Headline: Blog

The IASS blog contains contributions from employees in all IASS departments and covers a huge range of themes. In addition to discussing the latest research findings and events, the blog authors comment on political developments.

 

Climate Justice Through Human Rights: The Carbon Majors Inquiry

While climate change-related disasters are increasing at an alarming rate, concrete action to limit such devastating effects is progressing at a different pace. Instead of addressing the main cause of climate change by curbing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions from the production and consumption of fossil fuels, the Carbon Majors – the top producers of crude oil, natural gas, coal, and cement in the world – continue to be largely unregulated. In the Philippines, a landmark inquiry recently found legal grounds to hold corporations accountable.

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Climate litigation and planetary justice – the kick-off of the lecture series “Justice and Sustainability”

The April 2021 decision of the German Federal Constitutional Court in the case Neubauer et al. vs Germany has drawn a lot of attention worldwide. Louis Kotzé, Research Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law, North-West University, South Africa and currently Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow at the IASS, and Jannis Krüßmann, a young climate activist, spoke on the ruling and its wider consequences for climate litigation on January 27, 2022 as part of the focal topic "Justice and Sustainability".

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German Election

The Desire for Continuity in Change

The SPD's success in the Bundestag elections is surprising, even though the polls predicted this outcome in the days and weeks leading up to the election. In July, polls by infratest-dimap and the Elections Research Group suggested that the SPD could win as little as 15-16 percent of the vote and a neck-and-neck race between the CDU/CSU and the Greens seemed likely. But things turned out differently, and now the Social Democrats are the victors, even though the SPD's 25 percent win is a far cry from the results returned by previous SPD chancellors.

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The EEG as the core instrument in German climate policy

Some German political parties and economists suggest ending the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) surcharge in the power bill and instead financing renewables through the carbon tax. While the recent carbon pricing debate has focused on equity and political feasibility, it has neglected the elephant in the room: how would this change affect Germany’s ability to meet the 2030 climate goals? Here, we show that this refinancing would put climate goals at risk. Purely market-based renewables are not yet viable, the change could therefore slow down their already sluggish deployment. We thus argue that the EEG remains the quintessential instrument for German climate policy in the coming decade.

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Book review

Out there, it’s different

It is not uncommon for the German name of the IASS to evoke confused looks on people’s faces: Institut für transformative Nachhaltigkeitsforschung – “I’m sorry, but what is ‘transformative’ supposed to mean, and what is ‘transformative research’?” A comprehensive yet straightforward answer is given in Jan Freihardt’s book “Draußen ist es anders” (“Out there, it’s different”), subtitled “Treading new paths towards a science of transition”.

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Methane: A new hope? There is plenty of potential, but ambition is lacking

There is a lot on the international climate policy agenda in 2021. Most importantly, countries will finally have to submit their enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. The European Green Deal will contribute to this process and will hopefully lead the EU towards a low-carbon economy with new climate protection targets and many other measures. With pressure growing to further reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and fulfil its international commitments, the EU is now examining the options around methane.

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Justice and the Climate Crisis: Germany’s Constitutional Court Rules on Climate Action Legislation

On 29 April 2021, Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court handed down a truly historic judgement when a complaint filed by nine young people against the Federal Climate Change Act (2019) (Bundes-Klimaschutzgesetz – KSG) met with partial success, with the court ruling that some of the provisions of the Act are incompatible with the fundamental rights of youth especially.

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Is Mitsubishi’s withdrawal from the Vinh Tan coal power plant a signal for Vietnam’s energy transition?

In late February 2021, Japanese trading company Mitsubishi Corporation decided to pull out of the Vinh Tan 3 coal-fired power plant project in Vietnam after facing considerable pressure from investors and activists over the company’s fossil fuel investments. This decision follows in the footsteps of HSBC’s withdrawal one year previously. Scheduled to go on-grid in 2024, the 2-gigawatt plant was expected to feature ultra-supercritical technology. This is the first time that Mitsubishi has pulled out of a coal development project. Work on Vinh Tan 3 will now continue under the aegis of China Southern Power Grid, which is also a major investor in the Vinh Tan 1 power plant. However, this outcome will not serve the interests of Vietnam in terms of job creation, air quality, and achieving climate targets.

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The Amazon - From the periphery to the centre of discussions

The behavioural and production patterns of humankind have put the world on a collision course with our planetary boundaries. As global warming leads us towards large-scale disaster, ecosystems are becoming more fragile by the day and social inequality is growing fast. We must urgently move towards a more sustainable and equitable collective existence. This text is about the consequences of current unsustainability, rather than its causes.

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