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Sverker C. Jagers’ inaugural lecture

On 21 November 2022 Sverker C. Jagers held his inaugural lecture as new Zennström visiting professor. The lecture on the need of climate change leadership, was followed by a panel discussion led by Mikael Karlsson. We were delighted to have Niklas Zennström in the audience, whose generous donation through Zennström Philanthropies to Uppsala University funds the guest professorships in climate change leadership.

The Zennström visiting professorships

The Zennström Professorship in Climate Change Leadership is a ten-year series of visiting professorships. It is co-funded by generous donations from Zennström Philanthropies, founded by Niklas Zennström, Uppsala University alumnus, and his wife Catherine Zennström. Earlier, over the past six years, four visiting professors have been hosted by the department of Earth Sciences at Uppsala university: Doreen Stabinsky, Kevin Anderson, Keri Facer and Stefania Barca. In 2021 Mikael Karlsson, associate professor in environmental sciences became the formal head of the climate change leadership (CCL) unit at the department.  Thereupon, he has suggested new candidates for the Zennström visiting professorships, including Sverker C. Jagers.

In September 2022, Sverker C. Jagers, otherwise professor in political science at Gothenburg university, joined CCL as the fifth Zennström guest professor. Jagers has long standing experience working with environmental politics and environmental governance, driven by a deep interest in interdisciplinary science. Particularly, he is interested in assessing social and political acceptance of effective environmental and climate instruments, and under what conditions and by whom such instruments are feasible. 

We used the occasion of Niklas Zennström’s visit to Uppsala this November to arrange Jagers’ official inaugural lecture as Zennström guest professor in climate change leadership.

Fltr: Mikael Karlsson, Johan Tysk, Niklas Zennström, Sverker C. Jagers. Picture by J. Wahlgren

Inaugural lecture on the need of climate change leadership

In his inaugural lecture, Jagers proceeded from the theory of social dilemmas and collective action to explain the origin of climate change from a societal perspective and discussed how to overcome this problem. From Jagers’ perspective, climate change is similar to many other collective action problems, such as littering and corruption. The tricky thing with climate change, he argues, is the long-term and sizeable temporal and spatial scales – we’re basically dealing with a gigantic coordination problem. And just like any other collective action problem, it is unlikely that contributing actors will change their behavior spontaneously or voluntarily. Therefore, dealing with climate change requires active guidance and help; where climate change leaders are needed to show the possibility of alternative routes or contribute to necessary coordination through firmer steering. In his lecture, Jagers discussed several potential candidates who can take on this leadership role, including scientists, businesses, religious communities, and other members of civil society.  

Digging into the nitty gritty of Jagers’ research

As a political scientist by training, Jagers particularly elaborated on the possibilities and obstacles for political climate leadership. Political leaders compared to other societal actors, he argued, have the most comprehensive and stringent toolbox, which makes them relevant to study from a leadership perspective. Research on collective action shows that people are willing to undertake behavioral changes to reach a common objective only insofar others do so as well. But in the pursuit of answering why individuals undertake collective action, research has found several determinants that could explain why individuals behave in ways that contribute to a common objective. In his research studies, Jagers has looked at public opinions on climate taxes and laws and found that if people perceive climate policies as being fair and effective, they are more likely to support them. This means that for individuals to support collective action on climate change, policy instruments should be fair and effective, or at least perceived as such. Jagers suggested that for policymakers to show climate leadership, they should consider such determinants when developing and implementing climate policies, as a means to increase policy support and legitimacy. 

Factors affecting public acceptance of climate policies – a key message of the talk

Jagers then moved on to discuss environmental research from a broader perspective, asking what sorts of questions research should pose and answer. He argued that environmental research today is too focused on asking questions to prove a point (are these tragical things happening in society justifiable?) or testing a theory (could one explain the climate change problem by approaching it from another angle?) or challenging theories (does X explain climate change problems better than Y?). Jagers argued that science should be more applied and that researchers should pose questions which can help solve, avoid or mitigate a problem. According to Jagers, science should contribute to making the world a little bit better and naturally, scientists should to a higher degree ask questions that prompts such research (how can this theory help solve that problem?).  

Examples of climate leadership in different sectors

Jagers’ lecture was followed by a panel discussion led by Mikael Karlsson with representatives from different sectors. The panelists were chosen to match the actors (potential climate leaders) that Sverker C. Jagers referred to in his presentation: Naghmeh Nasiritousi, Associate Professor in political sciences at Stockholm university, Annika Gottberg, environmental specialist at Church of Sweden, Mattias Johansson Head of Public Affairs at Volvo Cars and former chief of staff at the Ministry of the Environment (C) and Eva Svedling, elected CEO Global Challenge (Global Utmaning) and former undersecretary of state at the Ministry of the Environment (MP). The panelists summarized their thoughts from having listened to Jager’s inaugural lecture. They furthermore discussed challenges and opportunities in their respective sectors with regards to climate change and how leadership promoting collective action and transformation can be taken. 

Mikael Karlsson standing on the left of the panel composed of three women and one man
Panel discussion moderated by M. Karlsson. Panel members: Naghmeh Nasiritousi , Annika Gottberg, Eva Svedling and Mattias Johansson

Nasiritousi agreed to many of Jager’s points and continued the discussion on political climate leadership, pondering about the lack of such leadership today and how research could help in supporting the evolution of political climate leaders. Johansson, representing the private sector, agreed that there is a current deficit in political climate leadership, but while this has implications for them as a company, he argued that their pathway forward is clear: electrification is happening with or without policy support. He continued saying that the private sector has to change because of customer and investor pressure, but also because they think it is the right thing to do. 

Svedling argued that they can support climate leadership by providing a platform where civil society actors, businesses and politicians can meet and discuss climate solutions. Global Utmaning, where Svedling will take over as CEO in February, can work as a node to bring different societal actors together to accelerate climate action as well as pushing others to do the same. 

Sverker C. Jagers taking notes during the panel discussion
Annika Gottberg resonates from the point of view of the Church of Sweden and their climate actions.

In the Church of Sweden, values are seen as crucial in overcoming barriers to climate action. According to Gottberg, nurturing values of equality and justice is key in their climate work. The Church can, through its wide community and as an important meeting point for people, shed a light on climate justice issues and support individuals in taking climate action. As an organization, they can also undertake measures themselves and “lead by example”. 

Following the panel discussion, Karlsson invited the audience to ask questions about Jagers’ presentation. A question that awoke interest concerned the question of power and how powerful actors can prevent or hamper climate leadership. Jagers found this question excellent, arguing that power is of course relevant in all types of collective action problems, not least concerning climate change. However, given limited time and the complexity of the issue, Jagers invited the audience to attend his master course, where Jagers expands on his thinking on the relationship between power, leadership and climate change. 

Mikael Karlsson gives the word to Sverker C. Jagers to comment on the panel discussion
Mikael Karlsson and Sverker C. Jager on the left of the seated panel composed of three women and one man
Sverker C. Jagers comments on the panel discussion.
Fltr: M. Karlsson, S. C. Jagers, N. Nasiritousi, A. Gottberg, E. Svedling, M. Johansson

Celebrating our new Zennström guest professor

After the successful official part of the event, the day ended with a mingle at the Ångströms laboratory with climate friendly finger food and more informal discussions with the panel, the audience and the new Zennström guest professor, Sverker C. Jagers.

