6 April 2018

Frank Biermann awarded ERC Advanced Grant for SDG research

Prof. dr. Frank Biermann

Frank Biermann, Professor of Global Sustainability Governance, has been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant. He will use this prestigious European grant worth EUR 2.5 million to conduct research into the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations in 2015. The ERC Advanced Grant is the European Research Council's highest research grant and is allocated annually to senior researchers whose groundbreaking work opens up new directions in their field.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 ambitious goals set by the United Nations in 2015. Aiming to solve humanity's greatest problems by 2030, they range from bringing an end to extreme poverty and hunger to the effective protection of threatened ecosystems and social justice for all. The 17 goals include 169 specific targets for which indicators have been developed.

Is the UN's approach effective?

But does this approach to international policy using global goals have any chance of success? Will the world become more sustainable and fair because the United Nations has set itself 17 Sustainable Development Goals?

This is the key question in Biermann's political science research. “We intend to conduct extensive research on whether the system is becoming more effective and inclusive. For example, the UN proposes that all countries will be involved in this agenda. But is this actually happening in practice – will smaller developing countries gain greater influence over the course of time as a result of this process? Or will the larger countries continue to make all the decisions?”

Sustainable Development Goals
The Sustainable Development Goals

Better coordination

“Another question that we intend to explore is whether the hundreds of international organisations and institutions will become better integrated. Will collaboration between international organisations become more effective as a result of the Sustainable Development Goals, for example the cooperation between the World Bank and the UN Environment Programme? We will also analyse the impact of the new international goals on global environmental problems: are the goals helping to provide more effective protection for ecosystems worldwide?”

Biermann will use the EUR 2.5 million grant to recruit a team of seven social scientists. The team will examine the effects of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals using a series of complex methods in the field of social sciences, including social network analysis, global surveys, case studies in different countries and hundreds of interviews with experts in different fields.

Pathways to Sustainability and Institutions for Open Societies

Biermann’s research lies at the interface between two of Utrecht University's strategic themes, Pathways to Sustainability and Institutions for Open Societies.

About Frank Biermann

Since 2015, Frank Biermann has been Professor of Global Sustainability Governance in the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development in Utrecht University's Faculty of Geosciences. He founded and chairs the Earth System Governance Project, one of the world's largest research networks in global sustainability policy. In 2019, this network's international project office is moving from Sweden to Utrecht University, and Utrecht will host the annual Earth System Governance Conference on 5-8 November 2018.