NEWS 2020-10-12

New grants to realise the Sustainable Development Goals

Several researchers at the Beijer Institute together with colleagues from its partners Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere (GEDB) and Stockholm Resilience Centre, were among the successful applicants to receive funding for projects designed to create research aimed at achieving the UN’s global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The call Realising the Sustainable Development Goals from the Swedish research council Formas, received a total of 174 applications, but only 11 projects were selected for funding. Two of them, receiving SEK 20 million each, are the projects described below.

Inequality and the Biosphere: Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in an Unequal World

Reducing inequalities in society and maintaining healthy ecosystems are fundamental to achieving sustainable development, yet the interactions between these goals have been largely underexplored. An improvement in one SDG can enhance, but also undermine another goal, thereby hindering their collective achievement. This project led by the Beijer Institute aims to identify synergies and trade-offs between reducing inequalities (SDG 10) while protecting life on land and below water (SDGs 14 and 15).

The team of researchers will collect and synthesize data at different scales to identify patterns between different based SDGs requires mapping data, not only on economic, but also on social, cultural, political, and other kinds of inequality against a diverse range of environmental indicators.

They will also investigate critical processes through which inequalities in natural resource production and management systems enable or hinder the achievement of biosphere-related SDGs, as exemplified in the seafood and palm oil industries in Indonesia. In parallel the team will engage with stakeholders in local communities in Indonesia, as well as governments, businesses, and NGOs from local to global levels, to identify practices that can harness win/win interactions between SDGs while minimizing trade-offs.

This project will therefore not only contribute new data and scientific knowledge regarding the interactions between key SDGs, but also enable the application of this knowledge for transformative action at the local, regional, as well as global scale.

The Inequality and the Biosphere project originated from the second cohort of the Beijer Young Scholars, a program initiated to create international networks of early-career researchers to stimulate cooperation across disciplines and the emergence of new research paths in response to global sustainability challenges. It is led by the Beijer Institute and involves all members of the Beijer Young Scholars 2-group, either as core team members or partners.

Principal investigator: Carl Folke. Junior principal investigators: Caroline Schill (Beijer Institute), Patrik Henriksson (Beijer Institute and Stockholm Resilience Centre), Emilie Lindkvist and Juan Rocha (Stockholm Resilience Centre). Senior advisor: Anne-Sophie Crépin.

The economics of planetary boundaries

The Planetary boundaries concept first developed by Rockström et al. in 2009 where scientists proposed quantitative planetary boundaries within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive. Building on this concept the second project looks at how policies to stay within one boundary can affect other boundaries.

Human activities are pushing the Earth system beyond its “planetary boundaries”, risking catastrophic environmental change. Action is urgently needed, yet well-intentioned policies designed to reduce pressure on a single boundary can, through economic feedbacks, lead to aggravation of other pressures. Furthermore, since the agricultural sector is a major source of environmental change, environmental policies may lead to increased food prices and more hunger.

In this project the aim is to explore which policies would keep humanity within the planet’s safe operating space while meeting other Sustainable Development Goals. The interdisciplinary research team, consisting of economists and environmental scientists, will develop and quantify an economic-environmental integrated assessment model (IAM) for the analysis of the nine planetary pressures and policies to ease them. The IAM will be made available through an online tool, for policy makers and researchers to use for analysis. The team also seeks to answer questions such as: What would be the impact on the planetary pressures if we solve the climate and hunger problem simultaneously? What is the effect on the planetary pressures of directing technical change towards agriculture? How should the energy system be changed in order to enable economic growth within the planetary boundaries?

The project runs for four years starting in December 2020. It is led by Daniel Spiro, Uppsala University. Beijer Institute project members are Gustav Engström and Johan Gars. Team members from partners GEDB and Stockholm Resilience centre are Sarah Cornell, Steve Lade and Peter Søgaard Jørgensen.