Tag: interview

SweDev interview series: meet Naghmeh Nasiritousi

rooftop garden

Naghmeh Nasiritousi is an Associated professor and researcher at Stockholm University and the Swedish Institute of International Affairs. She works primarily with issues around climate action in the post-Paris climate policy landscape.

Q: Can we talk about sustainable development solutions or is it better to refer to alternative sustainable solutions to development?

A: In my research, I look at pathways towards carbon neutrality and investigate how governments aim to go net-zero. The Paris Agreement came up with a bottom-up architecture in which governments themselves choose solutions. We aim to assess how governments come up with these. We are facing unprecedented climate change consequences: it is not enough to simply reduce emissions, but we need to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Viable solutions do exist. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said we need to redefine development, including concepts such as well-being economy, aiming at leaving no one behind. This is a much more holistic vision than current models: focusing more on human development, rather than only economic development, would also increase resilience.

Q: Your PhD thesis from Linköping University (Nasiritousi, 2016) examined the roles of non-state actors in global climate change governance. How is the state-of-the-art today, 7 years after the adoption of the Paris Agreement?

A: The literature has been growing very fast due to the more prominent role of non-state actors in the policy area internationally. Recent literature emphasizes the need for coordination and multilateral cooperation. We also see the need for directionality where governments set a role. As a researcher, I have attended several UN climate meetings and had the opportunity to observe different non-state actors and the ways in which they seek to influence policy-makers. We must consider that non-state actors represent different interests. My thesis showed that there are many types of non-state actors involved in climate governance, and that it is important to recognize that they do not all pull in the same direction. Governments can engage non-state actors to accelerate decarbonization, but it is still the state that has responsibility for making sure action is taken to reduce emissions.

Q: Small-income and developing countries are often severely affected by extreme climate phenomena and have at the same time fewer resources to counteract or contain them. How can locally grounded solutions – promoted by these countries’ universities and research centres – be supported as opposed to top-down forms of aid?

A: This is a very big question in climate policy. There is a huge demand for capacity support and financial resources, but often actors from the North are reluctant to direct those resources.

I do believe that both solutions, bottom-up and top-down, are needed. I’m not an expert on how to make this happen, but I would suggest creating more partnerships involving developing countries. Capacity building needs to start from the local level using existing expertise.

Q: You lead the project Pathways to Carbon Neutrality, funded by the Swedish Energy Agency. Could you tell us what that is? Which are the implications for Sweden within the European and global climate frameworks?

A: We are studying strategies submitted by countries, aiming to identify how each country defines decarbonatization. By examining what different states highlight as viable paths toward net-zero economies, we also explore how international cooperation could accelerate the transition. For instance, we examine the idea of “climate clubs” that had previously been highlighted by economists but that are also frequently mentioned in policy circles, such as by G7 leader Germany. While the idea of climate clubs carries different meanings in the literature, the prevalent one in the economic literature is about a group of ambitious countries benefitting from reducing emissions, while punishing non-members through sanctions for example. We examine the political feasibility and desirability of this idea and how other types of climate cooperation could accelerate decarbonization. We also examine the European Green Deal and its design of a carbon border adjustment mechanism that would represent the world’s first carbon border tariffs. Sweden has been active in many international cooperation initiatives on climate and has a prominent role in initiatives on industrial decarbonization.

Q: SweDev aims to connect development researchers across Sweden to strengthen collaboration with practitioners. Which are your three most important research-based outcomes contributing to the 2030 Agenda and carbon-stockage projects that you would like to share with your colleagues or practitioners?

A: 1. We are experiencing a slow shift in reducing emissions, and it is not enough with incremental change. Today we have much of the knowledge and many solutions, but politics still play a central role when it comes to implementing and navigating interests, many coming from vested interests that depend on continuing fossil-based economies;

2. Power inequalities need to be addressed: greater participation in decision-making, especially from marginalized actors;

3. Politicians can accelerate the transition by enhancing the coalition of actors and strengthening the voices calling for transformation.

The recent war is once again emphasizing the need for systems thinking. The high fuel prices should lead us to higher investments in renewables. We need more synergies to face crises in the upcoming decades.

