Environmental governance, Environmental science, Science and Technology Studies, Transition studies

This is a joint school with the European Environment Agency (EEA) – an EEAcademy event. It is co-organised with  Erda RTE and Bridging for Sustainability.


Course date

27 June - 3 July, 2019
Course Director(s): 

Sybille van den Hove

Bridging for Sustainability, Brussels, Belgium

Anton Shkaruba

Erda RTE, Rijswijk, the Netherlands/Estonian University of Life Sciences, Tartu, Estonia

David Stanners

European Environment Agency, Copenhagen, Denmark
Course Faculty: 

Mike Asquith

European Environment Agency, Copenhagen, Denmark

Constança Belchior

THNK, Lisbon, Portugal

Hans Bruyninckx

European Environment Agency, Copenhagen, Denmark

Sarah Cornell

Stockholm Resilience Center, Stockholm University, Sweden

Steffen Foss Hansen

Department of Environmental Engineering, Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby

Kenisha Garnett

Center for Environment and Agricultural Informatics, Cranfield University at Shrivenham, United Kingdom

David Gee

Freelancer, former senior advisor EEA, London, United Kingdom

Philippe Grandjean

University of Southern Denmark, Odense

Owen McIntyre

School of Law, University College Cork, Ireland

Hans-Peter Nachtnebel

Institute of Water Management, University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences (BOKU), Hydrology and Hydraulic Engineering, Vienna, Austria

Luis Pinto

European Environment Agency, Copenhagen, Denmark

The precautionary principle is a key principle of environment governance. It poses challenges to both environmental science and environmental governance because it applies to 'situations of scientific complexity, uncertainty and ignorance, where there may be a need to act in order to avoid, or reduce, potentially serious or irreversible threats to health and/or the environment, using an appropriate strength of scientific evidence, and taking into account the pros and cons of action and inaction and their distribution' (EEA 2013, p. 681). As a tool to manage risks, uncertainties and ignorance in complex social ecological systems, it is a core element of governance for a transition towards sustainability and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

The course will explore challenges and possible ways forward for the effective and appropriate application of the precautionary principle. It will bring together a variety of highly skilled scholars and practitioners with expertise on the precautionary principle, risk assessment and management, environment and health research, science and technology studies, the governance of innovation, environmental governance, business transformation and long-term transitions to sustainability.

The course is designed as a strategic knowledge and experience sharing process at the intersection between research and praxis. It builds strongly on the work of the European Environment Agency summarised in the two 'Late Lessons from Early Warnings' reports (EEA 2001, 2013). There are still many open and pressing questions around the precautionary principle and its application, ways of doing research, science-policy-society interfaces, the governance of innovations and risk governance in the framework of sustainability transitions. In the current political context, notably in the European Union, there is a need for intellectual rigour around the concept, both from a research and a praxis point of view.

This course is the fifth edition of the highly successful 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 SUN courses on the same topic. The faculty is composed of renowned and high-profile scholars and practitioners with broad experience in interdisciplinary research and integrative policy-making. The team includes the Executive Director of the European Environment Agency and two of its senior managers, the former Senior Advisor of EEA and 'Late Lessons' project leader, the former Chair of the Scientific Committee of EEA, as well as professors from renowned Universities and Business executives. Participants will also come from a variety of backgrounds (including both researchers and practitioners from public bodies, NGOs and business). The course will be a unique opportunity to (i) increase participants' theoretical and practical expertise on issues surrounding the precautionary principle and transitions towards sustainability; to (ii) train in inter- and transdisciplinary research and integrative policy praxis; and (iii) build a strong network with other participants and faculty. The course will be broadly advertised to international and European environmental communities. Applications are invited from researchers (advanced PhD students, postdocs) and practitioners from policy-making institutions, NGOs, business and international organizations.