Special Issue "Understanding the Society-Environmental Policy-Practice Nexus and Its Implications for Sustainability Transformations under Uncertain Futures"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Air, Climate Change and Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 December 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Abiy S. Kebede
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Brunel University London, Uxbridge UB8 3PH, UK
Interests: Climate and socio-economic changes; sea-level rise and flood risk assessment; coastal adaptation; cross-sectoral impacts; robustness of adaptation policies; food-water-land-ecosystems nexus; sustainability; spatial analysis
Dr. Shona K. Paterson
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
College of Business, Arts and Social Sciences, Brunel University London, Uxbridge UB8 3PH, UK
Interests: Global challenges, climate adaptation and adaptive capacity in urbanising coastal areas, governance, equity and social justice, transdisciplinary approaches to transformation

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The impacts of climate and socio-economic changes cross traditional sectoral, spatial, and temporal boundaries [1]. These are likely to cause cascading and potentially far-reaching repercussions on the social, economic, and environmental systems, with important implications for sustainability and sustainable development. Insights on the pace and magnitudes of these risks highlight the urgent need for devising appropriate adaptation responses to cope with the multifaceted challenges of climate change [e.g., 2]. In practice, climate change adaptation often takes various forms, involving a portfolio of measures, ranging from incremental infrastructural adjustments and socio-technical transitions to transformative changes across sectors and scales, and involving multiple actors such as communities and businesses. This is essential for building sustainable and resilient futures under uncertain changing conditions. Forging pathways to such futures means understanding the complex society–policy–practice interactions and associated synergies and trade-offs, and formulating appropriate ways of transforming socio-ecological systems.

With a growing shift away from ‘incremental adaptation’, the theme of transformative changes as part of climate change adaptation has been steadily gaining attention in the scientific literature worldwide [e.g., 3–6]. As such, various studies have used a multiplicity of terms, such as transition [e.g., 7], transformative [e.g., 8], transformational [e.g., 9], transformative agency [e.g., 10] and others, to describe the need for non-linear systemic changes [e.g., 11]. Potentially, this involves fundamental adjustments within and across the social, technological, economic, environmental, and political process spheres, to fully address global sustainability challenges. A rapidly expanding body of literature has explored various aspects of sustainability transformations, ranging from technical [e.g., 12], governance [e.g., 13], practice [e.g., 14], to justice [e.g., 15] and personal [e.g.,11] contexts. However, how the various aspects interact, and what the potential implications are, are still poorly understood, highlighting the need to develop the knowledge base to support policy and practice in societal transformations towards sustainable futures. This Special Issue aims to contribute to the emerging literature by addressing this gap, particularly focusing on understanding the society–policy–practice nexus interactions, synergies and trade-offs, and implications for sustainability. This is achieved through: (i) developing a comprehensive understanding of the social, economic, and environmental impacts and their interactions of exogenous and endogenous drivers of change, (ii) identifying the key scientific, policy, and practice barriers to informing robust transformational adaptation to climate change, (iii) identifying potential pathways of change toward the transformative global aspirations of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development [e.g., 16], and (iv) identifying and implementing equitable pathways to sustainable development (SDG16), encapsulating questions of justice and human rights [17], inclusivity [18], equity [19], education [20], and economic models [21].

We are confident that, with your contributions, the Special Issue can provide critical insights into addressing the scientific, policy, and practice challenges of climate change adaptation and sustainable development, as well as identifying alternative pathways to transformation in society and environmental policy in uncertain future climate and socio-economic conditions. Contributions may include original research, comprehensive review articles, or critical theoretical perspectives on recent advances on understanding the key challenges and opportunities to sustainability transformation.

References:

[1] Harrison PA, Dunford R, Savin C et al. (2015) Cross-sectoral impacts of climate change and socioeconomic change for multiple, European land- and water-based sectors. Climatic Change, 128(3-4): 279–292.

[2] Driessen P, Behagel J, Hegger D et al. (2013) Societal Transformations in the Face of Climate Change. 2013.

[3] Fedele G, Donatti CI, Harvey, CA et al. (2020) Limited use of transformative adaptation in response to social-ecological shifts driven by climate change. Ecol Soc, 25(1):25.

[4] Feola G (2015) Societal transformation in response to global environmental change. Ambio, 44:376–390.

