Impact Story

More funding for prizewinning STEPS Centre’s sustainability work

Published on 1 August 2018

The STEPS Centre, co-hosted by IDS and the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex, has been awarded another four years of ‘transition funding’ in recognition of the value and impact of its work in helping to shape climate and sustainability policy processes.

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The UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), which has funded the STEPS Centre from the outset, awarded the additional ‘transition funding’ in January 2018. The new funding enables the prizewinning centre to focus on alliances between scholars and activists on sustainability issues through events and learning activities linked to research. The new funding comes as STEPS begins its second decade of activity and looks back on a fruitful first phase (2007–17) characterised by important long-term partnerships – notably with the African Centre for Technology Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Beijing Normal University, Arizona State University and Fundación CENIT, Argentina.

Contributions to climate change and sustainability processes in Africa and Asia have been led by the six hubs that make up the STEPS Global Consortium, based in leading academic institutes in Africa, South Asia, China, Europe, Latin and North America.

Making climate innovation work for Africa

Since the 2015 Paris Agreement, there has been a renewed push to make climate policy and processes more responsive to the needs of poorer countries. The STEPS Centre and its partners have actively explored more locally relevant sustainability processes in Africa and Asia. In Africa, the STEPS Africa Hub advised the Green Climate Fund – the financial mechanism of the UNFCCC – on how to fund collaborative research and development for climate technology transfer under the 2015 Paris Agreement. It also trained policymakers in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia. Based on extensive STEPS research on solar PV and sustainable energy access in Kenya, researchers David Ockwell (Dept of Geography, Sussex University) and Rob Byrne (SPRU) developed a concrete proposal for revising international climate policy in favour of pro-poor, climate compatible transformations.

It suggested a new approach to assisting the transfer and uptake of climate technologies in developing countries, known as CRIBs (Climate Relevant Innovation-system Builders). Through a two-day workshop in Kenya organised by the STEPS Africa Hub, East African policymakers and practitioners received training and capacity development on integrating CRIBs into their NDCs (Nationally Determined Commitments) under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Transforming waste management in India

In work spearheaded by SPRU and Indian partners, the STEPS South Asia Hub pursued work on the links between poverty, environmental health and urbanisation. STEPS Centre research influenced the redrafting of a key piece of legislation on urban waste management in India. The research, led by Fiona Marshall (SPRU), highlighted a number of ways in which the legislation was failing to address opportunities for sustainable waste management strategies. The redrafted rules now recognise the role of the informal sector (so-called waste pickers) in waste management, and indicate how India’s policy process in this area can open up to new perspectives.

Rapid Transition Alliance

Another new development in 2018 has been the Rapid Transition Alliance, a global network set up to counter widely held beliefs that behaviour change for more sustainable lifestyles are either impossible to achieve or will inevitably be slow and incremental. The alliance, funded by the KR Foundation, gathers campaigners, business groups and NGOs. It will create an evidence base showing the possibilities for deep and rapid social change, building on a successful 18-month European pilot. Partners in the project include the Centre for Global Political Economy at the University of Sussex and the New Weather Institute, which leads the initiative.

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