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Enhancing governance for synergies between climate and biodiversity measures: Is the EU’s principle of 'do no harm' conducive to sustainability transition?

Jerneja Penca
Wednesday, March 23, 2022, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm

Public Lecture at the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy on:

Enhancing governance for synergies between climate and biodiversity measures: Is the EU’s principle of 'do no harm' conducive to sustainability transition?

By Jerneja Penca PhD, Associate Professor and Head of Academic Affairs Euro-Mediterranean University (Slovenia)

Dr. Laszlo Pinter, Professor and Head of Department, Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy and Senior Fellow, International Institute for Sustainable Development

Venue: Auditorium, Vienna campus
Streamlined and recorded on Zoom

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Meeting ID: 925 1848 9117
Passcode: 230322

The EU’s latest growth and development agenda (European Green Deal, EGD) identifies climate and environmental-related challenges as “this generation’s defining task” and sets out to put the economy and society on a more sustainable path by a set of “deeply transformative policies”. The level of determination, espoused by the EGD, and the holistic approach to tacking climate change and biodiversity in an interrelated way find strong support in sustainability science. One of the central tools in the planning process for the EU’s green transformation, particularly as part of the post-Covid-19 stimulation and legislation packages, the do no (significant) harm principle. This principle is based on the logic of lifecycle assessment and is intended to ensure that no measure creates any detrimental impact to any of the EU’s environmental goals.

But just how much of a safety net does the do no harm principle provide – does it deliver on its name of avoiding harm? What innovation does it introduce in terms of a conceptual idea and its implementation? What role does it play in the envisaged ‘green’ transformation of the EU and its ambition to act as a global leader on climate and environmental issues? Is it, as a concrete policy instrument, conducive to the kind of visions of transformative change considered in interdisciplinary sustainability science? This presentation will explore the do no harm principle from the perspective of its potential to trigger or facilitate systemic changes in response to global environmental challenges. It will first situate the principle in the context of existing environmental law and then draw lessons on its impact, based on a review of its application across the EU member states. The discussion will span over the trajectories of environmental governance in 21st century and the factors influencing policymaking. What has been learnt from the past and what policy and management options are we still missing?

Jerneja Penca (PhD European University Institute, LL.M. University of Nottingham) is a scholar in environmental governance and sustainability at the Euro-Mediterranean University (EMUNI). Her research has spanned over various regimes, including biodiversity, climate change, fisheries, ocean governance and plastics pollution, as well as the issue of science-policy interface. She has published in legal, policy and interdisciplinary journals. She serves as the Head of academic affairs at EMUNI, in charge of the university’s research activity, strategic relationships, development of new study programmes and capacity-building projects. Since 2022 she is leading the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence on Sustainable Blue Economy. She is involved in policy dialogue in the Euro-Mediterranean region, particularly in the areas of science and higher education, research and innovation cooperation, blue economy and sustainability. She is the Managing Editor of the International Journal of Euro-Mediterranean Studies. She teaches Environmental Law at Nova Unverza, Slovenia and is a visiting lecturer at the University of Alexandria, Egypt.