Innovation is a political priority across Europe that can deliver many benefits for society but also generate costs that are often unaccounted for. A European Environment Agency briefing, published this week, looks at how innovation can respond to sustainability challenges and how Europe needs to look for solutions beyond technological innovation.
Innovating for sustainability
The EEA briefing ‘With people and for people: Innovating for sustainability’ reflects on how social and technological innovation could contribute to more sustainable societies by avoiding technology-sourced, man-made environmental problems, and by shifting emphasis from technology-driven to people-driven solutions. New governance mechanisms and balancing experimentation and precaution can channel the potential of different types of innovation towards sustainability.
Many sustainability-driven technologies promise positive outcomes, but the consequences of such innovations are difficult to anticipate, the EEA briefing points out. For example, large-scale production of first-generation biofuels resulted in deforestation and other land use changes that affected ecosystems and biodiversity. Problems arise also when improved efficiency leads to increased consumption or when technological innovations lead to lock-ins and path dependency.
The EEA briefing argues for an innovation governance that enables citizens and societies to participate and engage in positive, transformative change beyond consumer choices.
The new briefing is part of the ‘Narratives for change’ series, which brings new perspectives to the fore that could trigger change in the way we think and act towards sustainability.