Ecological modernisation as a framework for sustainable development: a case study in Sweden
Sweden has long been an acknowledged leader in Europe in terms of its commitment to environmental protection linked with ecologically based technological innovation, and to social democratisation and high levels of welfare provision. Following the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio, Agenda 21 was received warmly as codifying an existing determination to pursue development which may be sustainable. However, over the last decade the economy has come under increasing pressure from globalisation and social change. Although the environmental agenda remains strong, a schism seems to be developing with key socioeconomic drivers. The Swedish government has responded with a policy framework of ecological modernisation, through which it hopes to regain the high ground economically, environmentally, and socially. We report on a study for the Swedish Research Councils in which we explore aspects of this national policy framework, and how it is being interpreted in selected projects in Sweden's three major cities and two case-study towns. We examine tensions in integration and implementation; and argue that Swedish norms may favour an unduly 'expert' and even 'technocorporatist' view of sustainable development which its current ecological modernisation programme does little to address. We discuss the cultural and institutional change which may be required if the current conception of ecological modernisation is to deliver development which is sustainable.
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