[5] Few R, Morchain D, Spear D et al. (2017) Transformation, adaptation and development: relating concepts to practice. Palgrave Communications, 3:17092.

[6] Burch S, Shaw A, Dale A et al. (2014) Triggering transformative change: a development path approach to climate change response in communities. Clim Policy, 14(4):467–487.

[7] Tompkins EL, Adger WN, Boyd E et al. (2010). Observed adaptation to climate change: UK evidence of transition to a well-adapting society. Global Environ Chang, 20(4):627–635.

[8] Park SE, Marshal NA, Jakky E et al. (2012) Informing adaptation responses to climate change through theories of transformation. Global Environ Chang, 22(1):115–126.

[9] Kates RW, Travis WR, Wilbanks TJ (2012) Transformational adaptation when incremental adaptations to climate change are insufficient. PNAS, 109(19):7156–7161.

[10] Westley FR, Tjornbo O, Schultz L et al. (2013) A theory of transformative agency in linked socialecological systems. Ecol Soc, 18(3):27.

[11] Wibeck V, Linner B-O, Alves M et al. (2019) Stories of transformations: A cross-country focus groupd study on sustainable development and societal change. Sustainability, 11:2427.

[12] Trutnevyte E, Hirt LF, Bauer N et al. (2019) Societal Transformations in Models for Energy and Climate Policy: The Ambitious Next Step. One Earth, 1:423–433.

[13] Patterson J, Schultz K, Vervoort J et al. (2017) Exploring the governance and politics of transformations towards sustainability. Environ Innov Soc Transit, 24:1–16.

[14] Vermeulen SJ, Dinesh D, Howden SM et al. (2018) Transformation in Practice: A Review of Empirical Cases of Transformational Adaptation in Agriculture Under Climate Change. Front Sustain Food Syst, 2:65. 3

[15] Blythe J, Silver J, Evans L et al. (2018) The dark side of transformation: latent risks in contemporary sustainability discourse. Antipode, 50(5):1206–1223.

[16] IPCC (2018) Global Warming of 1.5◦C. An IPCC Special Report on the Impacts of Global Warming of 1.5◦C above Pre-industrial levels and related global GHG Emission Pathways in the Context of Strengthening the Global Response to the Threat of Climate Change, Sustainable Development, and Efforts to Eradicate Poverty, Masson-Delmotte et al. (Eds.), 616pp.

[17] Menton M, Larrea C, Latorre S et al. (2020) Environmental justice and the SDGs: From synergies to gaps and contradictions. Sustain Sci.

[18] Arts K (2017) Inclusive sustainable development: A human rights perspective. Curr Opin Env Sust, 24:58–62.

[19] Fleurbaey M, Kartha S, Bolwig S et al. (2014) Sustainable development and equity. In: O. Edenhofer et al. (Eds.), Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, New York, USA, 350pp.

[20] Barrett MJ, Harmin M, Maracle B et al. (2017) Shifting relations with the more-than-human: six threshold concepts for transformative sustainability learning. Environ Educ Res, 23(1):131–143.

[21] EMF (2013) Towards the circular economy. Economic and Business Rationale for Accelerated Transition, Ellen-MacArthur Foundation, 96pp.

Dr. Abiy S. Kebede
Dr. Shona K. Paterson
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Climate and socio-economic change
  • Impact assessment
  • Science-policy-practice nexus
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Transformational adaptation policies
  • Society transformation
  • Socio-economic transformations
  • Sustainability transformations
  • Sustainable development
  • Sustainable development goals (SGDs)

