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

29 June - 3 July, 2020
The application process is closed.
Course Director(s): 

Sybille van den Hove

Bridging for Sustainability, Brussels, Belgium

Jock Martin

European Environmental Agency, Copenhagen, Denmark

Anton Shkaruba

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

David Stanners

European Environment Agency, Copenhagen, Denmark
Course Faculty: 

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

If Europe and the rest of the world are to achieve their 2030 sustainable development goals, significant action needs to be taken during the next 10 years to address the impacts of environmental pollution on people’s health and well-being, the alarming rate of biodiversity loss, climate change and its increasing impacts, and the overconsumption of natural resources. The issues faced are of unprecedented scale and urgency, bringing challenges to how practitioners across society respond to them and how knowledge is used to support action. There are, nevertheless, several reasons for hope, amid increased public awareness of the need for fundamental shifts in how we source energy, move around, and produce, consume and dispose of food and other material goods and services. There are increasing attention and actions from the business, research and finance sectors, more and more social, institutional and technological innovations, community initiatives, and ambitious policies like the European Green Deal.

While these trends are positive, Europe and the world will not achieve their sustainability goals by continuing to promote economic growth at any cost and seeking to manage the environmental and social impacts ex post. More and more citizens are demanding that political and business leaders and policymakers seize the opportunity and use the next decade to radically transform, scale up and speed up actions to avoid irreversible change and damage and start on a sustainability journey.

Enabling and embarking on transformative change for sustainability nevertheless calls for rethinking the interfaces between knowledge and actions for public policies, businesses, communities and individual citizens. Governments will need to work closely together to harness the ambition, creativity and power of citizens, businesses and communities. EU and international institutions and countries have a vital role in these processes, as do cities and local communities. They can accelerate systemic change by promoting innovation, fostering networking, mobilising communities, and reorienting finance towards sustainability. They can also create the conditions for a just transition, help identify and navigate risks uncertainties and unintended consequences, and develop needed knowledge and skills.

This calls for exploring alternative knowledge creation and governance approaches and tools to respond to the complex challenges of this decade and century.

Sustainability needs to become the overarching principle guiding coherent policies and actions across society. This overarching principle can in turn build on a series of governance principles including key principles of EU Law such as fundamental rights or subsidiarity and specifically the four environment principles of the EU Treaty: precaution, prevention, rectification at source and polluter pays.

Transition processes and the innovations inherent to them are unpredictable and often produce unintended negative consequences and surprises, and so require mixtures of anticipatory and adaptive governance approaches to navigate them. In this context, the precautionary principle is crucial to help decision makers take actions when there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, where the scientific evidence is uncertain or missing and where values are in dispute. Although sometimes interpreted as a barrier to technological progress, the principle can be a source of guidance when risk assessment tools are inadequate and actually foster innovation. It also opens up a range of response options centred on acknowledging ignorance and uncertainty. 

The purpose of this Summer School is to explore the implications of sustainability transitions from the perspectives of knowledge, policy-making, innovations and actions across society. It will explore a range of knowledge challenges and pathways for long term transitions to sustainability, including the possible ways forward for the effective and appropriate application of the precautionary principle in sustainability governance.

It will bring together a solid and diverse group of scholars and practitioners with expertise on earth systems research, risk assessment and management, business transformation, innovation governance, innovations in sustainability governance with experience in supporting decision-making under conditions of uncertainty and complexity.

The school will seek to do this through a learning process that convenes a diverse group of participants (namely practitioners and researchers from EU, national and international policy-making institutions, NGO’s, business, academia and international organisations) to engage in an exercise of mutual learning. Participants will be able to experience and compare different approaches to what they already know, in a critical perspective, with intellectual rigour, and supported by the scientific robustness of theoretical inputs. The school will use a combination of learning methods - from lectures to case studies analysis and practical exercises. There will be opportunities for participants to make use of their creative potential, in a critical and reflexive attitude towards their own personal and organisational experience. The learning approach will enable the school’s contents to link to participants’ specific contexts and backgrounds, with particular attention devoted to how to transfer knowledge into working realities.

This course is the sixth edition of the highly successful 2015 to 2019 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.


This summer course can be taken as part of the European and Transnational Governance Network (ETGN) certificate program.
To find out more about how to obtain the Joint Certificate on European and Transnational Governance, please visit https://www.ceu.edu/etgn/ .