Reimagine SUSTAINABILITY with Enrico Giovannini

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Professor Enrico Giovannini, a distinguished author and Professor of Statistics and Sustainable Development Policies at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata,” shared his insights on sustainable development in the new episode of the ReImagine TALKS series. He emphasised that sustainability is fundamentally an issue of “intergenerational justice”, allowing the current generation to meet its needs without jeopardising future generations. According to Giovannini, our behaviours must adapt to prevent environmental and societal disasters”, highlighting the need for a resilient society to ensure a viable future.

Giovannini noted that the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development Goals faces significant challenges due to geopolitical tensions “slowing down” agreements on climate action, nature preservation, and ecosystem protection. Despite these challenges, he acknowledged the efforts undertaken by the European Union to incorporate the agenda into their policies: “The European Union is the best in terms of policy coherence for sustainable development”. However, a major issue, according to Giovannini, is the fact that we are using wrong data, wrong models and wrong theories” to measure our development. According to the professor, current economic theories often fail to address inequality and that policy evaluation models are too linear, missing the complex interactions of natural, social, and economic systems.

When it comes to artificial intelligence (AI) as a potential solution, Giovannini recognised its valuable role but warned that AI might replicate past mistakes if it relies solely on existing data. “The risk of replicating past wrong choices is significant because artificial intelligence normally uses what is already available”, he explained.

Looking towards the future, the former Italian Minister of Infrastructure and Sustainable Mobility advocates for a comprehensive ecological and digital transition. “The ecological and digital transition is exactly what is needed”, he asserted. Giovannini explained that recent simulations by the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development suggest that merely focusing on the energy transition could result in minimal gains or even losses in GDP and employment by 2050. However, a broader investment in innovation could lead to significant economic and employment growth. He cautioned: “We can decide to wait, but the cost will be much higher”.

Professor Enrico Giovannini calls for systemic change, starting with revising the system of national accounts because without changing the metrics that guide our actions and reward policymakers, there is no way to shift capitalism towards a more sustainable phase”. He pointed out the vital role of the European Union in this transformation, advocating for a model of success based on well-being, sustainability, and equality, rather than being judged exclusively by GDP. His insights call for a profound rethinking of our approach to development, emphasising justice, innovation, and systemic change.

ReImagine TALKS is a series of video podcasts launched by Re-Imagine Europa together with leading media partners and featuring some of the most innovative, influential, and original thinkers of our time, challenging conventional thinking and reimagining the concept with an unexpected and contemporary lens. The series is hosted by Erika Stäel von Holstein and Luca de Biase, RIE’s Chief Executive and Research Director, respectively. The previous episodes addressed topics like Capitalism, Power, Ethics, Narratives, Taxation or Migration. You can find the previous episodes here.

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