Mikael Karlsson bringing out a toast on Sverker C. Jager
Mikael Karlsson bringing out a toast for Sverker C. Jagers

Recordings of the lecture and the panel discussion

Inaugural lecture recording
Panel discussion recording

In final week of COP27, progress rests on ‘loss and damage’

As ever, the annual climate summit of the Conference of the Parties (COP) has centered on a few and highly conflictual issues. Most notably, loss and damage, and the financing of such, is for the first time included in the formal negotiations and highly advocated by low-income countries. Moving onto the final week of COP27, observers report that negotiations are moving ahead too slowly and too little, and that several knots need to be untied.

This year’s COP meeting in Sharm-El Sheikh in Egypt started per usual with heads of states convening for the World Leaders Summit. Joe Biden, encouraged by the midterm election results which soothed worries of US climate policy drawbacks, announced a new plan to cut methane emissions and supported the “Early Warnings for All Action Plan” drafted by the World Meteorological Organization. The plan aims at establishing warning signals for extreme weather and climate-related events, especially for the most vulnerable countries. French President Emmanuel Macron strongly emphasized the need for climate justice considerations in his speech and that “loss and damage” righteously should be discussed during the coming two weeks.

Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi, President of this year’s host country Egypt, has named this the “Implementation Summit”. He urged all parties to center their efforts towards implementing the rules agreed upon last year in COP26 in Glasgow.

Leading up to the summit, discussions were expected to concern financing and the previously precluded concept of “loss and damage”, as well as clean energy developments and climate adaptation. As expected, both formal negotiations and informal discussions have centered around these issues. 

Money talks

Financing has been a cornerstone and stumbling block in the climate negotiations since the Paris Agreement in 2015. The failure to deliver the annual $100 billion by 2020, agreed upon in Copenhagen 2009, has come into light as poorer countries are increasingly devastated by extreme climate catastrophes. Such as the one in Pakistan earlier this year, leaving over 20 million people in need of humanitarian aid. The World Bank headed by president Malpass – who have been accused of climate denialism by former Vice President Al Gore – has come under increasing fire for insufficient climate financing as well as continued financial support to fossil fuel projects. 

A partial success concerning climate finance from the first week was the tentative support for the “Bridgetown Agenda”, proposed by Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley. The agenda seeks to reform the international financial system to ensure financial flows to low-income countries. It received support from French President Emmanuel Macron, with Germany and the UK tentatively supporting the idea. The Bretton Woods financial system managed by the World Bank and IMF is, according to Mottley, insufficiently structured to allow poorer countries to adapt to increasing climate-induced extreme weather events. With poorer countries being charged with substantially higher interest rates than the rich, Mottley argued that poorer countries should receive concessional lending, but also that discussions must include oil and gas companies, which in recent months have seen unprecedented windfall profits. “How do companies make $200 billion in profits in the last three months and do not expect to contribute $0.10 on every $1 of profit to a loss and damage fund?” she said. Success of the Bridgetown Agenda does, however, rely heavily on the support of the G7 countries who historically been reluctant to adopt concessional lending and debt cancellation policies.

US Climate Envoy John Kerry announced a plan to marshal investments in renewables in developing countries through a framework for carbon credits. The plan, dubbed the “Energy Transition Accelerator”, would allow private companies to gain carbon credits by investing in projects in developing countries. The initiative has not landed well amongst developing countries. Critics argue that another voluntary carbon market will neither instigate necessary deep emission reductions in richer countries nor ensure any additional funding – that would happen anyway – to clean energy developments.  

Rich countries criticized for preventing loss and damage mechanism

The most contentious – but previously precluded from formal COP negotiations – issue is the financing of loss and damage arising from climate change calamities. Although discussions within the UNFCCC have been ongoing since COP19 with the establishment of the “Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage”, strengthened at COP25 with the Santiago Network and with the Glasgow Dialogue at COP26, progress has been slow. Securing hands-on financing is not expected in Egypt, but emphasis is directed towards settling on the mechanisms of such funding. One week into the negotiations, however, a few countries have pledged to provide loss and damage money. Scotland broke the ice, followed by Denmark, Germany, Belgium Austria and New Zealand. More countries are expected to follow suit and pledge to the loss and damage fund in the second week of the summit, but sums are still far from adequate. Concerning the loss and damage mechanism, progress is even slower. Rich countries, especially the G7, have been accused of distracting from establishing a mechanism by proposing the alternative Global Shield insurance scheme, aimed at establishing a protection scheme to account for climate catastrophes. This has not landed well amongst poorer countries. It is perceived as a way of circumventing the loud calls for a loss and damage mechanism. The Global Shield insurance scheme does not include slow onset events brought about by climate change and includes only a fraction of countries in need of loss and damage money.

Demonstrations and fossil fuel delegates

A worry leading up to the summit in Egypt has concerned the role of civil society groups and activists. The Egyptian regime, with a record of human rights abuses and mass imprisonment of civil society actors, have come under critical scrutiny and commentators have warned of regressive restrictions. The currently imprisoned Egyptian human rights advocate Alaa Abd el-Fattah has become a figurehead of demonstrations and campaigns. Although attempts to raise human rights issues have been made and demonstrations have taken place, civil society organizations have been largely smothered.

If civil society action has been much curtailed during the first week, the oil and gas industry has not. With over 600 oil and gas representatives participating at the meeting, according to official registration lists, they outnumber all delegations from African countries. 

What to expect from the final week of negotiations

Moving onto the second week, informal discussions will center around a few topics that traditionally fall outside the scope of the COP summits, beginning with water scarcity and gender issues on Monday. On Tuesday, attention will be directed towards the role of civil society. Discussions on Wednesday will raise to the fore biodiversity issues, paving way for the UN Biodiversity (COP15) starting on 7 December in Canada, ending with “solutions day” on Thursday where prospects for novel solutions such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and hydrogen centers on stage. 

Turning to the formal negotiations, government ministers have replaced government leaders in the pursuit of untying the knots from the first week. The most pressing issue being the loss and damage funding, and whether the funding mechanism or the insurance scheme proposed by the G7 countries will prevail. How these negotiations end will much likely define whether COP27 will be seen as a step forward or not, especially concerning the contested issue of accountability.

A conference draft of formal agreements is expected on Wednesday, but a final draft is not expected until the end of the week. As last year’s COP focused on keeping the 1.5C target alive, a year later, that ambition looks even bleaker. In the run-up to the negotiations several reports concluded that the target is slipping away. That it is politically unfeasible to keep the 1.5C target alive and that there is “no longer any credible pathway” to achieving it. The last-minute calamities and weakened commitments in Glasgow made Alok Sharma, President of COP27, tearfully claim that the 1.5C target was, albeit barely, kept alive. Egypt’s COP27 President Sameh Shoukry will face a similar task. 

Klimatpolitik från Rosenbad till Sharm el Sheikh

På andra dagen av COP27 men 640 mil från Sharm el Sheikh modererade Mikael Karlsson ett samtal om regeringens klimatpolitik och COP27 med Isabella Lövin och Mats Engström. Oskar Lindgren satt i publiken och skriver här om vad som diskuterades under detta samtal i det anrika Sjöfartshuset i Gamla Stan i Stockholm.

Isabella Lövin, tidigare vice statsminister, miljö- och klimatminister samt språkrör (MP), inledde samtalet med att kontemplera över utmaningar och möjligheter med att nå Parisavtalet, givet den senaste tidens rapporter som visar att 1,5-gradersmålet är på väg att glida oss ur händerna. Lövin menar att COP27 som inleddes den 6 november i mångt och mycket handlar om vilket narrativ som vinner. Det ena narrativet som driver på för en grön omställning, där den framställs som bra för hälsan, ekonomin och näringslivet. Det andra narrativet som rör finansiering av omställningen, där det verkar ha skapats en ohelig allians som bromsar implementeringen av klimatåtgärder. Alliansen består av fattigare länder som med all rätt kräver finansiering från rikare länder, samt länder och företag som är motsträviga mot en omställning, vilket skapar infekterade förhandlingar om exempelvis loss and damage. Lövin är oroad över att vi fastnar i förhandlingar om finansiering, när detta möte bordas ägnas åt implementering av den regelbok som beslutades förra året under COP26 i Glasgow.

