RISE was recently asked by Rémi Barillon to define the scientific priorities for the forthcoming creation of a Priority Exploratory Research Programme (PEPR) in the field of the 'Sustainable City' : PEPR Transform, in particular for the strategy 'solutions for the sustainable city and innovative building'. This programme is the subject of a ZAEU-RISE  co-elaboration.

The axes selected are the following:

  • Reflexive and shared approaches to scientific research on sustainable cities: thinking & collectively organising transdisciplinarity on sustainable cities, i.e., articulation of scientific disciplines + integration of knowledge and experience of the various actors in society.
  • Sustainable urban metabolism: understanding, quantifying and sustainably managing the flows and cycles of energy (production-consumption-recycling), water and materials (food and waste, pollutants, building materials, etc., at different levels of organisation (urban, regional)).
  • Urban resilience to global change - planning (multi-species meeting zones, prevention of heat islands, etc.), designing (adapted architecture and urbanism, (re-)connection with water and nature, and fostering (resilient urban culture, adapted renovation, etc.)
  • Inclusive and shared urban governance (transdisciplinarity), adaptive, focused on the reduction of socio-environmental inequalities: what responses to fundamental rights, in particular the right to a healthy environment and to sustainable food?


The relationship between humans and the planet is in the deepest crisis ever documented. Climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, and growing inequalities are key drivers of a global crisis affecting ecosystems and human habitability of the planet. The physical risks are compounded by growing inequalities, health crises and geopolitical tensions. Despite repeated warnings from scientists over five decades, policies to achieve and maintain acceptable living conditions for human populations and ecosystems have been insufficient. The physical changes in the environment and the general social and political instability are systemic, complex and interrelated, wicked problems.

TRANSFORM aims to contribute through transformational research for the reversal of current trends that are degrading human well-being and the living conditions for all living beings on Earth. To do so, the ambition is to advance the understanding of the physical and social conditions of habitability, to strengthen the co-construction of situated knowledge between scientists and society and to define effective and collective repair options and desirable futures. TRANSFORM will combine observations and experiments in placebased Earth Habitability Labs (EHL) with the exploration of scale interactions and power relations in an Earthcare Institute for Transformation (EIT). While the EIT is an entirely new entity, most EHLs will build on existing long-term regional social-ecological observatories in France and elsewhere, in particular the Global South.

Using this structure and building on recent advances in sustainability science, TRANSFORM pursues three objectives, across multiple scale levels: (1) explore the conditions of Earth's loss of habitability through a broad interdisciplinary analysis of all major issues associated with the planet's habitability (quantitative and qualitative observations, representations, imaginaries, aesthetics, theories, norms) as well the actions that impact habitability (transition policies, adaptation, mitigation, resistance), (2) produce knowledge for transformation, based on place-based inquiries, observations and experiments through cooperation between researchers from different academic disciplines, artists and non-academic actors using an inclusive approach, adjusted for different scales from the local to the national level, combining observation, socialecological experimentation, and modelling, (3) develop new ways to care for habitability by removing obstacles to the transition to better habitability, by overcoming the institutional impediments to transformation, and through the identification of new ways to build desirable futures based on the strengthening of capacities and the power to act, from individual and collective actions to public policies. Expected outputs are transformative processes in (i) our research and training practices, (ii) our representations of the Earth system, especially concerning human and non-human interactions, (iii) practices and policies for habitability, from local to global scale. The fundamental TRANSFORM hypothesis is that the co-construction of knowledge across disciplines, joint work with artists, and the creation of new alliances between science, society and policy, will open the door to deep transformations of governance systems, from local to global scale.

TRANSFORM is built on the partnership of CNRS and IRD, including their large networks involved in social ecological observations and experimentation, associated with EHESS, Sciences Po and INRAE, as well as nine French universities.