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Special Issue "Environmental Policy Design and Implementation: Toward Sustainable Society"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Geography and Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 May 2021) | Viewed by 14838

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A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Adam P. Hejnowicz
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Biology Department, University of York, York YO10 5DD, UK
Interests: Environmental policy and governance; sustainable development; ecological and institutional economics; complex social-ecological systems; water-energy-food security; agriculture and land management; ecosystem services; urbanisation, regional development and environmental impacts
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. Jessica P. R. Thorn
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
1: Department of Environment & Geography, University of York, York YO10 5DD, UK
2: Research and African Climate and Development Initiative, University of Cape Town, Cape Town 7700, South Africa
Interests: Social-ecological systems; climate change adaptation; participatory scenario planning; ecosystem services; urban green infrastructure; development corridors; mountains; peri-urban; conservation; land use change; Africa

Special Issue Information

Background

The science could not be more emphatic: As a spate of recent hard-hitting reports and assessments have indicated, achieving prosperous and equitable societies, climate stability and a flourishing biosphere require urgent global collective action across scales and sectors (IPCC, 2018, 2019; IPBES, 2019; WWF, 2018; TNC, 2018; UN, 2018; 2019; UN-HABITAT, 2018; FAO, 2019; FSIN, 2019; WRI, 2019). If we are to succeed in that ambition, then delivering on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Convention of Biodiversity’s post-2020 Biodiversity Framework will require radical change, and mechanisms to steer future societal growth towards more equitable, social–ecological resilient, adaptive pathways. At the heart of that process lies the design, implementation, coordination, and coherence of environmental policies (SDG 17.13/4), especially those that intersect key goals of ‘economic development’ (SDG 8, 9, 11) and ‘production and consumption’ (SDG 2, 7, 12). As WWF’s Living Planet Report (2018, pg.6) clearly states “everything that has built modern human society is provided by nature and, increasingly, research demonstrates the natural world’s incalculable importance to our health, wealth, food and security.”

Context

Across the Global South and Global North, there is an urgent need for inclusive policies that will enable sustainable transitions towards knowledge-based economies grounded in evidence-based policy making. Nonetheless, the design and evaluation of effective policy solutions and research implementation strategies remains very limited. In Africa, and especially in many parts of sub-sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the drivers of development have resulted in significant transformations of local and national social-ecological environments. Admittedly, these developments have the potential to promote regional socioeconomic growth, inward investment, create modern and dynamic urban centres, reduce poverty, transform rural livelihoods, and nurture the education and skills of young populations. Yet, these developments are not uniform across all countries. Many nations run the serious risk of natural resources overexploitation and habitat loss, while poorer urban and rural communities are often marginalized from decision-making processes. These developments also frequently occur against the backdrop of weak governance, institutional bureaucratic backlogs and operational silos, political convulsions, and corruption. Concurrently, as extreme climatic events become more frequent, strategic regional and urban development plays a critical role in expanding consumption of households and businesses but is highly dependent on national macroeconomic policymaking and the cooperation of city governments, the private sector, development practitioners, conservationists, and urban planners. The question then becomes how, under these conditions, can effective, robust, and transformative policies be developed and implemented in a way that will steer these societies towards more sustainable, inclusive outcomes in the short- and long-term future?

Focus

The purpose of this Special Issue is to explore and advance our understanding of (a) the present state and effectiveness of local, national, and regional policies engaging with, and transforming, the climatological, environmental, social, and economic impacts and consequences of development activities; and (b) how environmental policies might be designed and embedded into future development planning to encourage coordination and coherence across sectors and policy domains to deliver sustainable transformations. Whilst we are particularly concerned to highlight research and cases exploring and addressing these issues in the context of SSA, we are also interested in wider Global South perspectives and, if appropriate, examples from Global North geographies.