Mats Engström, författare och senior policyrådgivare för Svenska institutet för Europapolitiska studier, håller med om denna farhåga, men tycker att vi bör se bortom de officiella förhandlingar som pågår. Han liknar mötet med ett korallrev av människor där näringsliv, civilsamhälle och politiker möts och fattar viktiga beslut som inte alltid kommuniceras i officiella kommunikéer.

En politik på efterkälke

Mikael Karlsson, docent i miljövetenskap och lektor i klimatledarskap på Uppsala universitet, undrar om politiken sackar efter andra aktörer, vilket Lövin menar att den ibland gör. Hon tror att det har skapats en rädsla och osäkerhet för vad en omställning innebär. Denna rädsla har även nästlat sig in i Sverige, vilket blev tydligt med den retorik som fördes under valrörelsen där omställningen beskrevs som dyr och att Sveriges roll är obetydlig i sammanhanget med tanke på storleken på våra utsläpp. Denna idé är korkad, enligt Lövin, eftersom Sverige har ett viktigt ansvar som föregångare men även för att det finns många andra länder som är mindre än Sverige. Om inte vi, vem? tänker undertecknad.

Engström menar att denna för omställningen politiska tveksamhet bland annat beror på den oheliga allians som Lövin nämnde tidigare, men även för att rika länder inte levt upp till vad man lovat, både i termer av finansiering men även egna utsläppsminskningar. Nu sluter man äntligen avtal med flera så kallade tillväxtekonomier, såsom Sydafrika och Indonesien, men samtidigt skönjer Engström ett motstånd mot detta i flera näringsdepartement i rika länder eftersom det ökar konkurrensen för nya teknologier. Trion på scen är överens om att finansieringen, även under detta klimattoppmöte, blir en knäckfråga.

Varken Engström och Lövin vill svara på om det känner sig optimistiska inför mötet. De menar att klimatförhandlingar är långsiktiga processer och inte lämpar sig att utvärderas enskilt. Engström svarar dock, om än lite ovilligt, att ett framsteg är om det inte blir steg bakåt. En dos realistisk optimism, men rimligtvis krävs det mer av dessa förhandlingar tänker jag för mig själv. Lövin känner dock en gnutta optimism inför att begreppet ansvarsutkrävande (accountability) har stigit på agendan. Även om Parisavtalets mål är frivilligt måste vi börja prata om ansvarsutkrävande och mekanismer för att hålla länder och företag ansvariga för deras agerande, menar Lövin.

Sveriges ordförandeskap i EU

Vid årsskiftet tar Sverige över ordförandeskapet i EU:s ministerråd. EU-kommissionen har under ledning av Ursula von der Leyen drivit på för en stringent klimatpolitik inom unionen bland annat med den gröna given och lagstiftningspaketet Fit for 55. Engström, med gedigen kunskap om EU-politik, anser att Sverige är bra rustat inför ordförandeskapet, men att inriktningen för ordförandeskapet tills vidare är höljt i mörker. Han hoppas dock på att regeringen fokuserar på hur den gröna given ska implementeras över tid, men att Ukrainakriget och elkrisen riskerar att överskugga klimatarbetet under ordförandeskapet.

Den tidigare europaparlamentarikern Isabella Lövin bedömer att det är en helt annan fart i klimat- och miljöarbetet inom EU jämfört med hennes tid i Bryssel, mycket tack vare von der Leyens ambitiösa agenda. Dessutom har klimatarbetet stärkts genom att ge vice ordförande Frans Timmermans inflytande över flertalet portföljer, vilket Lövin menar är nödvändigt för att klimatpolitiken ska genomsyra beslut inom andra politikområden. Samtidigt har det byggts upp en stabilitet i kommissionen över tid, framför allt vad gäller genomförande av klimatlagstiftning. Detta är positivt och kan avskräcka politiker – i Sverige hoppas undertecknad – från att avskaffa nationella klimatstyrmedel och mål.

Den svenska regeringen i otakt med tiden

Även om det ambitiösa EU-arbetet rullar vidare har den nytillträdde svenska regeringens förslag inom klimatområdet väckt kritik, bland annat nedläggningen av miljödepartementet och den sänkta reduktionsplikten. Engström menar att omvärlden mycket noggrant iakttar utvecklingen i Sverige, exempelvis har den högsta chefen för den tyska miljömyndigheten uttryckt oro över skrotandet av miljödepartementet. Men Engström tycker att det är för tidigt att sia om hur bilden av Sverige som klimatpolitisk föregångare påverkas av den nya regeringens politik. För det första måste vi vänta in den budget som finansminister Svantesson sedvanligt till fots ska föra till riksdagen den 8 november, sedan får det kommande året utvisa hur bilden av Sverige förändras.

Avvecklingen av reduktionsplikten skapar, enligt Lövin, en ogynnsam ryckighet för näringslivet. Det har funnits en bred samsyn kring reduktionsplikten i riksdagen – inklusive alla partier utom SD – om att reduktionsplikten ska vara långsiktig. Detta för att möjliggöra att investeringar i förnybara svenska drivmedel frigörs, vilket välkomnats av näringslivet. Lövin förmodar att detta förslag är obegripligt ur ett näringslivsperspektiv. Dessutom är det ett stort mysterium att regeringen inte presenterat några andra förslag för att väga upp utsläppen som den avvecklade reduktionsplikten leder till, anser Lövin.

Vad gäller nedläggningen av miljödepartementet är båda talarna eniga, klimat- och miljöministern Romina Pourmokhtari (L) lär ha ett svagt mandat i förhandlingar med departementschefen Ebba Busch (KD). Lövin befarar att politiska hissningar – att frågor lyfts upp på högre beslutsnivå när exempelvis näringslivs- och miljöintressen hamnar i konflikt – kommer minska, vilket kan leda till att sådana konflikter löses (eller snarare begravs) internt i departementet.

För att knyta ihop detta brett utblickande samtal menar Karlsson att en del frågor som diskuterats under eftermiddagen kommer att besvaras med regeringens budget. Frågor gällande COP27 får vänta ett par veckor till, men Karlsson själv känner en viss optimism inför mötet. Spelplanen är förändrad, med maktskifte i Brasilien, ett EU med von der Leyen i spetsen som driver på klimatomställningen – som inte lär väja undan för en svensk politik som går i motsatt riktning – samt att den amerikanska presidenten kommer till mötet stärkt av det historiska klimatpaket som antagits i USA.

En motorväg mot ett klimathelvete

Det jag främst tar med mig från detta samtal är vikten av den institutionella styrka som byggts upp både inom EU och det internationella klimatpolitiska samfundet. När enskilda politiker eller länder sviker står det starkt och driver på omställningen. Även om denna omställning går förödande långsamt går det ett finna hopp i att dessa institutioners stabilitet i samklang med kulturella och politiska vindar vid någon tidpunkt kan accelerera omställningen till den takt som klimatkrisen kräver. Men tiden börjar bli knapp, vilket FN:s generalsekreterare Antonio Guterres med all tydlighet sade i sitt tal till världsledarna på COP27 “vi befinner oss på en motorväg mot ett klimathelvete med gaspedalen i botten”. Om vi inte bromsar in hastigt lär det inte finnas någon handbroms att tillgå.