Written by Alessandro Giacardi, Communication, and Research Intern at Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) for the Development and Aid Policy Team and SweDev. Edited by Alice Castensson, and Ylva Rylander at Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).

SweDev’s interview series: Meet Veronica Brodén Gyberg

Green leaf.

Veronica Brodén Gyberg, Senior Lecturer at Linköping University, studies the preconditions for sustainable development and just transitions, and climate aid in and for low-income countries.

Q: Global challenges are putting a lot of emphasis on the word “sustainability.” Part of your research centred around climate security challenges. What are your research findings in sustainable development and cooperation in low and middle-income countries?

A: The concept of sustainability is clearly not new, but the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has placed it higher up on policy agendas, underlining the need to balance social, ecological and economic dimensions. In the implementation, however, it can be a challenge to identify and address both potential synergies and trade-offs between these dimensions. For example, with foreign aid, there may be high level policy underlining the need to integrate gender, conflict, environment and climate in all operations, but doing this in practice can be challenging. In a study for the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), I interviewed Sida employees working on the policy area of environment and climate as well as staff working with conflict and security, both at the Stockholm headquarters and in partner country contexts in Eastern Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan) in order to better understand how they integrate these two cross-cutting dimensions in aid operations. 

Overall the ambition is clear om several levels, and in some contexts, Sida is one of few aid actors working with this emphasis. At the same time, it is not uncommon, for example, for work to be done in silos based on expertise within one of these areas for example. This is also logical – it’s not an easy equation finding the balance between specialist and cross-cutting knowledge. It seems that achieving the SDGs requires further integration of cross-cutting perspectives. At the same time, synergies and trade-offs vary depending on geographical and political contexts and the work with integrating cross-cutting issues such as gender, conflict, environment and climate also needs to consider their interrelation, otherwise unintended consequences such as maladaptation can arise. 

Q: Another research focus of yours focuses on the preconditions for just transitions. Could you explain what you have found in these areas? Why is this important?

A: The preconditions for just transitions towards more sustainable societies vary deeply, both between and within countries. For example, Swedish climate goals are set high, but one country’s efforts towards fossil freedom is also intertwined with other countries’ efforts and preconditions in an interconnected global system. The actions and solutions on the road to more sustainable futures – as well as which voices are active in framing and forming them – need to be studied carefully. The importance of technological innovation tends to be underlined in Swedish climate politics for example, but research also shows that transitions are not just technical and economic, they are social.

Q: Climate change-related societal impacts, such as climate migration flows, are an ongoing issue. What are the implications and consequences for Sweden?

A: To the best of my knowledge, there is still no clear legal definition of climate migrant or refugee, which can leave people who flee or migrate due to environmental degradation or climate change in a limbo. Depending on what policy level and actors one studies, migration due to the effects of climate change can for example be framed either as a threat and something to be avoided, or as an opportunity to be enabled, as part of climate adaptation for example. These framings of what is defined as a threat and what is to be protected can result in very different policy interventions – focused either on protecting borders or people for instance – and therefore need to be critically studied.

The direct and indirect implications for Sweden are difficult to assess, but research shows that most displacement and migration due to environmental degradation and climate change currently occurs within countries and regionally. Increased migration to and within Europe is one possible future development (see for example the discussion by the Swedish National Expert Council for Climate Adaptation in their recent report). Sweden works for example through providing foreign aid both multilaterally and bilaterally focused on increasing resilience in partner countries through support to climate adaptation and mitigation.

Q: SweDev aims to connect development researchers across Sweden to strengthen collaboration with practitioners. What would you like to share to this community?

A:  I believe there is a need for a more transformative science and knowledge production. From my perspective, interaction with a broad(er) set of stakeholders in research enables asking different questions and studying phenomena that would not otherwise be made visible to me. I think consistent preconditions for researchers to collaborate more deeply with diverse sets of stakeholders would be positive. A challenge in this is of course the well-known problem of time available as well as the incentive systems in science – but as researchers we can for example push to expand methodological and theoretical toolboxes, diversify empirical points of entry, think critically about whose voices are included and account for many types of knowledge in this work.

Written by Alessandro Giacardi, Communication, and Research Intern at Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) for the Development and Aid Policy Team and SweDev. Edited by Alice Castensson, and Ylva Rylander at Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).