Key questions to address could include:

What are the key synergies and trade-offs in developing effective environmental policies to enhance or restrain the positive and negative impacts of primary and secondary sector expansions respectively? What opportunities are there for developing integrated urban policies that will enable countries to achieve both green growth and future social–ecological prosperity? What are the principal institutional and governance barriers and challenges in designing, implementing, and evaluating integrative environmental policies to meet multiple SDGs? Are there policy coordination difficulties in meeting the aims of Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063, and if so, how might these be harmonized? What rapid economic policy reforms and interventions can be implemented to achieve significant progress in green and physical and digital infrastructure? In what ways can policy interventions be designed to increase urban green infrastructure and ecosystem services to improve community livelihoods in informal settlements? How can marginal communities and voices be effectively included in policymaking processes, and to what extent can processes of deliberative democracy and environmental justice encourage dialogues between local actors and national institutions? How can environmental policy be embedded in urban planning to deliver sustainable land use transitions and effective climate risk reduction strategies? How can advances and innovations in STEM and ICT be applied to produce more robust environmental policymaking and strengthen the science–policy interface?

We therefore encourage original contributions that adopt both research and practice perspectives concerning evidence of policy trade-offs, synergies, challenges, and opportunities. In particular, we invite interdisciplinary studies across natural, social, and human sciences that examine social–ecological interactions occurring between land-use change, livelihoods, primary and secondary sector activities, and urban planning. Empirical studies drawing on multiple case studies, reviews, and conceptual submissions that adopt novel epistemological or methodological approaches are welcomed.

Dr. Adam P. Hejnowicz
Dr. Jessica P. R. Thorn
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • urbanization
  • sustainability
  • climate change
  • economic development
  • green growth
  • policy design and implementation
  • SDGs
  • AU Agenda
  • manufacturing
  • infrastructure

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Environmental Policy Design and Implementation: Toward a Sustainable Society
Sustainability 2022, 14(6), 3199; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14063199 - 09 Mar 2022
Viewed by 420
Abstract
“No matter how complex global problems may seem, it is we ourselves who have given rise to them [...] Full article

