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Environmental and economic gains must go hand in hand

Background description

Sustainable development poses environmental challenges and opportunities, but the latter depend heavily on changing the behaviour of citizens, companies and policy-makers. The need for balance between acceptable living standards and the environment is obvious, but getting the right balance is not. Logistical and spatial interconnections within and between markets demand that decisionmaking incorporates local and global aspects. This is the sustainable concept behind ‘glocacity’ where product planning and design lead to global products based on a single standard but offering specific variations for local markets.

The 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg saw all nations resolve to promote sustainable patterns of consumption and production to generate tangible gains for the environment. The EU is the only region where a coherent sustainable development strategy engages so many countries, and it stands as a model for others to follow. DG Research helps Europe achieve its WSSD commitment through the vast array of environmental projects it supports. Collectively, these provide tools to assess the impact of policies and actions, as well as reliable indicators of sustainable development by monitoring trends in the environment and society. With a proactive approach, the EU can convert environmental protection and social cohesion into opportunities for innovation, growth and jobs. But this requires solutions that offer a sustainable difference to people in Europe and elsewhere in the world. As the Commission observed, “Europe’s future can only be seen in this global context.”


Funded by the Sixth Framework Programme and begun in September 2005, the two-year ATLAS project unites higher research, education and training institutions across Europe. Its objective is to make spotting gaps related to land use and sustainable development in education as easy and effective as possible, and to provide courses most suitable for the user by means of the created database. The results are intended for policy-makers, but will also be available to the public.

Full project title: Action for Training in Land use And Sustainability
Project acronym: ATLAS
Project coordinator: Hannes Palang, Estonia,
Duration: 30 months
Science in society significance Sustainable development encompasses issues of enormous importance to citizens, such as maintaining and increasing long-term prosperity, addressing climate change and creating a safe, healthy and socially inclusive society. Europe and the world face rapid environmental change on a global scale, from the melting of the ice caps to growing energy demand and higher prices. Pressing research is needed to address unsustainable trends and to change our behaviour and attitudes. Future generations have no voice over our decisions but they will judge us according to the world we leave them. Expected results/outcomes
  • Sustainable development best practices will spread across many sectors in Europe;
  • Consumer habits should steadily shift to sustainable consumption;
  • Manufacturers and companies will increasingly move to production techniques anchored in a socio-environmental and cultural context;
  • Energy research will lead fuel consumption toward carbon neutrality, with direct benefits for the environment;
  • Public spending on efficient and ‘greener’ transport of people and goods will rise;
  • A more inclusive global society will emerge as consumers, business and governments assume responsibility for building a sustainable heritage for future generations.