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

Article
An Assessment of Environmental Policy Implications under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor: A Perspective of Environmental Laws and Sustainable Development
Sustainability 2021, 13(20), 11223; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su132011223 - 12 Oct 2021
Viewed by 239
Abstract
Environmental issues know no boundaries and are recognised as a matter of regional and/or global concern, and neighbouring countries have to face shared environmental effects. Environmental laws internationally, particularly in the last thirty years, have grown significantly and have contributed to environmental protection [...] Read more.
Environmental issues know no boundaries and are recognised as a matter of regional and/or global concern, and neighbouring countries have to face shared environmental effects. Environmental laws internationally, particularly in the last thirty years, have grown significantly and have contributed to environmental protection in a variety of national, regional and international management strategies. In recent years, environmental legislation has entered into a responsible and mature phase in several non-Western countries, particularly in Asia. The present study examines the shared environmental obligations of regional or neighbouring countries using China and Pakistan as a case study and provides references from international (environmental) laws as well as states’ best practices. This study adopts a well-defined analytical methodology to not only investigate the implications of environmental laws but also to define the gaps in the existing framework of environmental laws in the region and recommend appropriate grounds to systematically fill these gaps through much-needed legal cooperation before it is too late. The study provides a detailed analysis and pertinent knowledge horizons, and concludes that there is an abrupt need for China and Pakistan to revise their trade agreements and include the environment as an integral part of each mega-infrastructural activity, including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Most of the potential outcomes are already known but there is little academic discussion available concerning the perspective of cross-boundary environmental laws, and the present study intends to fill this gap. Full article
Article
“Trees Are Our Relatives”: Local Perceptions on Forestry Resources and Implications for Climate Change Mitigation
Sustainability 2021, 13(11), 5885; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su13115885 - 24 May 2021
Viewed by 621
Abstract
The link between nature and society is vital for climate change mitigation and sustainable natural recourse management. Based on a case study of the indigenous people of Mbire in Zimbabwe, we argue that perceptions of indigenous people about forestry resources provide useful pointers [...] Read more.
The link between nature and society is vital for climate change mitigation and sustainable natural recourse management. Based on a case study of the indigenous people of Mbire in Zimbabwe, we argue that perceptions of indigenous people about forestry resources provide useful pointers toward framing climate mitigation interventions. This interest was necessitated by the growing call to address the suppression of forest-rich indigenous communities in climate change science. Accordingly, the aim of the study was to understand how indigenous people can contribute to the abatement of climate change. The study engaged 32 purposively selected elderly participants in focus group discussions; these participants had long histories of staying in the villages studied and were figures whom the locals regarded as “experts” in giving credible inferences about their environment. The participants corroboratively perceived forests and trees as their own “relatives”, who should not be harmed because of the support they continue to generously give to the people. Their construct of climate change relates to the gradual but continuing trivialization of cultural beliefs and abandonment of traditional practices, which they believe offend the spirits who have powers to influence the climate system. Although their attribution view on climate change is in contrast with that of mainstream climate scientists, we argue that their profound acknowledgement of climatic change, coupled with their scientific understanding of the intrinsic relationship between people’s wellbeing and the environment, are key entry points to design sustainable climate mitigation programs at community scales. The sustainability of such programs should not ignore local belief systems and strategies that communities use in preserving their forests. Full article
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Article
Cross-Societal Analysis of Climate Change Awareness and Its Relation to SDG 13: A Knowledge Synthesis from Text Mining
Sustainability 2021, 13(10), 5596; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su13105596 - 17 May 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 636
Abstract
The awareness and the engagement of various stakeholders play a crucial role in the successful implementation of climate policy and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 13, which refers to climate action, has three targets for combating climate change and its impact. Among the [...] Read more.
The awareness and the engagement of various stakeholders play a crucial role in the successful implementation of climate policy and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 13, which refers to climate action, has three targets for combating climate change and its impact. Among the three targets, SDG 13.3 aims to “improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction, and early warning”. This target should be implemented based on the understanding of climate change awareness among various groups of societies. Furthermore, the indicator related to awareness-raising is absent in SDG 13.3. Hence, this study aims to explore the differences in climate change awareness among various social groups within a country from a text mining technique. By collecting and analyzing a large volume of text data from various sources, climate change awareness was investigated from a multilateral perspective. Two text analyses were utilized for this purpose: Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) topic