Sustainability (Journal)

Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditorial board


Guest editor for Special Issue "Environmental Policy Design and Implementation: Toward Sustainable Society"


The science could not be more emphatic: As a spate of recent hard-hitting reports and assessments have indicated, achieving prosperous and equitable societies, climate stability and a flourishing biosphere require urgent global collective action across scales and sectors (IPCC, 2018, 2019; IPBES, 2019; WWF, 2018; TNC, 2018; UN, 2018; 2019; UN-HABITAT, 2018; FAO, 2019; FSIN, 2019; WRI, 2019). If we are to succeed in that ambition, then delivering on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Convention of Biodiversity’s post-2020 Biodiversity Framework will require radical change, and mechanisms to steer future societal growth towards more equitable, social–ecological resilient, adaptive pathways. At the heart of that process lies the design, implementation, coordination, and coherence of environmental policies (SDG 17.13/4), especially those that intersect key goals of ‘economic development’ (SDG 8, 9, 11) and ‘production and consumption’ (SDG 2, 7, 12). As WWF’s Living Planet Report (2018, pg.6) clearly states “everything that has built modern human society is provided by nature and, increasingly, research demonstrates the natural world’s incalculable importance to our health, wealth, food and security.”


Across the Global South, and Africa in particular, there is an urgent need for inclusive policies that will enable sustainable transitions towards knowledge-based economies grounded in evidence-based policy making. Nonetheless, the design and evaluation of effective policy solutions and research implementation strategies remains very limited. In many parts of sub-sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), there has been a vast expansion in primary and secondary economic sectors, resulting in significant inland and coastal infrastructural developments and a growth in mining, manufacturing, construction, and industrial agricultural sectors. Admittedly, these developments have the potential to promote regional socioeconomic growth, inward investment, reduce poverty, and transform rural livelihoods. Many opportunities are presented for economic development with a new wave of interest from foreign direct investors, rising national incomes, improved human resources and internet connectivity, a growing working-age population, and natural capital valuation, with economies showing increased resilience to global economic shocks.

Nevertheless, developments are not uniform across all countries. For example, since 2010, some African countries have seen a decline in productivity growth indicators, whilst others have maintained stable GDP and productivity growth. Moreover, many nations run the serious risk of natural resources overexploitation and habitat loss, while poorer urban and rural communities are often marginalized from decision-making processes. These developments also frequently occur against the backdrop of weak governance, institutional bureaucratic backlogs and operational silos, political convulsions, and corruption. Concurrently, as extreme climatic events become more frequent, strategic regional and urban development plays a critical role in expanding consumption of households and businesses but is highly dependent on national macroeconomic policymaking and the cooperation of city governments, the private sector, development practitioners, conservationists, and urban planners. The question then becomes how, under these conditions, can effective, robust, and transformative policies be developed and implemented in a way that will steer these societies towards more sustainable, inclusive outcomes in the short- and long-term future?


Focusing on SSA, the purpose of this Special Issue is to explore and advance our understanding of (a) the present state and effectiveness of local, national, and regional policies engaging with, and transforming, the climatological, environmental, social, and economic impacts and consequences of primary and secondary sector expansion and urbanization; and (b) how environmental policies might be designed and embedded into future regional economic and urban development planning to encourage coordination and coherence across sectors and policy domains to deliver sustainable transformations for meeting Agenda 2030 and African Union Agenda 2063.

Key questions to address include:

What are the key synergies and trade-offs in developing effective environmental policies to enhance or restrain the positive and negative impacts of primary and secondary sector expansions respectively? What opportunities are there for developing integrated urban policies that will enable countries to achieve both green growth and future social–ecological prosperity? What are the principal institutional and governance barriers and challenges in designing, implementing, and evaluating integrative environmental policies to meet multiple SDGs? Are there policy coordination difficulties in meeting the aims of Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063, and if so, how might these be harmonized? What rapid economic policy reforms and interventions can be implemented to achieve significant progress in green and physical and digital infrastructure? In what ways can policy interventions be designed to increase urban green infrastructure and ecosystem services to improve community livelihoods in informal settlements? How can marginal communities and voices be effectively included in policymaking processes, and to what extent can processes of deliberative democracy and environmental justice encourage dialogues between local actors and national institutions? How can environmental policy be embedded in urban planning to deliver sustainable land use transitions and effective climate risk reduction strategies? How can advances and innovations in STEM and ICT be applied to produce more robust environmental policymaking and strengthen the science–policy interface?

We therefore encourage original contributions that adopt both research and practice perspectives concerning evidence of policy trade-offs, synergies, challenges, and opportunities. In particular, we invite interdisciplinary studies across natural, social, and human sciences that examine social–ecological interactions occurring between land-use change, livelihoods, primary and secondary sector activities, and urban planning. Empirical studies drawing on multiple case studies, reviews, and conceptual submissions that adopt novel epistemological or methodological approaches are welcomed.
Type of journalJournal
Degree of RecognitionInternational