Realising Just and Sustainable Futures

We are passionate about solutions-oriented research involving co-designing, implementing and evaluating sustainability pathways like nature-based solutions that have the potential to promote just and sustainable futures.

We firmly believe that researchers need to critically reflect on what ‘just science’ means in the 21st Century, and how a new mode of science can foster social learning and adaptive capacity in communities faced with urgent environmental challenges.

Background

Nature-based solutions (NBS) are solutions that are inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience (European Commission, 2015). NBS can deliver multiple benefits across social, ecological, economic and governance dimensions (Raymond et al. 2017; Frantzeskaki et al. 2019), but they can also lead to unjust solutions or result in more instead of less injustices.

In partnership with EKLIPSE, we published a report on nature-based solutions to promote climate resilience in urban areas – developing an impact evaluation framework.  This is available online.  A core element of this report involves the assessment of the relationships between nature-based solutions and human well-being.

This report is the outcome of a request from the European Commission DG Research and Innovation to develop an assessment framework to evaluate the multiple benefits, disservices, trade-offs and synergies of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS). The main purpose of the request is to apply this framework to H2020-funded NBS demonstration projects for increasing urban resilience to climate change.  See Figure 1 and 2 below for an overview of the framework.

Human-Nature Transformations Sustainable Future

Figure 1 - The nature-based solutions impact assessment framework.

Challenges

Despite the amounting research and publications about ways cities adapt and transform with new solutions and approaches of NBS co-design, co-implementation and co-evaluation, the knowledge is diffused and fragmented in terms of how these solutions contribute to environmental justice and sustainable futures. We need new conceptualizations and approaches for understanding the interplay between justice and NBS; new methods for assessing how NBS interact with different dimensions of justice, and the conflicts and trade-offs resulting from this interaction.

Objectives

  1. Develop novel tools for assessing the co-benefits and costs (including synergies and trade-offs) of sustainability pathways like nature-based solutions on elements of social inclusion, justice and well-being (including safety and security).
  2. Explore and examine the contributions of nature-based solutions, among other pathways, on biodiversity, social inclusion, justice, well-being and regenerative place making.
  3. Critically reflect on how solutions-oriented sustainability science supports or hinders just outcomes, and based on these insights, develop new modes of science that can foster social learning and adaptive capacity of those affected by rapid environmental change.

Relevant Publications​

Raymond, C.M., Frantzeskaki, N., Kabisch, N., Berry, P., Breil, M., Razvan Nita, M., Geneletti, D., and Calfapietra, C. (2017). A framework for assessing and implementing the co-benefits of nature-based solutions in urban areas. Environmental Science and Policy 77: 15-24.