Living Now with Respect for the Future: How Governments Can Best Promote Sustainable Development
"Sustainable development" is a popular term frequently bandied about in government and academe, particularly in discussions of international development. It basically refers to a pattern of economic and social advancement that "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs."
Governments around the world have formally agreed to promote sustainable development. But what does this really mean? In rich industrialized countries, such as Canada, it means we must radically reduce the burden that our societies are imposing on the global environment. To avoid catastrophic damage to global ecosystems, we must change the way we do things, particularly in relation to the major economic sectors of energy, construction, manufacturing, transport, and agriculture.
Canada Research Chair Dr. James Meadowcroft studies reforming processes and structures of societal governance in order to promote this transition towards sustainability. His work is designed to draw lessons from international and domestic experiences, and to contribute to public debate and policy making for sustainable development in Canada.
In his research, Meadowcroft compares the experiences of industrialized countries (such as Canada, the Netherlands, and the UK) as they engage in promoting sustainable development. In the process, he examines issues such as the integration of environment and economy in decision making, the provision of strategic leadership and planning, the relationships among different tiers of government, and how stakeholders and ordinary citizens are (and can be) involved in making choices for sustainability.
As Meadowcroft explores what governments can do to encourage societies to produce and consume in more sustainable ways, he recognizes the vital role played by finance ministries in promoting sustainable development. These agencies provide advice to governments on taxing and spending, and they can exert a powerful influence to propel the "greening" of government operations. Technological innovation has a critical role to play as well. And public policy should be adapted to stimulate invention and the uptake of "greener" technologies. But Meadowcroft also insists that we consider the social side of production and consumption, and in this area he believes governments could do more to stimulate discussion about what we consume and why.