chiapas: An Alternative to Development (28 Jun 2013) | Michela Giovannini
    Indigenous peoples in Mexico, as in many other countries, experience hard living conditions and socioeconomic marginalization. In this think piece, Michela Giovannini argues that this is because mainstream development programmes have failed to address their needs, and neoliberal policies have sacked their territories and natural resources without making a significant positive impact on their well-being. She suggests that a Latin American indigenous “alternative to development”—buen vivir—may offer a way out of this situation. Based on her qualitative research in the Mexican State of Chiapas, Giovannini argues that social enterprises created by local Mayan communities can be a way to pursue buen vivir—well-being grounded in harmony between human communities and the natural environment—and offer an example of how indigenous communities themselves devise and implement strategies to fulfill their economic, social, environmental and political needs. The analysis presented in this think piece leads to important policy recommendations.
  • Worker Solidarity Confronting the Crises of Capitalism: Bottom-up Solidarity Economy and Political Ecology in South America (9 Apr 2013) | Cristián Alarcón, Cristobal Navarro
    In times of combined social-ecological crises of capitalism there is an urgent need to link solidarity economy to the understanding of ecological processes. For example, if solidarity economy practices remain linked to oil consumption and ecologically unequal exchange, the fundamental contemporary problems of unsustainable patterns of production and consumption continue to be reproduced. Insights from political ecology are a way to fill a gap in terms of awareness about social-ecological relations in the understanding of and theorizing about solidarity economy. Concrete examples from South America reveal the importance and potential of linking solidarity economy to political ecology.
  • Making Space for Economic Democracy: The Danish Wind Power Revolution (8 Mar 2013) | Andrew Cumbers
    This think piece illustrates through the example of the Danish renewables sector the role that innovative forms of collective and democratic ownership can play in tackling climate change. Although Denmark has been held up as a model for other countries to follow in forging a progressive and far-sighted approach to tackling climate change, there is relatively little recognition that this has been founded upon state intervention and localized forms of public ownership. The paper emphasizes the way that supportive regulation and legislation by national government institutions come together with grassroots initiatives to foster more localized and participatory forms of public ownership and decision making.
  • Green Economy and Sustainable Development: Which Way for the Informal Economy? (23 Jul 2012) | Fredrick Otieno Dawa, Mary Njeri Kinyanjui
    This think piece argues that the informal economy should be included in discussions on green economy. The informal economy represents three-fourths of non-agricultural employment in sub-Saharan Africa, making it an important component in the social, economic and political arenas in Africa. The authors draw on a case study on the informal sector in Kenya, known as the Kamukunji Jua Kali cluster, to make their case. The cluster is an initiative by subaltern groups that supports rural agriculture, creates jobs, recycles industrial waste and has an association that runs its own affairs. It is an example of how the informal economy in Kenya is linking social and environmental concerns. The likelihood that this sector will persist requires rethinking the informal economy in terms of community economies that secure livelihoods, cultural identity and employment while moving toward green economies more generally.
  • The Social Side of Biofuels in Brazil, India and Indonesia (20 Jul 2012) | Mairon Bastos Lima
    The move away from fossil fuels towards cleaner fuels such as biofuels has been seen by some countries as an opportunity to both increase energy self-reliance and create an additional market for agriculture. However, the social implications remain understudied. This think piece, based on extensive field work in Brazil, India and Indonesia, looks at what this process means for social equity, especially for vulnerable groups, and whether biofuels could be an effective way to tackle rural poverty.
  • Green Economy: The New Enemy? (11 Jul 2012) | Peter Utting
    This viewpoint reflects on the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), known as Rio+20, held in June. It looks at, among other things, the reactions to the idea of green economy, one of the conference’s main themes; the role of corporations; and the positioning of equity and justice in the sustainable development agenda.
  • Sustainable Agricultural Innovation Systems (SAIS) for Food Security and Environmental Protection (17 Jun 2012) | Christina Bodouroglou, Diana Alarcón
    The twin perils of global food insecurity and environmental degradation necessitate expanding resources and fostering innovation in agriculture to accelerate food production in a sustainable manner, while also supporting poverty reduction. Achieving this will require increased recognition of the centrality of small-scale farming, short-term humanitarian action, and longer term policies for sustainable agricultural innovation systems (SAIS).
