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Sustainability

Our interdisciplinary research explores how pathways to sustainability, green transformations and equitable access to resources such as land, water and food can be achieved and help us meet the environmental as well as human development-related goals of the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

Our work builds on a long tradition of critical social science engagement with environmental issues and resource politics in collaboration with partners globally. It explores how pathways to sustainability are shaped by political-economic and social processes, and understands how they are driven by technology, markets, states and citizens.  Our research sheds new light on how we can achieve green transformations that move us from fossil fuel to renewable energy, from throw-away to circular economies. It addresses the politics of sustainability, and understands how transformations occur at local levels as well as global, in both rural and urban settings, and be led by citizens as well as national governments. In doing so, it shines a light on how sustainable resource use, consumption and production is shaped by issues such as gender, livelihoods and politics.

People

Image of Lyla Mehta
Lyla Mehta

Professorial Fellow

Image of Ian Scoones
Ian Scoones

Professorial Fellow

Image of Patrick Schröder
Patrick Schröder

Research Fellow

Image of Amber Huff
Amber Huff

Research Fellow

Image of Jeremy Allouche
Jeremy Allouche

Research Fellow

Image of Lars Otto Naess
Lars Otto Naess

Research Fellow

Image of Wei Shen
Wei Shen

Research Fellow

Programmes and centres

Projects

Project

System Change Hive

The System Change HIVE will explore and communicate visions of better lives to inform public thinking and work towards fairer systems that safeguard life-support systems and prioritise well-being and justice.

Project

The Rapid Transition Alliance

The climate is changing faster than we are. Rapid, transformative changes are called for to prevent climate breakdown and create the conditions for people to thrive together. Keeping to the globally-recognised 1.5 degree upper limit on global warming means significant changes in economies, lives...

Recent work

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Brief

A Gender Approach to the Promotion of Productive Uses of Electricity

IDS Policy Briefing 162

Interventions promoting productive use of electricity (PUE) without gender approaches are more likely to benefit men than women. Men typically own more businesses and operate in a wider range of more productive, electricity‑intensive activities. Gender approaches improve the effectiveness of...

10 July 2019

Impact Story

Building capacity to ensure smart, sustainable and inclusive cities

‘Smart cities’ use new technologies to meet their most pressing urban challenges and become more sustainable. IDS researchers have been investigating how inclusive these solutions really are, with a focus on a large-scale smart cities initiative in India. The Indian government’s Smart...

9 July 2019

Impact Story

Bringing much-needed rigour to debates on China’s Belt and Road Initiative

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the world’s largest infrastructure plan with the potential to accelerate progress towards global sustainability. Whether it can live up to this promise is the subject of intense, often polarised debate. Some point to the BRI’s alignment to the...

9 July 2019

Impact Story

Generating new insights on agriculture as a pathway from poverty in Africa

With more than half of Africa’s workers employed in agriculture, the sector offers a valuable pathway out of poverty for the continent.  Agriculture has long been central to IDS’ work, particularly on reducing inequalities, through evidence-based research, policy dialogue, networking and...

4 July 2019

Journal Article

Linking Energy Access, Gender and Poverty: A Review of the Literature on Productive Uses of Energy

Energy Research & Social Science Volume 53

This article reviews the empirical literature about gender and productive uses of energy, focusing on electricity, to answer three research questions: do men and women obtain different benefits from the Productive Use of Electricity (PUE)?; which gendered constraints affect women’s chances to...

1 July 2019

Journal Article

Beyond Technical Fixes: Climate Solutions and the Great Derangement

Climate and Development;

Climate change research is at an impasse. The transformation of economies and everyday practices is more urgent, and yet appears ever more daunting as attempts at behaviour change, regulations, and global agreements confront material and social-political infrastructures that support the status...

Image of Lyla Mehta
Lyla Mehta & 16 others

1 July 2019

Opinion

Are Smart Cities like mangoes?

‘Show me the evidence!’ is the hackneyed phrase on the lips of each and every policymaker and urban local authority tasked with making their city ‘smart’. Smart City initiatives have begun playing a prominent role in the international development agenda. There are a variety of local...

Kunal Kumar

19 June 2019

Opinion

What is revolutionary about the Green Revolution?

The dramatic increase in yields of wheat and rice in the 1960s and 1970s in India, along with many other countries in the post-colonial world, was framed as a technological breakthrough made possible by miracle hybrid seed varieties. This breakthrough ostensibly averted mass scale hunger and was...

13 June 2019

Opinion

Reflecting on Bangladesh’s ‘green revolution’

My encounter with Bangladesh’s ‘green revolution’ began in 1986 in eastern Bangladesh where I undertook village level fieldwork for a PhD on agrarian change. The focus was to understand how rural households were interacting with high yielding seeds, mechanised ploughing and irrigation,...

5 June 2019

Opinion

Circular garments: What About the Workers?

With only 11.5 years to address runaway climate change, governments and businesses are under pressure to increase their efforts and develop alternative strategies for alternative approaches to growth and development. The garment industry—one of the biggest polluters and greatest producers of...

Joanna Howarth

3 June 2019