Seminariet anordnandes av 2050.

Ett slag för tillämpad samhällsvetenskap

av Sverker C. Jagers, Zennström gästprofessor på CCL

Särskilt  två saker minns jag det stod om den norska staden Bergen, i den geografibok vi hade i fjärde (eller om det var femte) klass: Att staden ligger vid havet, vackert omgärdad av dimhöljda berg och att det alltid regnar där. Enligt statistiken till och med betydligt mer än i min hemstad Göteborg. Och som det regnat och blåst! Hotellet tillhandahöll utlåningsparaplyer och inte mindre än tre hann avverkas, helt, under de tre dagar som mitt besök pågick.

Sofie Lindstrøms hus, Samhällsvetenskapligt fakultet, Universitet i Bergen

Syftet med min resa var att besöka Bergens universitet för att dels ge två olika föredrag på termat tillämpad samhällsvetenskap och dels möta upp med flera unga forskare och ge dem feedback på deras olika arbeten. Det pågår många spännande projekt på detta universitet, det är helt klart. Särskilt kul var det att få återse kollegor som jag tidigare lärt känna under deras tid som doktorander och som nu blommat ut och blivit etablerade forskare i en stad och på ett universitet som båda framstår som väldigt dynamiska och där flera samhällsvetenskapliga grupper sysslar med frågor som rör klimatförändringar.

Inledningsvis besökte jag DIGSSCORE som är en digital forskningsinfrastruktur som bland annat inhyser den norska medborgarpanelen och där flera klimatrelaterade projekt kopplade till allmänhetens opinion bedrivs. Därefter besökte jag Department of Government som är produkten av en sammanslagning av två forskargrupper och alltså är en tämligen ny institution på den samhällsvetenskapliga fakulteten. Här bedrivs mycket forskning som just kan kategoriseras som ”tillämpad” eftersom de frågor man undersöker har en tydlig koppling till hur man kan hantera de samhällsutmaningar som studeras, såsom klimatförändringar och migration.

Exempel på tillämpad samhällsvetenskap

I mitt första föredrag på DIGSSCORE presenterade jag rykande färska resultat från en studie jag gjort med forskare vid Göteborgs universitet, Luleå tekniska universitet och Världsbanken och som handlar om att undersöka allmänhetens inställning till att ta bort subventioner på fossila bränslen. Den geografiska täckningen är fem länder på fyra kontinenter (Mexico, Ecuador, Egypten, Indonesien och Indien).

Resultaten är tämligen entydiga – om ett lands regering specificerar vad de överskjutande pengarna från att ta bort subventioner skall användas till (t ex att satsa på välfärdsutveckling, klimatanpassning eller för att stärka särskilt utsatt grupper, så som fattiga) så ökar stödet betydligt och detta oavsett vilket av länderna vi valt att studera. Jag fick spänstiga och kluriga frågor från publiken, som inte minst är väldigt kunniga när det gäller survey-experimentella metoder och jag tog med mig många viktiga lärdomar inför framtida studier.

Föredrag på DIGSSCORE


I mitt andra föredrag med titeln ” Policy innovation: Striking a blow for applied social science” försökte jag vara lite mer djärv och passa på att sticka ut hakan en smula. Därför handlade mitt föredrag mer explicit om min kanske just nu mest dominerande käpphäst, nämligen behovet av att samhällsvetenskapligt inriktad klimat- och miljöforskning bör bli mer tillämpad.

När jag lyssnar till och läser vad många kollegor publicerar och även när man granskar abstrakten till flertalet av de uppsatser som presenteras på statsvetenskapliga och samhällsvetenskapliga miljökonferenser, tycker jag mig se ett tydligt mönster. De flesta som studerar olika klimat- och miljöproblem väljer ut olika aspekter av dessa som kan användas antingen för att driva en tes (t ex. är de olika tragiska saker vi ser i miljön rättfärdiga eller orättfärdiga?), testa en teori (t ex. kan man bättre förklara uppkomsten av miljöproblemet genom att tänka på ett annorlunda sätt?) eller utmana olika teorier (t ex. kan teori X bättre förklara miljöfenomenet än teori Y?). Ganska få studier frågar sig emellertid om någon av alla våra teorier kan hjälpa till att lösa, undvika eller mildra de problem som ju faktiskt pågår konstant och som gradvis gör vår jord mindre angenäm att bebo.

Från teoriutveckling till tillämpad samhällsvetenskap

Naturligtvis utesluter inte det ena det andra, eller att det jag förespråkar gör mer teoretiskt drivna ansatser överflödiga eller oviktiga. Det är klart att vi ständigt behöver förfina våra teorier som hjälper oss att förstå och förklara vad som händer i vår samtid, eller vad som har hänt tidigare i vår historia. Frågan handlar mer om vad vi sedan gör med denna teoriförfining. I mina ögon vore det inte så lite klädsamt om syftena med dessa teoriutvecklingar inte bara, eller huvudsakligen, är att göra våra discipliner bättre, eller våra kollegor mer tillfredsställda, utan att dessa teorier också används för rådgivning kring hur vi kan göra världen lite bättre. 

Eftersom forskningsmiljön jag presenterade dessa tankar inför, Department of Government, sysslar mycket med frågor kring förvaltning och politisk styrning, bland annat på temat klimat och miljö, var nog det valda temat inte så utmanande, utan kanske snarare lite välkommet. Förhoppningsvis leder de spännande samtal vi hade efter föredraget till att fler forskare, inte minst unga sådana, motiveras att ta steget att även ställa forskningsfrågor vars svar kan användas av beslutsfattare, vilket i förlängningen gör att deras vägval och beslut blir både mer verkningsfulla och acceptabla bland de grupper som påverkas av besluten.  

Välkommen till Sverker C. Jagers installationsföreläsning 21 november 2022

Sverker C. Jagers är Zennström professor i klimatledarskap 2022/2023 på CCL.   Kom och lyssna på Sverkers installationsföreläsning som Zennström professor den 21 november 2022 i Uppsala. Läs mer och hitta länken för att anmäla dig.

Mikael Karlsson om regeringens första vecka

Sverige har en ny regering och statsminister. Den 18 oktober presenterade Ulf Kristersson de ministrar som ska styra Sverige under kommande mandatperiod. Efterspelet har varit allt annat än händelsefattigt. Mikael Karlsson, docent i miljövetenskap och lektor i klimatledarskap, har i flera medier kommenterat den senaste veckans händelser.

En statsministerblunder

I regeringsförklaringen påstod den nytillträdde statsministern att Sverige blev “en av världens första, nästan helt fossilfria industrinationer” på 1970-talet. Detta uttalande bemöttes av stark kritik, bland annat från Mikael Karlsson i Dagens Nyheter.

– Det är verkligen helt fel. Sverige är absolut inte fossilfritt ännu på flera decennier, vi är inte ens nästan fossilfria. Hur många andra myter florerar i statsministerns huvud? Har vi nästan en rik biologisk mångfald? Har vi nästan städat upp alla miljögifter? Klarar vi nästan miljömålen?

Karlsson menar att detta uttalande är “ovarsamhet med fakta som är direkt skrämmande” i stil med att säga att jorden är platt.

Vetenskapsförnekelse i riksdagen

Den nyblivne riksdagsledamoten Elsa Widding (SD) har tidigare väckt uppmärksamhet för uttalanden där hon ifrågasätter klimatvetenskapen. I sin första riksdagsdebatt kom hon med flera påståenden om klimatet. Bland annat beskrev Widding att uppfattningen att vi har en pågående klimatkris saknar vetenskaplig grund. I en artikel i Aftonbladet uttalar sig Mikael Karlsson om riksdagsledamotens påståenden.

