Europe and Switzerland

Silage bales in the Pre-Alps, Switzerland
Photo: Gaby Allheilig

Europe and Switzerland have a special responsibility to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – not just for historical reasons. Indeed, the continent’s current ecological footprint – including greenhouse gas emissions, land use, and resource consumption – remains massive and must be addressed to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Similarly, interactions between Europe and the global South play a key role. These interactions have significant impacts on the environment and social well-being of both sides. In particular, it is important to analyse the differences between developments in the global North and South.

Europe must also do more to adapt to global warming. Especially in mountain areas and arid regions, there is a need for sustainable, innovative solutions that are also supported by affected local populations.

Research focuses

CDE research in Europe and Switzerland accordingly focuses on implementation of the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs), with a special emphasis on policy coherence and interactions between the different targets of the 2030 Agenda. Studies particularly examine:

  • Linkages between ecological footprint reductions and aspects of sufficient lifestyles;
  • Levers of global trade and their consequences for trading partner countries and their populations;
  • The effects of different forms of transition on distinct population groups, as well as issues of equitability that arise in this respect;
  • The development and optimization of agricultural practices that are sustainable in terms of biodiversity, ecosystem services, and food systems – including particular emphasis on the involvement of concerned stakeholders.


New project: COMMONPATHS – Transition pathways to urban sustainability

Increasing resource use and growing inequality in urban areas pose problems for sustainable development. Social movements for green cities, affordable housing, and sustainable food systems are creating opportunities to address these challenges. But why do certain urban commons projects succeed while others fail? This project is investigating how to improve the conditions for success of commons movements.

New project: SWEET Lantern: Living Labs – interfaces for the energy transition

In order to promote the energy transition in Switzerland, scientists from several universities and living labs have launched the “Lantern” research project. Specialists and citizens are collaborating to find solutions to foster decarbonization in people’s lifestyles and ways of working.

New project: Mitholz - How does the clearing of the former ammunition depot affect the residents of the village?

Starting in 2030 or even earlier, part of the population of Mitholz, a village in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland, will be relocated for an expected ten years. CDE is accompanying the remediation from a social science perspective and examining questions related to quality of life and residents’ attachment to their home village.

CDE Working paper: Measuring the impact of climate conversations

What effects do to small group conversations about individual climate protection behaviour have on participants’ personal ecological footprint? CDE's new Working paper examines this question.

Info box
Contact Dr. Theresa Tribaldos
Partners Agroscope


CIHEAM Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari, Italy

ETH Zurich, Department of Environmental Systems Science

The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)

Graduate Institute Geneva (IHEID)

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZ, Germany

INRAE, French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment

ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, Germany

Ukrainian National Forestry University

Umeå University, Sweden, Centre for Environmental and Resource Economics

UNESCO World Heritage Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch (SAJA)

University of Applied Sciences Kärtnen, UNESCO Chair Sustainable Management of Conservation Areas

Wageningen University, Netherlands

Ongoing key reference projects & initiatives COMMONPATHS: Transition pathways for urban sustainability

Education for Sustainable Development at the University of Bern 

Environmental policies for ecological infrastructures in rural landscapes (EMERALD)

JUST-FOOD: Tackling inequalities on the way to sustainable food systems

OPTAIN – Optimal strategies to retain and re-use water and nutrients in small agricultural catchments

Scenarios for a sustainable food system in Switzerland

SHOWCASE - Showcasing synergies between agriculture, biodiversity, and ecosystem services

Traditional irrigation in Europe as cultural heritage (in German) 

UNESCO chair at CDE


Completed key reference projects & initiatives Catastrophic shifts in drylands (CASCADE) 

Sustainable trade relations for diversified food systems 

Time is wealth: Part-time work as a means to foster sustainable lifestyles?

NCCR North-South