Research

Jump to: Editorial

Article
Discourse and Practice of REDD+ in Ghana and the Expansion of State Power
Sustainability 2021, 13(20), 11358; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132011358 - 14 Oct 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 686
Abstract
Green market mechanisms, as part of the architecture of climate finance, have become key components of international environmental frameworks. One of the most widely known mechanisms for climate change mitigation has been the creation of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). [...] Read more.
Green market mechanisms, as part of the architecture of climate finance, have become key components of international environmental frameworks. One of the most widely known mechanisms for climate change mitigation has been the creation of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). The purpose of this paper is to trace global discourses and narratives throughout REDD+ official documents and compare them to the implementation on the ground to determine the extent that REDD+ meets its stated objectives in the Ghanaian context. Then, given the gaps in discourse and practice, this paper aims to define the inexplicit consequences, or rather instrumental effects, of REDD+. Discourse analysis of official REDD+ documents and land policies combined with qualitative interviews and focus groups to determine the linkages between discourse and practice of REDD+ and the impacts of these gaps. While critical civic environmentalism, highlighting environmental justice as a core principle, was somewhat incorporated into official discourse from the international to the national level, the depoliticization of the discourse and the apolitical nature of interventions make these justice concerns negligible and create gaps in discourse and practice. These gaps create disjointed, infeasible policies that establish REDD+ as a fad to bring in financial resources that expand state control of forest resources under the veil of social-ecological responsibility. As a result, state power expands into rural areas, allowing for greater control over land and forests at the expense of local communities. Full article
Article
Climate Change, Security, and the Resource Nexus: Case Study of Northern Nigeria and Lake Chad
Sustainability 2021, 13(19), 10734; https://doi.org/10.3390/su131910734 - 27 Sep 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1601
Abstract
This paper analyses the impacts of climate change and its implications for human security for the regions of Northern Nigeria and Lake Chad. The introduction identifies a gap between evidence on global environmental change and interactions on the ground; it positions the scope [...] Read more.
This paper analyses the impacts of climate change and its implications for human security for the regions of Northern Nigeria and Lake Chad. The introduction identifies a gap between evidence on global environmental change and interactions on the ground; it positions the scope for a deeper understanding of the climate–security–resource nexus in Northern Nigeria and Lake Chad and consequences for the implementation of SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). The section on methods describes the nexus concept and justifies adopting it. As a result of analysing the region, the paper sheds light on the conflict pathways triggered by failures in land grazing policy, which is further evidenced by a short comparison with Northern Kenya. A potentially novel contribution is discussed in terms of scaling up collaboration and green markets for the future of Lake Chad, along with an integrated agricultural nexus policy, both of which are ambitious in the spirit of mission-oriented policies and delivering on the SDGs. Full article
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Article
Can Nationally Prescribed Institutional Arrangements Enable Community-Based Conservation? An Analysis of Conservancies and Community Forests in the Zambezi Region of Namibia
Sustainability 2021, 13(19), 10663; https://doi.org/10.3390/su131910663 - 25 Sep 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1002
Abstract
Community-based conservation is advocated as an idea that long-term conservation success requires engaging with, providing benefits for, and establishing institutions representing local communities. However, community-based conservation’s efficacy and impact in sustainable resource management varies depending on national natural resource policies and implications for [...] Read more.
Community-based conservation is advocated as an idea that long-term conservation success requires engaging with, providing benefits for, and establishing institutions representing local communities. However, community-based conservation’s efficacy and impact in sustainable resource management varies depending on national natural resource policies and implications for local institutional arrangements. This paper analyses the significance of natural resource management policies and institutional design on the management of common pool resources (CPRs), by comparing Namibian conservancies and community forests. To meet this aim, we reviewed key national policies pertinent to natural resource governance and conducted 28 semi-structured interviews between 2012 and 2013. Key informants included conservancy and community forest staff and committee members, village headmen, NGO coordinators, regional foresters, wildlife officials (wardens), and senior government officials in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry. We explored the following questions: how do national natural resource management policies affect the operations of local common pool resource institutions? and how do external factors affect local institutions and community participation in CPRs decision-making? Our results show that a diversity of national policies significantly influenced local institutional arrangements. Formation of conservancies and community forests by communities is not only directly linked with state policies designed to increase wildlife numbers and promote forest growth or improve condition, but also formulated primarily for benefits from and control over natural resources. The often-assumed direct relationship between national policies and local institutional arrangements does not always hold in practice, resulting in institutional mismatch. We aim to advance theoretical and applied discourse on common pool resource governance in social-ecological systems, with implications for sustainable land management policies in Namibia and other landscapes across sub-Saharan Africa. Full article
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Article
Strengthening Gender Responsiveness of the Green Climate Fund Ecosystem-Based Adaptation Programme in Namibia
Sustainability 2021, 13(18), 10162; https://doi.org/10.3390/su131810162 - 10 Sep 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1157
Abstract
Scholars of gender and climate change argue that gender-blind climate change actions could exacerbate existing inequalities and undermine sustained climate change adaptation actions. For this reason, since 2017, the Green Climate Fund placed gender among its key programming prerequisites, making it the first [...] Read more.