– Mycket hon säger är ren vetenskapsförnekelse och helt enkelt inte sant. Det är som när Trump påstod att man kan injicera rengöringsmedel för att bli frisk från covid, löjeväckande.

Men Karlsson är inte förvånad. Utan menar att SD nu visar sin rätta färg. Samtidigt tycker han att det är en oroväckande utveckling. Inte minst i internationella sammanhang, där uppfattningen om Sverige som ledande inom klimat- och miljöpolitik kan börja ifrågasättas allt mer.

Klimat- och miljöminister utan eget departement

Frågan om vem som skulle ta över ansvaret för klimat- och miljöfrågorna efter Annika Strandhäll (S) besvarades när Romina Pourmokthari (L) blev presenterad som klimat- och miljöminister i regeringsförklaringen. Samtidigt meddelade regeringen att miljödepartementet, som funnits i 35 år, läggs ned. Klimat- och miljöfrågorna flyttas istället till klimat- och näringslivsdepartementet, som leds av Ebba Busch (KD) som utses till energi- och näringsminister.

Karlsson har uttalat sig både i Sveriges Radio och DN där han menar att beslutet om att lägga ned miljödepartementet är beklagligt, men inte helt oväntat.

– Det är beklagligt. Men jag är inte förvånad, eftersom fyrpartiöverenskommelsen pekade i riktning mot en nedmonterad miljöpolitik. Man subventionerar hög elanvändning och fossila bränslen, vilket går stick i stäv med miljöpolitikens grundstenar sedan ett halvt sekel.

Den nya klimat- och miljöministern menar dock att denna omstrukturering liknar den som genomfördes i Tyskland 2021 av Miljöpartiets motsvarighet De Gröna. Och att denna omstrukturering syftar till att skapa ett så kallat superdepartement. Men i Tyskland lades miljödepartementet aldrig ned, vilket uppmärksammats av både forskare och politiker.

Utmaningarna är stora men framtiden oviss

Men allt är inte becksvart. Karlsson skriver i en krönika i Miljö & Utveckling att även om utmaningarna för Pourmokthari är stora och spelplanen oklar, så finns det hopp. Åtminstone om hon formar sin roll utifrån ett driv och engagemang baserat på kunskap om de hot och möjligheter som finns inom miljö- och klimatområdet.

Winter is coming and so is energy sufficiency?

In light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, gas and energy prices have soared to dramatically high levels. Hoping for a mild winter but preparing for the worst, Europe is now considering energy conservation and rationing policies. Perhaps time has come for the important but mostly forgotten climate solution: energy sufficiency.

The ongoing energy crisis has uncovered the European dependence on Russian fossil fuels. Before the invasion of Ukraine, Russia supplied more than 40% of the EU’s total gas consumption as well as 27% of oil imports. This share is shrinking quickly as Russia has turned down the flow into the European energy system. As a response to this, the EU and its Member States have adopted radical measures to safeguard energy supply and avoid economic losses.

Energy sufficiency measures are taken as winter is approaching
As winter is approaching, different measures are taken across Europe to save energy.

EU plans to reduce energy use drastically

On 14 September, the EU Commission proposed the REPowerEU plan to make Europe independent from Russian fossil fuels before 2030. The plan includes amongst other things an update of the energy efficiency target to 14,5% (the earlier target was raised from 9 to 13 percent as late as in May earlier this year). Only ten days later, the Commission proposed an “emergency plan” which sets out to reduce electricity use in the EU by 10 percent until March 2023. It also mandates an obligation to reduce electricity use by at least 5 percent during peak hours and a temporary “solidarity contribution” on excess profits from energy producers. EU Member States are also incentivized to undertake voluntary energy and gas savings. The EU climate commissioner Frans Timmermans states:

“Demand reduction is fundamental to the overall success of these measures: it lowers energy bills, ends Putin’s ability to weaponize his energy resources, reduces emissions and helps rebalance the energy market. A cap on outsize revenues will bring solidarity from energy companies with abnormally high profits towards their struggling customers.”

Several European governments are following suit

The French government is planning to cut total energy use by 10% and impose energy rationing as a last resort. The country has launched a program of sobriété (sufficiency) including restrictions on indoor temperature in public buildings. As winter approaches, president Macron has stated that sacrifices by the French people is necessary.

Germany, where gas makes up 27 percent of the energy mix and of which 55 percent was imported from Russia before the invasion, have also proposed several energy-saving measures, including limitations on temperature in public buildings. Private companies are encouraged to do the same.

Italy, importing 40% of their gas from Russia, is preparing an emergency energy-saving plan including amongst other things restrictions on domestic radiation, street lighting and opening hours for restaurants and shops.

In Spain, the parliament approved a decree in the beginning of August to limit air conditioning and heating in public and commercial buildings including shopping centers, cinemas, rail stations and airports.

In Sweden, the government has assigned state authorities to undertake measures to reduce electricity use until April 2023. Beyond this, the political response to the energy crisis has been weak. Instead, the debate running up to the national elections in September saw a revived focus on nuclear power. This captured not only the energy but also the climate policy discussions.

The imperative for energy sufficiency

The current emphasis on energy savings is promising as it shines a light on an alternative, often neglected policy strategy, namely energy sufficiency. Energy sufficiency, in its simplest form, is about avoiding carbon emissions by targeting and reducing energy use. National energy policy have traditionally focused on improving energy efficiency and increasing the share of renewables, while neglecting sufficiency. But research shows that energy sufficiency is fundamental for rapid climate mitigation. In the latest IPCC report on Mitigation of climate change, demand-side mitigation strategies such as sufficiency was for the first time included. The IPCC defines the three strategies followingly:

“(i) sufficiency, which tackles the symptoms of the environmental impacts of human activities by avoiding the demand for energy and materials of the lifecycle of buildings and goods; (ii) efficiency, which tackles the symptoms of the environmental impacts of human activities by improving energy and material intensities; and (iii) the renewable pillar, which tackles the consequences of the environmental impacts of human activities by reducing carbon intensity in energy supply.”

To reduce environmental impacts from energy use, sufficiency policies should be undertaken first, followed by efficiency and consistency (Saheb, 2021). This is because sufficiency holds great potential to reduce GHG emissions rapidly.

Less is better!?

Although the scientific community emphasize sufficiency as an important climate solution, efforts steering towards energy demand reductions have been mostly ignored in policy making. This is unsurprising since energy sufficiency conflicts with current economic, political and social ideas such as economic growth, consumerism and ideas of “more is better”. But what sufficiency research shows is that less could actually be better. In terms of climate change mitigation, sufficiency policies are cheap and can reduce carbon emissions fast (Spangenberg and Lorek, 2019). In terms of wellbeing, energy sufficiency combined with better provisioning systems could actually lead to improved global health and wellbeing (O’Neill et al., 2018).

But energy sufficiency does not mean restraints for all, but mainly for affluent countries and especially for the over-consuming “super-rich” (Otto et al., 2019). This is the other side of energy sufficiency, namely to provide universal minimum levels of energy to ensure basic needs and wellbeing for all within planetary boundaries (IPCC, 2022). We live in a world constrained by ecological resources and when a majority of these resources are eaten up by wealthy countries and individuals, not much is left. At the same time we’re struggling – and currently failing – to stave of the climate crisis. Energy sufficiency responds to both of these challenges.

