Damaging human impacts on the environment go beyond climate breakdown to encompass most other natural systems, from soil to biodiversity. The current economic model in countries around the world drives this breakdown, and many of its underpinning assumptions, policies and narratives act as barriers to change.

A new model is needed to rapidly create societies that are more sustainable, just and prepared: bringing human activity to within environmentally sustainable limits while narrowing inequality, improving quality of life, and becoming better prepared for the accelerating consequences of environmental breakdown.

This is the first in a series of six short discussion papers that seeks to inform debate about the relationship between policy, politics and environmental breakdown, supporting education in economic, social and political sciences. This paper explores the role of social and economic systems – and the ideas, policies and narratives that underpin them – in driving dangerous environmental change. It discusses how these systems should change in order to improve the response to environmental breakdown.

This discussion paper series is part of a major IPPR research programme – Responding to environmental breakdown– that seeks to understand how to realise a more sustainable, just and prepared society in response to environmental breakdown.