The European Environment Agency (EEA), through the European Environment Information and Observation Network (Eionet) created to join the EEA and its member and cooperating nations in joint development, has published a new report on the transition to sustainability. The report, complied with the help of over 1000 experts and 350 national institutions across Europe, is part of Eionet’s efforts to find means by which it can support this transition by contributing to the accumulation of knowledge and the outlining of future environmental policy.

The report suggests that in an era dominated by rising consumption, increasing urbanization, and economic insecurity, European governments will need to undertake significant changes to reach both economic and environmental goals. As sustainability must become a core concern for all development, the consequent shift will call on the efforts of all areas of society to institute new models of operation. The report outlines three perspectives on solving systemic challenges, classifying the various aspects of such grand-scale challenges into three groups: Socio-ecological systems (agriculture, forestry, fisheries, etc.), Socio-economic systems (finance, trade, labor, etc.), and Socio-technical systems (energy, manufacturing, mobility, etc.). In the suggested model, these three perspectives converge in a need for co-evolution to solve the arising complexities, resolve uncertainties, and manage the various trade-offs and discourses, all while avoiding lock-ins and non-linarites.

As such, this societal shift will only be possible through cross-sectoral collaboration in creating the necessary solutions through shared knowledge and combined efforts. The report considers the role of innovation in enacting this transition, expanding its focus beyond mere technological innovations to include innovations across a variety of sectors that would be necessary to truly achieve a systemic change, altering behaviors, beliefs, and basic values as well as providing the means of effecting this change. The report explores how societies can facilitate this transition by stimulating innovations, guiding societal responses, and creating pressure to enforce such changes through strict regulations and measures to support and compensate businesses and citizens contributing to the effort.

These priorities are already included in the European Union’s 7th Environment Action Program which concerns improving the knowledge and evidence base, including specific measures intended to further the creation of new knowledge.

Read the EEA and Eionet report ‘Sustainability transitions: Now for the long term‘ 

Read the 7th EU Environment Action Program 

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