Scholars of gender and climate change argue that gender-blind climate change actions could exacerbate existing inequalities and undermine sustained climate change adaptation actions. For this reason, since 2017, the Green Climate Fund placed gender among its key programming prerequisites, making it the first multilateral climate fund to do so worldwide. However, to date, no lessons to inform planned gender-responsive ecosystem-based interventions in Namibia have been drawn from community-based natural resource management. Thus, this paper aims to share key lessons regarding the way in which gender assessment is useful in enhancing equity in an ecosystem-based adaptation programme for the Green Climate Fund. To this end, we conducted in-depth interviews and group discussions in the 14 rural regions of Namibia with 151 participants from 107 community-based natural resource management organisations (73.5:26.5; male:female ratio). The results identified gender imbalances in leadership and decision-making due to intersecting historic inequalities, ethnicity and geography, as well as other socio-cultural factors in local community-based natural resource management institutions. We also identified income disparities and unequal opportunities to diversify livelihoods, gendered differentiated impacts of climate change and meaningful participation in public forums. Overall, the assessment indicates that considering gender analysis at the initiation of a community-based climate change adaptation project is crucial for achieving resilience to climate change, closing the gender gap, building capacity to increase equity and empowering women in resource-dependent environments in Namibia and Sub-Saharan Africa more broadly. Full article
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Article
Multi-Stakeholder Platform in Water Resources Management: A Critical Analysis of Stakeholders’ Participation for Sustainable Water Resources
Sustainability 2021, 13(16), 9260; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13169260 - 18 Aug 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1202
Abstract
Multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs) have gained momentum in addressing contentious and cross-sectoral aspects of natural resources management. They have helped to enhance cross-learning and the inclusion of marginalized groups. Tanzania’s water resources management sub-sector has championed these platforms as a means of breaking silos [...] Read more.
Multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs) have gained momentum in addressing contentious and cross-sectoral aspects of natural resources management. They have helped to enhance cross-learning and the inclusion of marginalized groups. Tanzania’s water resources management sub-sector has championed these platforms as a means of breaking silos around planning, coordination, and resource mobilization. However, it is not uncommon to experience the occasional dominance of some influential sectors or groups due to their resources contribution to the process, contemporary influence, or statutory authority. Between 2013 and 2020, Tanzania has pioneered the establishment of MSPs at a national level and across the river and lake basins. This paper examines the representation of stakeholder groups in these platforms. Additionally, it establishes the baseline information that contributes to unlocking the current project-based platform design characterized by inherent limitations to potential changes in stakeholders’ attitudes and actions. The research analyzed stakeholder’s views, their representation, and the local and international literature to formulate opinions. Findings indicated that gender equality had not been adhered to despite being in the guidelines for establishing MSPs. The balance of public, private, and civil society organizations (CSOs) is acutely dominated by the public sector organizations, especially water-related ones. Finally, participation on the decision-making level is minimal, causing unsustainable platforms unless development partners continue to support operational costs. Full article
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Article
Aligning Resilience and Wellbeing Outcomes for Locally-Led Adaptation in Tanzania
Sustainability 2021, 13(16), 8976; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13168976 - 11 Aug 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1064
Abstract
Interventions to address climate adaptation have been on the rise over the past decade. Intervention programmes aim to build the resilience of local communities to climate shocks, and ultimately their wellbeing by helping them to better prepare, adapt and recover. Resilience, similar to [...] Read more.
Interventions to address climate adaptation have been on the rise over the past decade. Intervention programmes aim to build the resilience of local communities to climate shocks, and ultimately their wellbeing by helping them to better prepare, adapt and recover. Resilience, similar to human wellbeing, is a multidimensional construct grounded in local realities and lived experiences. Yet current evaluation frameworks used in resilience programming rarely consider what resilience means in local contexts prior to implementation. This means policy designs risk failing to improve resilience of communities and creating unintended negative consequences for communities’ wellbeing. Better processes and indicators for assessing resilience are needed. This paper explores the interplay between local predictors of resilience and wellbeing to assess the validity of self-assessed indicators as part of frameworks to measure resilience. We draw from research on the Devolved Climate Finance (DCF) mechanism implemented between 2014 and 2018 in Tanzania. We find that different factors explain resilience when compared to wellbeing; while resilience is primarily influenced by relationships, wellbeing is correlated with livelihoods. This shows that incentives to improve resilience differ from those of wellbeing. Climate and development practitioners must adopt locally grounded framings for resilience and wellbeing to ensure interventions track appropriate indicators, towards positive outcomes. Full article
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Article
Governance of Urban Green Infrastructure in Informal Settlements of Windhoek, Namibia
Sustainability 2021, 13(16), 8937; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13168937 - 10 Aug 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2040
Abstract
Facing increased rural-urban migration, population growth, climate change impacts, and cascading natural, security, and health hazards, many municipalities in sub-Saharan Africa are beginning to consider the benefits of urban green infrastructure for improving the resilience and wellbeing of residents living in informal settlements. [...] Read more.