  • Equipping Democracy to Deliver Sustainable Development (16 Jun 2012) | Halina Ward
    Environmental and social challenges like climate change are accelerating faster than the ability of current forms of democracy to cope. This think piece raises four challenges faced by democracy in dealing with climate change. First, there is a need for long-term thinking to ensure that actions are taken now to forestall the risk of possibly extreme climate change. Second, politicians tend to prioritize economic growth over societal goals where progress is difficult to measure. Third is the challenge of retaining and nurturing an active commitment to vibrant democracy while allowing expertise—and science—space to offer insights and inform policy. And finally, climate change demands a globally coordinated response. If democracy is to survive and thrive, it will likely have to outperform any currently or potentially competing political system in relation to such challenges.
  • Driving Green Jobs through Rural Renewable Energy Systems (8 May 2012) | Carola Kantz, J.R. Siegel, Kathrin Bimesdörfer
    Green growth is being touted as a way to reconcile economic growth and sustainable development. However, as this think piece demonstrates, there is a gap in the assessment of data and knowledge with regard to employment and labour conditions. Using a rural off-grid electrification initiative in Bangladesh as an example, the authors aim to build awareness about employment and job conditions, and suggest indicators of social dimensions.
  • Green Economy and Beyond – Case Studies in Guangzhou, China (31 Jan 2012) | Chen Jinjin
    China's rapid economic growth has led to a gap between urban and rural development, environmental pollution and the marginalization of traditional farming. Two cases in Guangzhou in Guangdong province, southern China—a government programme and a non-governmental initiative—show how the local government and the public are trying to connect the green economy agenda with other sustainable development objectives, including poverty reduction, food security and social protection.
  • Biofuels and Food Security: Green Economy in Sub-Saharan Africa (22 Nov 2011) | Chike Jideani, Chinney Kennedy-Echetebu, Chizoba Chinweze, Gwen Abiola-Oloke
    The inclusion of biofuels as part of the green economy agenda jeopardizes the immediate and long-term food security of many regions in the developing world. In sub-Saharan Africa, rising food prices, land grabs, and precarious and informal labour conditions are key social threats linked to the emphasis on biofuel production. UNEP defines a green economy as “one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities”. Yet the inclusion of biofuels as part of this green economy agenda ignores ecological realities as well as the social dimensions of food insecurity.
  • The Great Lie: Monoculture Trees as Forests (20 Oct 2011) | Raquel Nuñez Mutter, Winnie Overbeek
    2011 marks the “International Year of the Forest” and it calls for a shift in our understandings of forestry management. Top-down, market-oriented, approaches which have seen monoculture plantations flourish and the lives of forest peoples uprooted, often under the guise of initiatives such as REDD, are not sustainable. We need to recognize that “sustainable development” is not simply compatible with biodiverse plantations or the lives and traditions of forest peoples; it is deeply dependent on them.
  • A Fair Green Economy: Framing Green Economy and the Post-MDG Agenda in Terms of Equity (7 Sep 2011) | Alison Doig, Erica Carroll
    In the next few years the global community must address the dual crises of global poverty and global environmental degradation. As the international community develops a successor to the MDGs and at the same time aims at a global green economy, it is essential to recognize the role of inequality in perpetuating high levels of global poverty and undermining attempts at environmental sustainability.
  • “We Have to Correct the Errors of our Ancestors”: Policy Implications of Environmentalism and Gender in Intag, Ecuador (7 Sep 2011) | Linda D'Amico
    A community in Ecuador has found ways to improve its livelihood and well-being through ecologically responsible actions. Responding to local manifestations of global crises, community members have developed creative solutions that balance economic, social and environmental concerns.
  • Essential Matter: Biodiversity Protection and Action Research in Costa Rica (1 Sep 1998) | Peter Utting
    The greening of Costa Rica:Costa Rica has gained worldwide recognition as a country that is actively...
  • Essential Matter: Corporate Environmental Management Means Business as Usual (1 Sep 1998) | Richard Welford
    Damage to the environment of the planet over the last few decades has reached the point of causing u...