Person in a woolen pullover with a cup of tea
Although behavioral changes are important, energy sufficiency goes beyond individual downshifting.

Energy sufficiency policies are needed

Although individual downscaling to some extent is necessary, an orientation towards sufficiency requires that infrastructure and systems of consumption and production change, to ensure that all have access to necessary (clean) energy services. Research on energy sufficiency policies have grown exponentially in recent years. Ambitious work by scientists from a range of disciplines have developed policy packages and practices.

The suggestions laid forward by the EU Commission and European governments, such as restrictions on indoor temperature, air conditioning and business opening hours are however concrete examples of sufficiency policies. These are all effective in the short-term. But a long-term sufficiency orientation requires further, systemic measures. It requires a planned reduction of energy use. This includes policies such as the abolishment of environmentally harmful subsidies, energy taxation, infrastructure development, upper income limits and ban on advertisements for energy-intensive products, to name a few. For a full list of existing sufficiency policies, the Energy Sufficiency Policy Database is a great seed for inspiration. Such policies require that the EU Commission and EU Member States acknowledge energy sufficiency as an important lever next to efficiency and renewables. Behavioral changes and short-term measures are indeed important, but limited in our current societies which are built on unsustainable infrastructure and geared towards increasing emissions, not the reverse.

The energy crisis as an opportunity

The energy crisis is by all means a crisis. Low-income and vulnerable households are affected the most. A transition towards sufficiency should not be built on havoc, but on a planned reduction of energy use to ensure decent levels of clean energy services to all. Such a transition does not happen through radical measures in the midst of an energy crisis. But the crisis could be, if the momentum towards energy sufficiency sticks, a stepping-stone towards recognizing the importance of energy sufficiency.

This is a moment to revitalize solidarity and collective responsibility. To recognize what values such as “enoughness” and limitations means for us as individuals and society at large. The energy crisis provides a strong imperative for energy sufficiency, but further action is needed. Only then can Europe break free from its dependence on Russia, ensure energy security and do its parts in mitigating climate change.

Article written by Oskar Lindgren, research assistant in the CCL team.

Tänk om ekonomiutbildningen!

Lina Isacs har varit på konferensen HIGHER EDUCATION SUMMIT i Belgien som handlade om behovet av att göra om ekonomiutbildningen. Här skriver hon om konferensen och olika aktuella böcker på temat rethinking economics


”Det finns uppskattningsvis 7 000 språk i världen. Ekonomspråket är ett av de nyaste och det växer i inflytande. Utan att kunna ekonomspråket är det svårt att göra sin röst hörd i frågor som rör samhällsekonomi och politik.”

Andrew Haldane, chefsekonomen för Storbritanniens centralbank 2016

Orden kommer från förordet till en av mina favoritböcker, boken The Econocracy som kom ut 2016. Den är skriven av tre före detta studenter i nationalekonomi från det internationella nätverket Rethinking Economics. Boken  handlar om följderna av att universitetsämnet nationalekonomi fått allt större Book cover The econocracymakt över hur beslut fattas i samhällsekonomiska frågor världen över. Författarna myntar begreppet ekonocracy (som i en nylig bok av Henrik Bohlin översatts till ‘ekonokrati’ på svenska) för att beskriva vidden av nationalekonomins påverkan på våra ekonomier och på demokratin.

”En ’ekonokrati’ har alla de formella institutioner som en representativ demokrati har – såsom politiska partier och återkommande val – men politiska målsättningar definieras i snäva ekonomiska termer och beslut fattas utan större insyn från medborgarna”, fortsätter Haldane i förordet.

Bristande mångfald i ekonomiutbildningen

Boken går igenom mycket av den kritik som jag själv och många andra fört fram mot ämnet nationalekonomi. Men The Econocracy innehåller också grundliga undersökningar av hur en typisk nationalekonomiutbildning ser ut idag (fokus ligger på Storbritannien men det här gäller globalt). Några exempel:

  • I kurslitteratur och på föreläsningar framställs ämnet som främst tekniskt och objektivt fastän det innehåller politiska, normativa och till och med ideologiska inslag som studenterna sällan får hjälp att tolka som sådana.
  • Kurser i ekonomisk historia och filosofi ingår inte (som det gjorde förr), trots att ämnet är historiskt och starkt kulturellt betingat.
  • Studier av de institutioner som faktiska ekonomier består av saknas (såsom vad pengar är och hur banker faktiskt fungerar).
  • Matematiska färdigheter premieras framför kvalitativ analys och kritiskt tänkande. Examinationen domineras av att kunna ”applicera modeller” istället för att kunna avgöra när de är relevanta och inte, och består till en förbluffande stor del av multiple choice-frågor.

De här bristerna gör ekonomstudenter dåligt förberedda för den verklighet de sedan ska arbeta i, säger författarna till The Econocracy. Det finns studier som visar att deras världsbild blir mer snäv och att det i sin tur påverkar institutioner där ekonomer arbetar eftersom ekonomer har en jämförelsevis hög status som tjänstemän.

De här frågorna engagerar mig. Som del i klimatledarskapsgruppen vill jag veta hur ekonomisk vetenskap påverkar klimatledarskap. De globala kriser vi är mitt i betyder att en mångfald av färdigheter och kunskaper om ekonomin behövs, men idag är alltså nationalekonomiämnet ovanligt likriktat för att vara en samhällsvetenskap – alla universitet i hela världen erbjuder studenter i stort sett exakt samma innehåll. Det som är särskilt oroande här är att miljö- och rättvisefrågor inte behandlas som centrala ekonomiska frågor.

Gör ekonomiutbildningen mer pluralistisk!

Precis som nätverket Rethinking Economics argumenterar författarna till The Econocracy för att nationalekonomiutbildningen borde göras om och ge plats för en större pluralism, alltså en mångfald av idéer och metoder från olika skolbildningar.  Sådana finns faktiskt men nämns aldrig i de gängse utbildningarna. De utgör delar av det som brukar kallas heterodox ekonomi. Det här är inte första gången idén om att reformera ekonomiutbildningen förs fram, men den här gången verkar den ha nått längre.

Nu i september var jag på konferensen HIGHER EDUCATION SUMMIT i staden Hasselt i Belgien där ett huvudtema var ”Rethinking economics education” med huvudtalare som Kate Raworth (Doughnut Economics) och Olivia Rutazibwa från London School of Economics. Jag var där tillsammans med Pernilla Andersson och Leif Östman från pedagogiska institutionen här på Uppsala universitet. I våras sökte vi forskningsmedel i samarbete med forskare på Hasselt University och Donut Economics Lab för ett projekt som riktar in sig på att tänka om ekonomiutbildningen – från gymnasienivå och uppåt. Oavsett besked (som kommer i november) har vi stärkt banden till andra ute i Europa i det syftet.

Higher Education summit konferensen tog upp frågan om ekonomiutbildningen

Ett av de mest spännande mötena från konferensen var det med Sam de Muijnck som är en av författarna till en helt ny bok i spåren av The Econocracy. Boken Economy Studies* är rätt och slätt en guide för den som vill tänka om och bygga en ny, pluralistisk nationalekonomiutbildning från scratch. Den är gratis att ladda ner, men jag har ett pappersex på nattygsbordet sedan i våras som jag läser som spännande kvällslektyr. Hör bara  på det här utdraget ur innehållsförteckningen:

“Know Your Own Economy”, “History of Economic Thought & Methods”, “Economic Organisations & Mechanisms”, “Political-Economic Systems”, “Research Methods & Philosophy of Science”, “Economics for a Better World”…


Här nedan kan ni lyssna på paneldebatten “Rethinking the economics curriculum” (från 17:40 min) från konferensen. Alla inspelningar från konferensen finns här.


