Europe on the verge of the sustainability transition – How can we put the best knowledge to use?

Europe will not be able to reach its environment, energy and climate goals for 2030 without stricter climate policy as well as rapid intervention in the overexploitation of natural resources and land use. This is the core message of the European Environment Agency’s sixth report regarding the state and outlook of the environment in Europe. To make our food, energy, housing and mobility systems sustainable, Europe needs a comprehensive sustainability transition. Close cooperation between various research fields as well as the stakeholders using the knowledge is crucial when the messages from the report are implemented as concrete actions on various levels.

This publication compiles comments from Stakeholder Interaction Process (SIP) events organised in 2020 in Finland for The European Environment – State and Outlook (SOER 2020). We sought answers to the following questions: what kind of knowledge is needed to support the sustainability transition? How should this knowledge be produced so it can be used more efficiently while supporting decision-making and the economic sector? What kinds of structures and roles could help share knowledge?

The events were hosted jointly by the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), the Forum for Environmental Information (YTF) and Ministry of Environment. The August event was additionally organised in cooperation with Young Academy Finland.

Messages from the Finnish SOER2020 SIP events: producing and exchanging knowledge on the verge of the sustainability transition

  • Cooperate to build clear pathways from the recommendations in global assessment reports to governmental and local policymaking. Cooperation among researchers, policymakers and other institutions using the knowledge is necessary to put it to use. The goal should be to bring the messages from research into binding action plans and objectives.
    • We must ensure that the policy recommendations in the reports are based on research, with clear source references, also in abstracts and recommendations.
  • Integrate research into the policy processes of the EU and national governments. Researchers can support the planning, evaluation and implementation of a just transition. Environmental indicators must be determined in close cooperation between researchers and decision-makers, and foresight activities should be included in the core processes of policymaking.
  • Encourage researchers to engage in multidisciplinary research which can tackle extensive issues and present systemic solutions.
  • Support multi-voiced dialogue in knowledge production. Involving various actors improves commitment to the implementation of the recommendations.
  • Create practical tools to accompany the reports, including indicators and methods for different actors. For example, how can we know when we are on the path to a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees, or successfully preventing biodiversity loss?
    • For example, indicators for the effectiveness of measures for biodiversity are particularly direly needed.
  • Increase funding models that support broad transdisciplinary knowledge creation as well as interaction between researchers and the actors using the knowledge.
  • Create incentives for increasing research impact. Ideally, the career tracks of researchers should also consider the researchers’ efforts in societal interaction.
  • Support mediator roles and organisations. Take advantage of existing networks in sharing knowledge while supporting both researchers and mediating organisations in implementing the knowledge.
  • Consider the connections between global assessment reports and create syntheses. Closer cooperation among expert panels will help increase understanding of the connections between climate change, biodiversity loss and the various aspects of sustainability.
  • Fund and continue collecting extensive monitoring data and long time series. We do not yet know in what ways the information we collect today may be needed in the future.
  • Promote closer cooperation between researchers and companies. Researchers can help companies direct their investments to more sustainable targets and survive the sustainability transition.
  • Integrate sustainability transitions, systemic change and knowledge co-creation more explicitly in researcher education. Enable young researchers to make a difference.

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