Accelerating Sustainability

Our focus on accelerating sustainability recognises this as one of the greatest challenges of our age. Climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss and land degradation are all linked, and affect people across the world. The Sustainable Development Goals have established a vital agenda for all of humanity, but how to realise these huge ambitions is less clear.

Busy street scene in Bangladesh

Our research therefore focuses on how urgently-needed transformations towards sustainability can be achieved. This requires an understanding of diverse pathways, and the political-economic and social processes that facilitate or block them. Sustainability and ‘green’ transformations may be technology, market, state or citizen led – or a combination of all these, depending on the context.

Sustainability is understood in diverse ways by different groups of people, and engaging with these different perspectives is essential to both research and action. Equally, how transformations influence different people is important, and issues of distribution, social justice and the politics of resource use will be central to our work.

Our work on accelerating sustainability in this strategy period builds on a long tradition of environmental social science analysis at IDS, and, over the last decade, in the ESRC STEPS Centre - a joint initiative of IDS, SPRU and Global Studies at the University of Sussex.

G20 Summit, Hamburg 2017

Climate change will be a key theme at the Summit of the Heads of State and Government, being hosted in Hamburg in July 2017. It's likely to be a hotly debate issue, considering President Trump's recent announcement that the USA was withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord.

This is a quote from IDS Fellow Wei Shen.

Is there a role for China to step up as a global climate leader?


This year's Conference of the Parties for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will mark one year on from the agreement coming in to force and is due to be held in Bonn, Germany in November 2017.

"Sustainable Lifestyles, Livelihoods and the Circular Economy" (27 - 29 June), 3rd International Conference of the Global Research Forum

Follow the Sustainable Lifestyles, Livelihoods & the Circular EconomyConference via Facebook Live.

Related resources

‘Seeing’ Conflicts at the Margins: Understanding Community Experiences Through Social Research and Digital Narrative in Kenya and Madagascar

In a context of unprecedented investment in natural resource developments, this project bridges the social sciences, the humanities and community-based participatory research to ask how different ‘communities’ of actors ‘see’ and experience resource conflicts in Kenya and Madagascar. We use social science alongside a variety of participatory multimedia methods to open up conflict research to more diverse framings and voices, which can offer new insights on the drivers of resource conflict and pathways to peace. More details

A Global Solution to Protect Water by Transforming Waste

This EPSRC project focuses on the 'peri-urban' environment, which includes areas outside cities that are characterised by poor infrastructure, and poor access to formal water and sanitation services. More details

Accelerating Progress in Reducing Hunger and Undernutrition

This programme will focus on how agriculture can deliver better nutrition outcomes by developing evidence-based policy options and tools for businesses, governments, NGOs and donors. More details

Addressing Synergies and Trade-Offs between Goals for Climate-Resilient Agricultural Systems

What factors lead state and market actors in Africa to commit to implementing more ‘climate smart’ and ‘climate resilient’ agricultural approaches and practices that promoting more sustainable and pro-poor outcomes? This study is examining how different governance systems are handling the complex interface between food, energy, water and climate in pursuit of the SDGs pertaining to these sectors in four countries in Africa. More details

Challenges and Opportunities for Rural Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Mixed-Methods Study to Inform Policy and Programs

The goal of the Challenges and Opportunities for Rural Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa study is to strengthen and deepen knowledge of: the employment dynamics of rural young people, and the relationships between these dynamics and welfare; and the socially and spatially differentiated perspectives of rural young people on work, employment and livelihoods. Research is taking place in Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Niger and Burkina Faso. More details

China's Emergence as a Global Recycling Hub

This work investigates how China's rise as a global recycling hub affects other countries' prospects for moving towards a circular economy. More details

Development and Management of NAMAs in India

The overall objective of the project is that the Government of India starts using Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) as one of the mechanisms for addressing climate change mitigation. More details

Future Agricultures Consortium

The DFID funded Future Agricultures Consortium is an Africa-based alliance of research organisations seeking to provide timely, high-quality and independent information and advice to improve agricultural policy and practice in Africa. More details

Global Nutrition Report

The Global Nutrition Report aims to convene existing nutrition data and processes, highlight progress in improving nutrition status, outline areas for action, and contribute to stronger accountability for nutrition. It provides a fresh perspective on the prevalence of malnutrition, on efforts to reduce it, and on the capacities and data needed to drive such efforts. More details

Green Growth Diagnostics for Africa

This project is looking into the heart of the electricity supply crisis in sub-Saharan Africa. More details

