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Environment and Sustainable Development. Ren é Kemp UNU-MERIT Phd Programme Innovation Studies and Development (2006-2007). Who I am. I am a (Dutch) researcher at UNU-MERIT, ICIS in Maastricht and DRIFT in Rotterdam

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environment and sustainable development

Environment and Sustainable Development

René Kemp


Phd Programme

Innovation Studies and Development (2006-2007)

who i am
Who I am
  • I am a (Dutch) researcher at UNU-MERIT, ICIS in Maastricht and DRIFT in Rotterdam
  • I studied econometrics but turned a social scientist drawing on innovation studies, policy analysis, social constructivism, system theory and cognitive learning approaches
  • I am viewing the world from an evolutionary institutionalist perspective
research interests
Research interests
  • Environmental policy and technical change (policy instruments, clean technology)
  • Societal transformations in energy, mobility and waste management
  • Governance for sustainable development
  • Policy learning
  • Innovation in the public sector
projects i am involved in
Projects I am involved in
  • Sustainable mobility (ICIS)
  • Reflexive governance for sustainable development
  • Environmental technology assessment (European Parliament)
  • Transition management (DRIFT)
  • Measuring eco-innovation (EU)
the economy environment relationship
The economy-environment relationship

Within the environment and economic flow diagram, raw materials (R) are used as inputs into the production process (P) that creates the goods consumed by households (C). The end result of production and consumption is the creation of utility (U) or satisfaction.

three economic truths
Three economic truths
  • A clean environment has economic value (and calls for government action)
  • Environment is competing with other wants (no free lunch)
  • “Everything worth doing is not necessary worth doing well”: environmental protection is warranted up to the point where marginal benefits exceed marginal costs (neoclassical welfare economics)

Sustainable development is an inherently indeterminate and contested concept, which cannot be translated into a blueprint from which criteria can be derived and unambiguous decisions can be taken to get there.

From a governance perspective such disagreement is an essential part of sustainable development, one that makes operationalisation and implementation difficult simply because:

  • there are different ideas of what sustainable development amounts to for actors in various sectors (e.g., energy, transport, agriculture, food systems, waste management);
  • existing solutions tend to be sustainable within these sectors rather than across the whole of society:
  • new developments bring new risks that cannot be anticipated;
  • it is a long-term, open-ended project that precedes and supersedes limited term, democratically elected governments;
  • it involves trade-off decisions on highly contested issues that cause dilemmas
environment and poverty
Environment and poverty
  • Is poverty a source of environmental degradation?
  • Does environmental degradation affect the poor disproportionately?
  • Is there a downward spiral?
  • Are relevant environmental aspects measured?
  • When does development constitute progress?
  • Environmental entitlements approach
the orthodox view the downward spiral
The orthodox view: the downward spiral


Environmental change

Source: Forsyth and Leach

the entitlements approach
The entitlements approach
  • Shows how particular components of the environment become endowments and entitlements for different people, affecting their well-being
  • … with natural resource management activities of different groups of people producing and shaping particular kinds of environment
  • in which institutions at multiple scale levels interact to shape the benefits that people derive from environmental goods and services

Source: Forsyth and Leach


PC = private consumption

CPR = common property resources

SPR = State provided commodities

Source: Forsyth and Leach

new thinking about the environment forces new questions to be asked
New thinking about “the environment” forces new questions to be asked
  • which people see which components of variable and dynamic environments as valuable or useful at different times?
  • How do different people gain access to and control over such environmental resources and services?
  • And how does environmental use by different people transform different components of the environment?

Source: Forsyth and Leach


g(L) = growth of population; g(W/L) = growth in per capita wealth; g(Y/L) = growth in GDP per capita; dHDI = sign of change of Human Development Index

what are we to make about this
What are we to make about this?
  • Be critical towards statistics and methods of analysis
  • Environment refers to something objective and subjective
  • Macroscale change is experienced differently at the local level
  • Institutional approaches should take the local context into account in order to contribute to wellbeing