modeling and term co-occurrence network analysis. In order to integrate and comparatively analyze the awareness differences among diverse groups, extracted topics were compared by classifying them into four indicators derived from the detailed targets in SDG 13.3: mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction, and early warning. The results show that the Korean public exhibited a relatively high awareness of early warning compared to the other four groups, and the media dealt with climate change issues with the widest perspective. The Korean government and academia notably had a high awareness of both climate change mitigation and adaptation. In addition, corporations based in Korea were observed to have substantially focused awareness on climate change mitigation for greenhouse gas reduction. This research successfully explored the disproportion and lack of climate change awareness formed in different societies of public, social, government, industry, and academic groups. Consequently, these results could be utilized as a decision criterion for society-tailored policy formulation and promoting climate action. Our results suggest that this methodology could be utilized as a new SDG indicator and to measure the differences in awareness. Full article
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Article
Stakeholder Expectations of Future Policy Implementation Compared to Formal Policy Trajectories: Scenarios for Agricultural Food Systems in the Mekong Delta
Sustainability 2021, 13(10), 5534; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su13105534 - 15 May 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 738
Abstract
The development of a coherent and coordinated policy for the management of large socio-agricultural systems, such as the Mekong delta in southern Vietnam, is reliant on aligning the development, delivery, and implementation of policy on national to local scales. Effective decision making is [...] Read more.
The development of a coherent and coordinated policy for the management of large socio-agricultural systems, such as the Mekong delta in southern Vietnam, is reliant on aligning the development, delivery, and implementation of policy on national to local scales. Effective decision making is linked to a coherent, broadly-shared vision of the strategic management of socio-agricultural systems. However, when policies are ambiguous, and at worst contradictory, long-term management and planning can consequently suffer. These potential adverse impacts may be compounded if stakeholders have divergent visions of the current and future states of socio-agricultural systems. Herein we used a transferable, scenario-based methodology which uses a standard quadrant matrix in order to explore both anticipated and idealized future states. Our case study was the Mekong delta. The scenario matrix was based upon two key strategic choices (axis) for the delta, derived from analysis of policy documents, literature, stakeholder engagement, and land use models. These are: (i) who will run agriculture in the future, agri-business or the established commune system; and (ii) to what degree sustainability will be incorporated into production. During a workshop meeting, stakeholders identified that agri-business will dominate future agricultural production in the delta but showed a clear concern that sustainability might consequently be undermined despite policy claims of the contrary. As such, our study highlights an important gap between national expectations and regional perspectives. Our results suggest that the new development plans for the Mekong delta (which comprise a new Master Plan and a new 5-year socio-economic development plan), which emphasize agro-business development, should adopt approaches that address concerns of sustainability as well as a more streamlined policy formulation and implementation that accounts for stakeholder concerns at both provincial and national levels. Full article
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Article
How Industrialization Stage Moderates the Impact of China’s Low-Carbon Pilot Policy?
Sustainability 2020, 12(24), 10577; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su122410577 - 17 Dec 2020
Viewed by 668
Abstract
The goal of China’s low-carbon pilot policy (LCP) is not only to solve the problem of climate change but, more importantly, to achieve the low-carbon transformation of cities. This paper analyzes the industrialization stage’s moderating effect on LCP policy implementation using the difference-in-difference [...] Read more.
The goal of China’s low-carbon pilot policy (LCP) is not only to solve the problem of climate change but, more importantly, to achieve the low-carbon transformation of cities. This paper analyzes the industrialization stage’s moderating effect on LCP policy implementation using the difference-in-difference model (DID) with the Low Carbon Development Index (LCDI) as the explained variable. We find that for the low-carbon pilot cities (LCPCs) at the later stage of industrialization, the LCP policy has a positive impact on LCDI, gradually increasing with the study period’s extension. The marginal impact reaches its maximum in the second year after its implementation. For the LCPCs at the middle stage of industrialization, the LCP policy has a weakly negative impact on LCDI. The marginal impact does not change to positive until the fourth year after its implementation. In terms of mechanism analysis, the LCP policy enhances LCDI by slowing down the industrialization process and boosting innovation; the industrialization stage does not constrain the effect. In contrast, the LCP policy’s impact on LCDI by facilitating FDI (Foreign Direct Investment)inflows is strongly influenced by the industrialization stage. For the LCPCs at the later stage of industrialization, the LCP policy can enhance LCDI through FDI. For the LCPCs at the middle stage of industrialization, the LCP policy reduces the inflow of FDI, and the positive effect of FDI on LCDI does not pass the significance test. Thus, this paper argues that a one-size-fits-all strategy to policy implementation should be avoided. Instead, the industrialization stage should be considered a criterion for city classification, and a differentiated target responsibility assessment mechanism should be adopted according to local conditions. Full article
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