Market Systems Approaches to Enabling Women's Economic Empowerment through Addressing Unpaid Carework

Market systems programmes are increasingly recognising the important role that women play in market activity and including women’s economic empowerment and gender equality objectives. However, unpaid care work is a significant and regularly overlooked factor which affects women’s economic, political and social activities. More details

Market-Based Mangrove Afforestation and Reforestation in Kenya and India

This study aims to understand and compare processes and relationships associated with the ‘marketization of nature’ – how nature-based commodities and markets for trading them are brought into being – in the context of mangrove afforestation, reforestation and restoration projects in Kenya and India. More details

Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) Centre

The STEPS Centre is an interdisciplinary global research and policy engagement hub, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. It aims to develop a new approach to understanding, action and communication on sustainability and development. More details

Strengthening Evidence-based Policy - The Future of Resource/Waste Management in Big Cities of India

The project explores how transformational thinking on resource management could lead to multiple scenarios in the context of emerging economies with a specific focus on India. More details

Who Drives Climate-Relevant Policies in the Rising Powers?

This project is concerned with the political economy analysis of climate change policies. The central question of the project is who drives/obstructs climate change policies in the rising powers, paying special attention to renewable energy policies. More details

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Green Development, Natural Resource Financialization and Emerging Conflict in Southern Africa with Examples from Implementation Contexts in Madagascar, Tanzania and South Africa

IDS Evidence Report 148 (2015)

In recent years, widespread uncertainty around global economic and environmental futures has contributed to growing advocacy for a global ‘greening’ of the economy involving the coordinated establishment of pro-environment economic policies and programmes around the world. More details

IDS publications on international development research

The Ebola Crisis and post-2015 Development

Journal of International Development 27.6 (2015)

This article argues that the recent Ebola crisis is the result of structural violence, as interlocking institutions have produced interlaced inequalities, unsustainabilities and insecurities. More details


China’s Emergence as a Global Recycling Hub – What Does it Mean for Circular Economy Approaches Elsewhere?

IDS Evidence Report 146 (2015)

This Evidence Report investigates how China’s rise as a global recycling hub affects other countries’ prospects for moving towards a circular economy. This question has received little, if any, attention in the burgeoning literature on sustainability. More details

Non-IDS publication

Rent Management - The Heart of Green Industrial Policy

New Political Economy (2015)

At the heart of green industrial policy is rent management: government creating and withdrawing opportunities for profitable investment.This paper asks what the key factors are for rent management to succeed. More details

This is the front cover to the book, 'Gender Equality and Sustainable Development'.

Gender Equality and Sustainable Development

For pathways to be truly sustainable and advance gender equality and the rights and capabilities of women and girls, those whose lives and well-being are at stake must be involved in leading the way. More details

This is the cover of IDS Bulletin Vol 44.5-6, 'Whose Goals Count? Lessons for Setting the Next Development Goals'.

Whose Goals Count? Lessons for Setting the Next Development Goals

IDS Bulletin 44.5-6 (2013)

This IDS Bulletin compiles reflections from various actors on the core elements of the MDGs and also on topics not explicitly covered in them, such as governance, participation and infrastructure. More details

This is the cover for our Rapid Response Briefings

Zoonoses - From Panic to Planning

IDS Rapid Response Briefing 2 (2013)

Over two thirds of all human infectious diseases have their origins in animals. The rate at which these zoonotic diseases have appeared in people has increased over the past 40 years, with at least 43 newly identified outbreaks since 2004. More details

Front cover of Bulletin 36.4, Vulnerability, Adaptation and Climate Disasters

Vulnerability, Adaptation and Climate Disasters

IDS Bulletin 36.4 (2005)

This IDS Bulletin aims to provide policy-relevant research insights for a wide range of actors interested in climate change adaptation. It brings together results from a recently completed interdisciplinary research project, the Linking Climate Adaptation Project, about how vulnerable communities might respond to the impacts of climate change. More details

IDS Bulletin 35.3 Climate Change and Development front cover

Climate Change and Development

IDS Bulletin 35.3 (2004)

Climate change is a relatively 'young' international issue with significant social, economic and political ramifications. Although there is a wealth of policy-relevant research in the environment community, examination of climate and developmental concerns is in its early days. More details

This is the cover to the video Second Nature.

Second Nature

West Africa's transition zone is one of the world's most ecologically fragile areas and is widely assumed to be experiencing a deforestation crisis. For a century experts have held villagers responsible. More details

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