5 June 2009

Political Will is necessary for active environmental initiatives

A country requires stable institutions to assess and remedy different problems. Addressing environmental issues demands political motivation and ambition.

MAPLE—Mapping the Politics of Ecology—is a Mistra financed idea support project whose goal it is to understand what underlying political factors are behind the disparity among countries to handle environmental problems—and what allows some countries to have the ability to engage a more powerful environmental policy than others.

“The goal is to understand how political factors affect a country´s ability to solve or address different types of environmental problems. One fundamental condition is the quality of the central institutions, meaning that they are not corrupt," says Andreas Duit, project manager and a political science researcher at Stockholm Resilience Centre.

The researchers within the project rely on an economic-theoretical analysis, examining the mechanics of a nation´s governance, its judiciary system and whether or not there are trustworthy governing bodies—all necessary factors for economic well-being. The theory is sometimes called “quality of governance."

“We have, among other things, examined whether the same political factors are instrumental for a country´s ability to implement a proactive environmental policy," Duit explains.

Comparative Analysis
The researchers have collected data from hundreds of countries, provinces, states and cities/municipalities through, among others information sources, the UN and the World Bank. By comparing how different countries and social structures are able to solve or deal with environmental problems, the researchers have identified which political factors seem to be crucial to exercise effective environmental politics.

“We have concluded that the high quality of a country´s governmental institutions is a necessary foundation, but is not enough alone to attend to different kinds of environmental problems. Additionally, political will and ambition are needed to accomplish something that takes care of the environmental problems," states Andreas Duit.

Knowledge about how and what political factors are influencing the outcome of environmental policies can, for example, be used to predict the outcome of global climate measures—or how environmental development assistance can be promoted in an optimal way.

More than results
The ongoing project has involved two young researchers since 2003. Before the final project tabulation in 2010, the researchers plan a last conference and the publishing of an anthology with articles within the same research realm.

I addition to the results themselves, the project has led to many new contacts and research projects, as well as skyrocketing the careers of the two researches.

"The idea support grant has been important in more ways than one. On the one hand, the grant made it possible for us to carry through the research project and we were able to work with exactly what interested us. On the other hand, it gave us a fantastic opportunity to build a foundation for research careers within a field we are passionate about. We were given the support grant at a stage when we had just completed our doctorial disputations and had no employment. So the idea support grant has meant everything to us," says Andreas Duit.

He is himself a guest researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle, USA, during 2009. In addition, he participates in several ongoing research projects at Stockholms Resilience Centre at the University of Stockholm. As for his colleague Ola Hall, the idea support grant led to a research staff position at the Institute for Physical Geography and Ecosystem Analysis at the University of Lund.

“Without the idea support grant we would never have come this far," says Andreas Duit.


From 2001 to 2008, Mistra has financed 30 so-called idea support projects, totaling some 160 million Swedish crowns.

The purpose of this investment has been to help realize innovative research projects with the potential to bettering the environment.

An idea support project should contain strong elements of audacity, originality and creativity. Research should be an adventure of discovery, groundbreaking and/or a re-investigation of previous paradigms.

Research must include a constant re-examination and challenge to established views.

Mistra Mistra