Transformative Outcomes: Signposts for Transformation and Its Implications for COP28



COP28 marks the halfway point between the Paris Agreement, signed in 2015 at COP21, and 2030 – the crucial point in time when efforts to limit global warming to 1.5C must take immediate effect. This year’s COP serves as a global stocktake of where we stand in the race towards net zero.  

My climate-related research on transformative innovation policy aims to generate impact on policy decisions and to achieve long-term systemic change. 

Transformative innovation policy for long-term system change  

Innovation is at the top of many governments’ climate agendas. But instead of framing it as quick-fix solutions, innovation must be used as a vehicle for tackling global sustainability challenges at a system level. 

The research area Transformative Innovation Policy (TIP) sees technological innovation, ecological consciousness and social well-being as closely intertwined. TIP is an approach that advocates holistic development across society in harmony with the environment, rather than economic growth that may or may not result into equitable social development or may do so, at the cost of environmental damage. It aims to guide innovation in directions that drive substantial and positive changes in society. 

My research on the theory and practise of TIP is about how to do system change, rather than ‘fixing what is wrong’. It is about addressing the root cause of the climate crisis, rather than the consequences. Transformative outcomes (TOs) aim to guide policy makers’ actions, accordingly, encouraging them to evaluate and reformulate their projects, programmes and policies in directions that could unlock transformative system change. They have been described by policy users as ‘tools that we can use to dig deeper for change’. 

Transformative outcomes (TOs) are dynamic and can be adopted and modified for different regional and industry contexts. For example, the transformative outcomes framework, as applied in the Deep Transitions Lab, helps to reorient private and public investments towards system change, considering the long-term future impact and returns on current investments in unsustainable food, energy, and mobility systems. 

The relevance of TIP and implications for COP28 

One of the key topics of discussion at COP28 is how to address complex and diverse challenges, through cooperation between the Global North and Global South. We can use the transformative outcomes framework and the TIP approach to guide discussions such as: 

  • Which innovations could policies support? 
  • Who needs to be included in policy making of system change? 
  • How can transformative change be collectively envisioned? and 
  • What transformative actions are required at the national, regional and local policy and community levels to recognise, facilitate and accelerate ongoing changes? 

The focus should be on changing, rather than improving or optimising energy, health, food and mobility systems. For instance, access to basic healthcare and public transportation by the less privileged should be at the core of net-zero policies, which could constitute digitalisation or EV diffusion as a part of the solution. Technology is important, but it is just one aspect of multi-dimensional systems (comprising culture, industry, users, policy and technology) that need to be transformed. 

Policies need to be developed in collaboration, with a diverse range of actors - particularly those who are historically marginalised - being heard. Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research, where researchers and practitioners get to collaborate and generate impact needs to be promoted through science funding that is allocated for action-oriented knowledge and impact co-creation.  

Only a just transition can be a sustainable one. Deciding and acting on social justice, human development and well-being as part of climate mitigation and adaptation strategies should be a core agreement at COP28.  

Bipashyee Ghosh is a Research Fellow at SPRU (Science Policy Research Unit), University of Sussex Business School.  

Watch her talk about system transformation here.

Further information about Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium.

Bipashyee Ghosh et al (2021): Transformative outcomes for assessing and reorienting experimentation with transformative innovation policy

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