Published 2019-11-06

This post is also available in Swedish

Mistra Dialogue: how can a breakthrough for evidence in the EU be achieved?

How will the EU tackle climate and environmental issues in the future, and how can Mistra’s programmes provide knowledge for legislation and decision-making? Representatives of several Mistra programmes met and discussed the matter at a dialogue meeting to share their experience and formulate strategies.

The meeting was conducted in collaboration with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP). Project manager Mia Pantzar, who has extensive experience of EU environmental legislation, opened by illustrating the decision-making process in the EU. This environment is clearly hard to navigate, with its own agenda, numerous organisations and government agencies, dozens of directorates and especially commissioners, who are also replaced regularly.

‘Interacting in Brussels isn’t unlike the interaction with decision makers at home. It’s about identifying the right person at the right time and understanding what information that person needs and can take on board. Clearly showing the policy relevance of one’s results is perhaps most important of all,’ Pantzar says.

One difference between the EU’s working method and the traditional approach of Swedish government agencies is that, in the former, those involved discuss early drafts in the course of the work, instead of awaiting scope for consulting stakeholders on near-complete proposals. This makes it possible to influence the discussion in several ways. The timing is important.

Most people considered that an interdisciplinary approach and persistence made possible by long-term initiatives similar to Mistra’s programmes create good prospects for success. But it is important to have a clear message and venture to stand for it.

SEI has been successful in project construction by involving target groups early in the process. One way of achieving this method, known as ‘co-creation’, is to find basic ‘lowest common denominators’ on which people agree, despite their differences on other issues. Another important measure may be to select active board members who can act as ambassadors for the programme. This may be required in the many contacts with key people, government agencies, NGOs and other lobby groups that are necessary for marketing and securing support for the projects.

A great deal of work is required to lead a research programme, and time may be too short to monitor policy development in the EU as well. One proposal that emerged was for Mistra and other funders to work jointly on monitoring EU environmental policy and also, perhaps, events in Washington DC.

Within the framework of their current assignment, the IEEP and SEI plan to compile a handbook for Mistra with key points about time frames and contacts at EU level.

‘The project is appropriate right now, with the new European Parliament and the incoming Commission. Their decisions in the next few years will have a major impact on whether we succeed in reversing the trends of greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss, for example. Decisions need to be based on scientifically robust, impartial and inclusive research that is also available to European officials, and presented in such a way that decision makers can understand and consider it,’ Pantzar says.