The world is eight years away from the target to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Reaching the milestone requires intensifying efforts and utilizing innovative approaches to tackle the current challenges while also safeguarding the prosperity of future generations. Environmental sustainability remains at the core of the UN’s Agenda 2030, with strong links to poverty reduction and improving health and well-being. By focusing on the connections between sustainability science and policy, SEI contributes to advancing the evidence base of sustainability-enhancing strategies.
SEI’s “Knowledge for action” 2020-2024 strategy stresses the need to define tangible research and policy impact pathways by leveraging stakeholder engagement, communications and monitoring, evaluation and learning tools. It also highlights cross-institutional, multidisciplinary and multi-geographical collaborations as central to alleviating the environmental risks to our shared humanity. These multistakeholder collaborations and research impact pathways align with the funding principles of research councils across Sweden and the EU, leading to awards of over 240 million SEK in the 2022 funding round to SEI. The grants come from development and research councils including FORMAS, Sida, Viable Cities, NICFI, MISTRA and the OECD.
“By engaging relevant stakeholders and mapping research impact pathways, SEI remains committed to ensuring that research not only informs policy, but is tied to tangible outcomes in addressing climate risks and vulnerabilities. We are pleased that our funders share this commitment and choose to support our research and engagement going forward.”
— SEI Deputy Director and Research Director Åsa Persson
From collaborative research projects on carbon neutrality to developing and utilizing data-driven sustainability tools such as Trase, a transparency initiative led by Global Canopy and SEI, SEI’s science-based and evaluative impact approach is a pacesetter for the interlinkages between sustainability research and policy. The newly funded projects in the 2022 applications round include the following.
MEFadapt focuses on improving understanding of the transboundary implications of climate change by considering the consequences of climate vulnerabilities and adaptation strategies on global mineral, energy and food systems. The project recognizes the cascading negative effects of the interactions between climatic and non-climate risks and seeks to contribute towards managing the distributional and potentially inequitable effects of climate resilience strategies. Its planned output is the creation of governance frameworks for managing transboundary climate risks in just, legitimate and effective ways and to inform effective adaptation governance in Sweden, the EU and beyond. It also seeks to increase societal focus and action on transboundary climate risks through strategic stakeholder engagements. The project leverages on existing databases and a mix of innovative research approaches, including database visualization and modelling, scenario analysis, network analysis and interactive policy simulation.
A related project funded by FORMAS is “Investigating Procedural and Distributive Equity in Decentralised Adaptation Finance”. The project seeks to improve procedural equity of current models for financing climate adaptation following new commitments in the 2021 Glasgow Climate Pact to scale up financing for global climate funds. It analyzes the top-down centralized nature of adaptation financing decisions that occur through accrediting national entities to directly manage global funds. Amid concerns of elite capture at the national and sub-national levels and administrative barriers of accessing adaptation funds, less than 10% of funds reach targeted vulnerable communities. This centralized adaptation finance approach is juxtaposed with new decentralized models of finance delivery that devolve financial control to national and sub-national levels and allow sub-grants to locally organized entities. The project’s unique contribution lies in analyzing the potential for scaling up new decentralized financing models to support more locally led and equitable adaptation financing.
Two projects that emphasize multi-geographical and multi-scalar approaches to environmental governance received over 110 million SEK in funding grants. One project aims to support the national and local governments in Bosnia and Herzegovina in implementing and monitoring environmental strategies while also supporting two coal municipalities in preparing sustainable transition plans. A related multi-site project in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine and focuses on supporting green transitions through conducting local assessments and co-developing roadmaps for applications of the EU Green Deal framework.
SEI collaborative projects
SEI also received funding for the InnovaCuba programme, which aims to promote innovation for climate adaptation through entrepreneurship. The programme is the result of prior baseline assessments of coastal vulnerability in Cuba and collaborations between SEI, SIDA and Cuba’s Institute of Geophysics and Astronomy. The programme entails action plans for improving climate resilience and promoting entrepreneurship through support to emerging micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises working towards increased climate resilience. It emphasizes building capacity for entrepreneurship around the circular use of resources to improve water and sanitation services and value creation through utilizing Cuba’s biological resources.
A network of 38 actors, including SEI also received funding for the Co-Creating Better Blue research programme led by researchers at the University of Gothenburg. The programme is part of Mistra’s “A sustainable blue economy” initiative that aims to improve cross-sectoral collaborations for the currently fragmented marine governance landscape in Sweden. While emphasizing a co-creation approach, the programme considers how ocean services such as shipping, aquaculture and tourism can coexist in a sustainable manner. It utilizes living labs in the Gulf of Bothnia and the Baltic and North Seas for testing marine innovations and proposing practical approaches for improving ocean sustainability.
To reinforce research partnerships and reduce siloed perspectives, the collaborative efforts between SEI and Stockholm University has led to both institutions securing seed funding of over 100 000 SEK for two research projects. The power of arts, storytelling and climate policy is led by Therese Bennich and will analyse how varied audiences perceive photos, text and illustrations and the possibilities of changing climate policy. The second project, which focuses on assessing the effectiveness of stakeholder collaborations to address climate change, is led by Mairon G. Bastos Lima. The planned outcomes of these seed-funded projects are to strengthen the multidisciplinary and inter-institutional collaborations between SEI and Stockholm University and create opportunities for joint research grant proposals by the end of 2023.
The Swedish International Agriculture Network Initiative (SIANI) hosted at SEI is a Swedish-based global, open and inclusive network platform that supports and promotes multi-sector dialogue and action around sustainable food systems. SEI has received 57 million SEK for managing SIANI’s fourth phase (SIANI 4) from 2021-2027. The SIANI Secretariat based at SEI in collaboration with the Forest Climate and Livelihood (Focali) network and Swedish Agricultural University will work towards a sustainable and rights-based food system during the new programme phase. The programme emphasizes an inclusive approach comprising smallholder farmers, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and marginalized groups.
The environmental threats to our shared human prosperity are becoming severe with each passing day. More than ever, innovation and knowledge application within sustainability science and policy are needed to inform sustainable consumption, protection of ecosystems, sustainable business practices and resource management. We are grateful to all our funders for believing in the SEI model and we hope that our continued collaborations will contribute towards attaining the shared vision of a sustainable world.