Director of publications
Teresa Ribera

Pierre Barthélemy, Marion Gourdin, Carine Antunes

Anna Kiff & Jim Johnson


A Planet For Life 2014 – Innovation for Sustainable Developement

Innovation has become the new buzzword across the globe. International organisations, governments, corporates, academia and society see it as the answer to the major economic, social and environmental transformations challenging the models of the 20th century. What is the real potential of innovation? Does the rapid deployment of innovations lead towards a more sustainable and inclusive society? Can innovations and the emerging alternatives replace conventional models? Beyond technologies, what institutional innovations are required to support sustainable development? A Planet for Life 2014 aims to answer these questions and explore innovation in all its aspects. The objective is to analyse experiences from across the world and the role of innovation in a variety of areas of development such as urbanization, agriculture and food, the mobility of people and freight, education and the provision of water and energy to all.

Modernisation agricole chinoise, entre domination d’un modèle et émergence d’alternatives durables
M.-H. Schwoob, Working Paper

This paper firstly analyses the reasons for the dominance of a particular type of agriculture in China, and then details its limitations—including social and environmental ones. It then explores the debates surrounding alternative Chinese agriculture, with particular attention on community-supported agriculture in Beijing.

Do PES improve the governance of forest restoration?
R. Pirard, G. de Buren, R. Lapeyre, Forests 2014, 5(3), 404-424

Based on surveys conducted in December 2012 and January 2013 in the framework of the INVALUABLE project, carried out in the Cidanau watershed in Java, Indonesia, as well as on qualitative surveys in Lombok from 2012 and 2013, this article aims to show that payments for environmental services (PES), as they are currently implemented in the field, are not necessarily an innovative and efficient solution for the improvement of forest restoration project governance. In particular, the authors show that intermediate PES actors in Indonesia do not constitute an efficient means of targeting providers of ecosystem services and that conditionality is low.

april 2014N° 50

The sharing economy: promise and tension

For proponents of the “sharing economy” or of “collaborative consumption”, owning a car that spends more than 92% of its time parked is nothing more than an under-utilisation of material goods or capital, and is therefore an economic and environmental waste. The same applies to tools stored in a cellar that are only used once or twice a year, or to mobile phones forgotten in a drawer.

The sharing economy is nothing new, but has today been reinvented by the "digital revolution", which is giving new impetus to practices involving reselling, renting, gifting, swapping or loaning, generally between individuals—peer-to-peer—, with or without money changing hands. These practices provide hope for the environment: intensifying the use of all the material goods we consume and thereby reducing our ecological footprint.

In order to examine the potential contribution of these new economic models to the environmental transition, IDDRI organised on 10 April a multi-stakeholder workshop focusing on the challenges and opportunities of the sharing economy. This event brought together innovative associations and companies from the sharing sector, companies that are exploring new opportunities based on a more traditional business model, researchers and representatives of the public authorities.

These discussions underlined the fact that the environmental assessment of these practices is far more complex than initially thought. Although some sectors are relatively well studied—especially shared mobility with car-sharing and car-pooling—, for others, we are still at the stage of asking questions: does the resale of smartphones on specialised second-hand platforms help to reduce the quantity of telephones produced and therefore of resources used and of waste generated, or does it simply increase the pace of their replacement and the dissemination of innovation? Do online rentals of goods between individuals help to ensure fewer but better quality goods are sold, or do they "only" replace loans between neighbours? And what impacts do these new patterns of consumption have on the production of more sustainable goods and their transport? There are still many questions regarding the environmental assessment of the sharing economy, and among the future research avenues identified during the workshop, it became clear that it is crucial to better understand—through qualitative and quantitative surveys—how individuals actually use the new Internet platforms.

Moreover, although the participants discussed in depth public policies to be implemented in order to accompany the dissemination of the sharing economy—in terms of environmental protection, taxation or social regulation—, the companies of this “new” economy must also be proactive in order to meet their environmental promises, by offering sustainable services.

These new technologies are intrinsically neither good nor bad for the environment, as everything depends on how they are used: this is one of the—somewhat caricatured—conclusions of the 2014 edition of A Planet for Life, which focuses on innovation. The sharing economy is a specific translation – in the form of new economic models – of the digital revolution, and is permeated by the same tension: it could just as well be the reflection, or even the vehicle, of an "overconsumption" of material goods than of sustainable consumption. Implementing pathways that are compatible with environmental protection is a huge challenge: steering innovation towards greater sustainability through our individual consumption choices, our choices as entrepreneurs and our choices regarding collective regulation. Aligning these perspectives will not be easy.