Facing increased rural-urban migration, population growth, climate change impacts, and cascading natural, security, and health hazards, many municipalities in sub-Saharan Africa are beginning to consider the benefits of urban green infrastructure for improving the resilience and wellbeing of residents living in informal settlements. However, present governance systems are often ill-equipped to deliver the scale of planning needed. Integration of urban green infrastructure into local government mandates, spatial planning and targeted action plans remains limited, further inhibited by scarce empirical research on the topic in Africa. Taking Windhoek, Namibia, and specifically Moses ǁGaroëb, Samora Machel, and Tobias Hainyeko constituencies as a case study, we fitted key informant interview (n = 23), focus group (n = 20), and participant observation data into existing governance theory to investigate (a) benefits and trade-offs of present urban green infrastructure in Windhoek’s informal settlements; (b) urban green infrastructure governance in terms of institutional frameworks, actors and coalitions, resources, and processes; and (c) the key desirable pathways for future urban green infrastructure governance in informal settlements. To this end, we used five green infrastructure initiatives to dissect governance intricacies and found diverse opportunities for innovative governance mechanisms. The urgent need for climate resilience in Namibia offers a policy and practice window to adopt context-specific approaches for multifunctional urban green infrastructure. However, for these initiatives to succeed, collaborative governance platforms and clearly delineated mandates are necessary, with explicit integration of urban green infrastructure into strategies for in-situ informal settlements upgrading and green job growth. Full article
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Article
Defining Pathways towards African Ecological Futures
Sustainability 2021, 13(16), 8894; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13168894 - 09 Aug 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1183
Abstract
Africa has experienced unprecedented growth across a range of development indices for decades. However, this growth is often at the expense of Africa’s biodiversity and ecosystems, jeopardizing the livelihoods of millions of people depending on the goods and services provided by nature, with [...] Read more.
Africa has experienced unprecedented growth across a range of development indices for decades. However, this growth is often at the expense of Africa’s biodiversity and ecosystems, jeopardizing the livelihoods of millions of people depending on the goods and services provided by nature, with broader consequences for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Encouragingly, Africa can still take a more sustainable path. Here, we synthesize the key learnings from the African Ecological Futures project. We report results from a participatory scenario planning process around four collectively-owned scenarios and narratives for the evolution of Africa’s ecological resource base over the next 50 years. These scenarios provided a lens to review pressures on the natural environment, through the drivers, pressures, state, impacts, and responses (DPSIR) framework. Based on the outcomes from each of these steps, we discuss opportunities to reorient Africa’s development trajectories towards a sustainable path. These opportunities fall under the broad categories of “effective natural resource governance”, “strategic planning capabilities”, “investment safeguards and frameworks”, and “new partnership models”. Underpinning all these opportunities are “data, management information, and decision support frameworks”. This work can help inform collaborative action by a broad set of actors with an interest in ensuring a sustainable ecological future for Africa. Full article
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Article
Mapping National Environmental Sustainability Distribution by Ecological Footprint: The Case of Italy
Sustainability 2021, 13(15), 8671; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13158671 - 03 Aug 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 869
Abstract
The paper proposes a possible way of spatially representing sustainability in Italy. For this purpose, the ecological footprint approach was used as a methodological framework to assess the level of sustainability of the 8092 Italian municipalities. For each municipality, the exploitation of ecosystem [...] Read more.
The paper proposes a possible way of spatially representing sustainability in Italy. For this purpose, the ecological footprint approach was used as a methodological framework to assess the level of sustainability of the 8092 Italian municipalities. For each municipality, the exploitation of ecosystem services, assessed by the ecological footprint indicator, and the corresponding availability of biological capacity, associated to an indicator, have been calculated and compared, thus generating a map representing the relative sustainability of Italian municipalities. The results show a very scattered distribution of ecological balance, wherein unsustainable conditions characterize more than 60% of the territory and almost 95% of the Italian population. Despite the limitations of the methodology and some assumptions regarding the ecological footprint assessment at the municipality level, the study represents an attempt to produce an innovating tool that, based on an operational definition of sustainability, can represent natural resource exploitation at the local level, and provide useful information to address coherent and targeted environmental policies of sustainability. Full article
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Article
Linking Environmental Regulation and Financial Performance: The Mediating Role of Green Dynamic Capability and Sustainable Innovation
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 1007; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12031007 - 31 Jan 2020
Cited by 17 | Viewed by 2162
Abstract
This study develops a multiple mediating model for exploring the link between environmental regulation and financial performance through green dynamic capability, sustainability exploration/exploitation innovation, based on the data from 355 Chinese manufacturing firms. Empirical results support a mediating role of green dynamic capability [...] Read more.
This study develops a multiple mediating model for exploring the link between environmental regulation and financial performance through green dynamic capability, sustainability exploration/exploitation innovation, based on the data from 355 Chinese manufacturing firms. Empirical results support a mediating role of green dynamic capability and sustainability exploration/exploitation in the link between environmental regulation and financial performance, respectively. What’s more, our findings indicate that environmental regulation can help improve financial performance via two multiple mediating paths, i.e., green dynamic capability and sustainability exploration innovation, as well as green dynamic capability and sustainability exploitation innovation. These key findings will help to understand how important green dynamic capability and sustainable innovation is when Chinese manufacturing firms establish a business-politics tie. Full article
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