* Economy Studies låter fel för den som är (en vanlig) nationalekonom. Ämnet nationalekonomi på engelska heter ju economics, så boken borde i så fall heta “Studies in Economics”. Men titeln är väl vald. Den syftar på det faktum att nationalekonomi borde vara ett ämne som definieras mer av sitt studieobjekt, alltså våra faktiska ekonomier, snarare än som idag då det till stor del definieras av hur ämnet ska bedrivas (dvs. mer som en metod).

Sverker C. Jagers new Zennström professor in climate change leadership

Sverker C. Jagers, professor in political sciences at Gothenburg university and director of the Centre for Collective Action Research, has been appointed by Uppsala university as the fifth Zennström professor in climate change leadership, financed by donations from Zennström Philanthropies. Sverker C. Jagers has long standing experience working in environmental politics and environmental governance. His research area concerns psychology, sociology, national economy and political science. Sverker’s work is led by his deep interest in interdisciplinary science. The question that is of particular interest to him is how effective and socially accepted environmental and climate policy instruments can be conceived. An example is how a CO2 tax can be designed that decreases carbon dioxide emission without upsetting people.

Wants to work in an interdisciplinary way

“I am often working with researchers in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. I have done research on how countries with different political systems are successful in handling environmental questions. What is the effect if a country is a democracy or not, or if there are problems of corruption on environmental politics? As a Zennström guest professor at Uppsala university I would like to establish collaborations with environmentally oriented research groups that have a solutions-oriented focus”, says Sverker who is open to be contacted.

Sverker C. Jager’s Zennström guest professorship will run from September 2022 to December 2023. He is working at Uppsala university halftime and will contribute to research, teaching and external cooperation. Jagers is part of the Climate Change Leadership group at the Department of Earth Sciences at Uppsala University.

“The fact that scepticism towards climate politics is increasing raises the risk that climate goals will not be met, which entails enormous costs for society as a consequence. Therefore, Sverker Jagers’ Zennström guest professorship, with focus on effective and accepted climate leadership and governance, is a timely and delightful reinforcement of our team”, says Mikael Karlsson, associate professor and leader of the climate change leadership group at Uppsala University.

For more information contact:

Sverker C Jagers, Zennström guest professor in climate change leadership, Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University.
Mobiltelefon: 0732-59 43 69

Mikael Karlsson, Associate professor in climate leadership, Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University  
Mobiltelefon: 070-3162722

Judith Lundberg-Felten, project coordinator climate change leadership, Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University

Det är lönsamt att motverka klimatförändringen

  • Från och med den 28:e juli framåt resten av året lever vi svenskar på en ekologisk kredit motsvarande över fyra jordklot. ‘Overshoot day’ har infallit allt tidigare sedan begreppet etablerades på 70-talet.
  • Miljödocenten Mikael Karlsson menar att klimatförändringarnas ekonomiska konsekvenser motsvarar ett ekonomiskt världskrig.
  • Miljöpolitiska åtgärder skulle medföra positiva effekter på folkhälsan, arbetstillfällen och natur.

Klimatförändringarna kan kosta som ett världskrig

Climate Change and Swedish Evangelical Denominations

New article

Studies from the United States (U.S.) show that opposition to climate policy is strong among some Christian groups, especially White evangelical Protestants. Much of this opposition is channelled through organisations such as the Cornwall Alliance, which argue against climate measures on religious, economic and what they claim to be science-based grounds. In the present study, we investigated to what extent these convictions were present among Swedish evangelical denominations. Representatives from the Evangelical Free Church, the Pentecostal Alliance, the Swedish Alliance Mission, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church were interviewed to identify the denominations’ views on the scientific underpinnings of climate change and the moral implications of climate policy. Our data show that the denominations’ views differ markedly from those expressed by climate-oppositional evangelical groups in the U.S. The denominations held homogenous views on the legitimacy of climate science, expressed a clear biblical mandate for climate policy based on the notion of human stewardship, and believed that climate change was inextricably linked to poverty and, thus, had to be addressed. Our results point to the need for further studies on the factors behind acceptance and denial of climate science within and between faith-based and other communities in different countries.

Faithful Stewards of God’s Creation? Swedish Evangelical Denominations and Climate Change

Vad vill partierna i klimatpolitiken?

Naturskyddsföreningen har lagt förslag om fossilförbud år 2030. Hanna Berheim Brudin och Kristina Östman på Naturskyddsföreningen förklarar vad det skulle innebära. Men frågan är vad partierna tycker i frågan – och hur ser deras klimatpolitik egentligen ut? Mikael Karlsson, lektor i klimatledarskap kommenterar i samband med Klimatriksdagen.

Vårt Klimat: Med Mikael Karlsson

Världens forskare har levererat tusentals rapporter om klimatet samtidigt som tyckare sprider sina åsikter på nätet efter att ha läst en blogg. Här förklarar klimatforskaren Mikael Karlsson hur vi ska tänka när vi inhämtar vår kunskap om klimatet. Inspelat på Humanistiska teatern i Uppsala den 10 mars 2022. Arrangör: Institutionen för geovetenskaper vid Uppsala universitet.

Titta på Ur Samtiden:

Sustainability Frontiers: Final Session

This is the final in a short blog series written by Laila Mendy about the Sustainability Frontiers conference.

Matthew Fielding moderated the final session between William Clark, Åsa Persson, Emily Boyd and Somya Joshi. The aim of the conversation was to discuss the five themes of the conference in relation to a recent publication by Clark and co-author Harley, which reviewed the first generation of sustainability science research. You can read this paper here.

Clark began with a short presentation of his work, which suggested that a core red-thread in sustainability science was nature-society interactions, which he described as existing within intertwined co-evolving systems. It is a solutions driven science, he said, where the goals of the research is not only to understand the interactions but to explore how this science and those understandings may be used to advance the diverse, contested and socially-determined goals of sustainability.

Another common thread, he found, was the issue of resources, emerging as the ultimate determinants of sustainable development. Sustainable development is measured by whether the base of resources are increasing or dwindling. Connecting resources and goals of sustainability science indicates processes of consumption and production, primarily towards the good life. However these processes are not operating without the agendas of the agents, actors, individuals, communities, firms, states and so on, also pushing certain directionalities. Though a belated entry into the sustainability sciences, these issues can be turned towards questions of power and how distributions of costs and benefits of nature-society interactions occur unequally.

These interests point back towards the institutions studying them and how the work they do might help or hinder these systems and often, Clark suggested, the outcomes of these institutional activities hold up the status quo and benefits incumbents. However, sustainability sciences are all working in complex adaptive systems that are shaped by persistent heterogeneity and novelty. Sadly this means that scientists can not predict them particularly well, which leads to the question about what useful advice sustainability science has to offer.

Well, it does have much to offer in terms of operational capacities, according to Clark. These are categorised below as the capacities to:

  • Govern effectively
  • Measure progress
  • Promote Equity
  • Adapt to shocks
  • Transform development pathways
  • Link knowledge with action

Each of these capacities are interlinked and intersect with the conference themes, Clark claimed, though hesitating on the Degrowth theme, which seemed to him more prescriptive than opening up discovery on the issue of economy and environmental impact.

Persson had several comments on the paper, based on what had been heard from the past two days. She first queried the idea of capacities in terms of by and for whom. The question comes from much of the discussion had in the first session on Decolonisation: who needs capacities? who already has them? and whose capacities are not counted or visible? This, she said, comes from the tendency in sustainability science to look at “we” in recommendations without specificity. It was time to be honest over responsibilities and the roles that we have.

