CCSS Meeting #54: Does a sustainability transition require limiting economic complexity?


This lecture will be held in hybrid format: the speaker Prof. Jeroen van den Bergh n will be speaking online from Barcelona, Spain, and Dr. Brian Dermody (UU) will be physically present as the on-site moderator to initiate discussions. The theme of this CCSS Lunch Meeting is Sustainability Transitions.

Speaker Overview

Jeroen van den Bergh is ICREA Professor in the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, and professor of Environmental & Resource Economics at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He has a broad range of research interests, including environmental and climate economics, innovation and transition studies, applied behavioural and evolutionary economics, and spatial (urban and transport) economics. From 2011 to 2021 he was Editor-in-Chief of the journal Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions. He received the Royal/Shell Prize 2002 for Sustainability Research, IEC’s Sant Jordi Environmental Prize 2011, an ERC Advanced grant in 2017, and an honorary doctorate from the Netherlands’ Open University (2019). His latest book is Human Evolution beyond Biology and Culture: Evolutionary Social, Environmental and Policy Sciences, published by Cambridge University Press.

Lecture Overview

Most complex systems tend to spontaneously evolve over a long period of time. Now we want to steer one such system, namely the economy, within a decade to a state in which it will be considerably less harmful to the environment. I will examine what this means in terms of economic complexity. In particular, I will ask if steering a complex economy to such an ambitious goal is feasible and which problems this will face? This involves examining whether complexity increases along transition paths, and what this means for systemic effects and ultimately environmental pressures. Based on the insights obtained, I discuss whether additional complexity of environmental and climate solutions serves as a barrier to achieving environmental sustainability. I will end with drawing implications for the design of transition policy. The lecture will combine insights from environmental and evolutionary economics as well as innovation and transition studies.

There will be 45-min lecture from the speaker, followed by a 15-min Question & Answer session.

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