Related to that, she was missing the concept of leadership in this synthesis. Looking back to Stockholm 50 years ago, individuals did play a role: leadership was considered as very important. Is this an issue sustainability fields are forgetting? That said, she pointed to ongoing projects into the role of influences in mobilising change – a new form of modern leadership, perhaps?

In response to Clark’s hesitation to fit the Degrowth theme into his synthesis, Persson asked whether economics was a part of sustainability or a different field. She acknowledged the work of donut economics, regenerative and care economics and how to bring them in to sustainability science.

Finally, she commented on the word “transformation”, which is on everyone’s lips these days. What is the risk of transformation becoming a new floating empty signifier not unlike sustainable development? And to what extent does the scale or transformation lead to delay? The challenge might appear to be so big so that responsibility can be diffused.

Boyd reminded the panel that much of the discussion over the past two days did not necessarily probe new areas, but rather were the result of decades of challenging issues and constraints within the practises of sustainability science. This was further challenged by how sustainability was being mainstreamed across the university and instrumentalised in businesses and governments. She echoed a point from the decolonial discussion: these issues can not become check boxes with a measurable set of indicators, but are more reflexive processes of inquiry.

Such a challenge might, she suggested, require a coming out of the academic ivory towers in response to the changing world. AI, geopolitics, polarisation and other forms of resistances are part of transformations and represent varied forms of values and knowledges and the new contexts within which science-making occurs. To what extent, then, are the processes in sustainability reinforcing inequalities by not accounting for these?

This conference, according to Boyd, has been an exploration from the Swedish perspective. In her presentation she highlighted some important questions that emerged within the themes of the frontiers of sustainability science. Listed below:

  • Decolonisation: unlearning the what and how, bringing in care ethics and the material aspects of what we study;
  • Resistance: the idea of presence and making familiar the unfamiliar;
  • Degrowth: how to approach the issue of decoupling;
  • Digitalisations: The new stories, fragmentations and speeds of change;
  • Imaginaries: Mindsets, structures, and moving beyond existing models of creativity to open up beyond the scientific silo.

Somya Joshi finished the panel with a short presentation explaining that “the joys of going last is that most of what you want to say has been said already.” For her, however, the most provocative theme appeared to be inequity. Whether in the Decolonial themed conversations, or in Degrowth, or the Imaginaries session, many questioned resource extraction through an anthropocentric mindset. Therefore, sustainability science must question the idea of resource.

A comment came to Clark from Joshi: According to the paper, at the heart of human capacity is innovation. Joshi, however challenges this in the context of digitalisation. Lowering the threshold to participation through social media, for example, is fantastic in one level. But the risks of misinformation, or powerful elites instrumentalising these technologies are too large to ignore. Who is wielding these tools? Who is weaponising them?

For Joshi, then, this concerned knowledge – and structures of knowing – and required a shift to nurturing empathy and action. She echoed a question posed in an earlier workshop: How can imagined collective futures turn into something people could collaboratively work towards.

Read more on page two by clicking below.

Sustainability Frontiers: Inner Transformation and Imaginaries

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts about the Sustainability Frontiers conference, written by Laila Mendy. The first can be read here, the second post can be read here, and click here for the third.

Diego Galafassi curated the next session and explained how this session appeared to be cross-cutting, noting how the idea of the imagination and imaginaries had been brought up throughout conversations in the conference. Galafassi introduced the topic, shortly explaining that imagination and creativity is a real component and important skill for transformation. He was joined by panellists Myanna Lahsen, Henrik Karlsson and Lara Houston.

Myanna Lahsen began, following the same structure as the earlier sessions, with a five minute intervention into the theme from her own field. She probed the idea of the individual when it comes to inner transformations, suggesting that this is an important component but also a significant hurdle in societal change. As a cultural anthropologist by training, Lahsen explained that looking at who counts and where impact happens in democracies gives an indication that it is the economic elites, business-oriented organisations and interest groups who matter. So when it comes to the idea of inner transformation, scaling that is critical.

What may seem inner and private, she suggested however, is deeply social and political. This is where Sustainability science is struggling to work. There is a tendency to put faith into groups of people and assume that people will mobilise around an issue; scaling happens through the numbers. Social activism is assumed to be progressive, but we know this is not always the case. Little attention has given to how people come to know what they know in the first place. Lahsen argued that the political economy and market place of ideas is neglected in this field.

Lahsen then explained this issue in the context of mass media communications. Cognitive sciences show that repetition is needed to shape people and give them the ability to collectively frame an issue. This, arguably, is not understood as a power agent. Yet much of media is owned by the same groups who legitimise certain political issues through their own agendas. The example of Brasil was given, where the media was not recognised in terms of power. Addressing this gap is critical for social action: social marketing can lead to change, she said, without leaving the movements pushing an issue without support.

Henrik Karlsson followed with a presentation on the diversity in futures in literature and fiction. He started by plotting a matrix with general images of a desired future, prompted by his reaction to a Chinese participant in a Thai workshop who said sustainability is only possible with a strong leader. This table is imitated below:

Replicated from Karlsson’s presentation at Sustainability Frontiers.
The dotted arrow indicates “wishful thinking” from the West on the behalf of China’s future.

The figure above demonstrated how there is an assumption about what other (groups of) people might find desirable when discussing sustainable futures. He had assumed that China would move to the upper right quadrant. This began a search for the different forms of futures and what could be understood as desirable. Was it to maximise happiness? Human utility? Or perhaps it was about minimising suffering.

Asking different groups of environmental philosophers will get you different ideas on what means can be justified for the ends of sustainability futures, he explained. He quoted a Finnish philosopher, Pentti Linkola, whom Karlsson described as an eco-fascist for making the statement that “We still have a chance to be cruel. But if we are not cruel today all is lost.”

It was not only literature that had such provocative ideas of the future. Karlsson offered an image from a recent exhibition which probed the questions about whether the future needed us. The idea of human extinction, though, is not necessarily something he wants people to aim for when opening up ideas about alternative futures. Rather this was mentioned merely to provoke new ways of thinking about what wider possibilities could exist.

The final presentation came from Lara Houston who discussed creative practises for futures transformations. This included different forms of aesthetic, experiential, multi-sensory and embodied experiences to enable transformations to sustainability.

One exemplification of this, The Hollogram, was elaborated on in the presentation during which it was described as having enabled a collective imagining of sustainability transformations through expanding shared meanings and feelings. The experience demonstrated how knowledge politics can be misunderstood in sustainability sciences. The idea of empathy was brought up here in how it can be motivating for mobilising action towards sustainability during processes of change.

The impact was a transformation on the understanding of relationships, particularly of friendship. The experience had challenged cultures of financialisation, in which some forms of friendship can be considered transactional. The move away from these modes of relationships may, it was argued, lead towards a shift in more sustainable living.

In the plenary, Galafassi asked the panellists to think more on imaginations as a type of transformative capacity. Houston responded first by discussing imaginaries in the context of art installations. Imagination points towards an individual cognitive experience, but this is done within a shared collective. Lahsen had similar approaches, this time considered in terms of agency and obstacles in new technologies and media systems. There are ways to overcome obstacles to opening up ideas and capacities, such as public wisdom councils. Social marketing really works, but there is aversion to this. Polarisation is happening, but these technologies can be used for good: VR empathy, for example. See the Oxford Handbook of Compassion Science for more examples. For Karlsson much of this discussion concerned interdisciplinary partnerships. He suggested that throughout history, academia has had better practises for moving across disciplines. These should be explored again today.

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