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.

 

“Socialising” energy models: It’s time to put social concerns in energy models

On the 7th of October, the European Parliament voted to adopt a more ambitious climate target to reduce EU emissions by 60% in 2030 compared to 1990, up from 40% currently. Policymaking and planning decisions towards this target are not straight forward, and it bears the question: How can we foster the societal and political acceptance needed to completely decarbonise our energy systems? While energy models can be used to study the pathways towards a decarbonised energy system, they largely neglect the social and political dimensions of the energy transition. To provide more realistic, relevant, and sustainable decision-advice, it’s time for energy modellers to integrate social concerns in their models.

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Modellers meet decision-makers: User needs for energy models for the European energy transition

The energy transition raises many questions about how to achieve and design net-zero emission energy systems. Energy models can support decision-makers by providing virtual laboratories in which different energy futures can be explored. But what are the requirements of different stakeholders on these energy models? Which challenges of the energy transition should they tackle? What questions should these models be able to answer? In order to identify needs and discuss the expectations placed on energy modelling in the framework of the project Sustainable Energy Transition Laboratory (SENTINEL), we conducted an online survey in summer and held an online expert workshop on the 1st of October.

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Climate-Theatre-Disaster

Theatre Makes Complexity of Climate Change Palpable

A long, grotty corridor, bathed in cold neon light. The audience of just ten people is divided into two groups and has to keep the mandatory distance of 1.5 metres while standing in line. You wait and ask yourself what’s going to happen next. This is how a performance of Tornado, a “Climate-Theatre-Disaster”, gets under way at Berlin’s Theaterdiscounter.

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What do you know about Lusatia?

How do you get a feel for a place? I have to be there in person. I feel the ground, taste the air, dip my fingertips in the water; I let the sounds weave its stories me. Since April, I've been working on an artistic project about the region of Lusatia. The region has long captivated my imagination, since learning about its cross-border identity and the history of the Sorbs in Lusatia, pre-dating current nation states.

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Coronavirus

Where is the policy response to air pollution deaths?

The current death toll from Covid-19 is just over 800,000 people worldwide. This is likely to be a conservative estimate. To provide some perspective, in 2017, around 56 million people died, with the largest cause of death being cardiovascular diseases, which accounted for about 32% of deaths. 4.2 million people die every year as a result of exposure to outdoor air pollution. If we consider the rankings of risk factors for death, air pollution is number 4 on the list. 4!! Why am I suddenly bringing air pollution into this? Initial research has shown that there is a link between air pollution and Covid-19 cases.

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Life in Potsdam from the perspective of the city’s international guests

The former seat of the Prussian Kings and Kaisers, Potsdam is famous for its ensemble of parks and palaces, which has made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage list. But Potsdam is also an international science hub, where international researchers spend anything from a month to several years at one of the city’s many research institutes. To learn more about these international guest scholars and their needs, a working group on “Internationales Wohnen und Begegnen” was formed within the City Administration in 2017. Angela Borowski from the IASS has contributed to its work.

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Pandemic

Israel: Green innovation could power economic recovery

Countries have responded differently to the large societal and economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. While some view the crisis as a window of opportunity for new technologies and approaches to achieve climate neutrality, others will be tempted to reinforce their dependence on old technologies, leading to a carbon lock-in. Israel’s response as a start-up nation is promising, but further measures are needed to support a green transition.

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Waste management

Germany Bans Disposable Plastic Products: An Important Step on a Long Road

According to a recent report, German households are producing 15% more waste compared to before the pandemic as concerns around hygiene and safety overshadow the public's interest in sustainability. Additionally, with people enjoying outdoor spaces in the summer, plastic packaging waste is even more starkly noticeable in the environment. With common plastic items, and particularly to-go food packaging, constituting 10-20% of the waste found in parks, public places and streets in Germany, the urgent need to regulate these products cannot be understated. Long-term measures to avoid the excessive production and consumption of plastic in its various forms are clearly needed.

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Rainforest

Market Pressures and the Amazon – First Steps towards a Brazilian Green New Deal?

Socio-environmental governance is not an area of exclusive government action. Corporations, investors, civil and consumer organizations are reinventing themselves as political players in an increasing number of self-regulatory arrangements. Private environmental governance covers a wide-range of schemes such as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria; Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSSs) and certifications. Private initiatives have been praised for their potential to contribute to the goals of the Paris Agreement. Nonetheless, the current situation in Brazil shows that the private sector has a role to play not only in making its own environmental commitments, but in demanding that governments respond.

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The Neglected Energy Transition in the Heating Sector

Germany’s New Building Energy Act is a Missed Opportunity

Thanks to plummeting prices for electricity generated from renewables, the energy transition in the electricity sector has really taken off. It has also been at the forefront of recent public debates on the coal exit and minimum distance rules for wind turbines. But it is the heating sector that accounts for most of Germany’s energy consumption: According to the German Environment Agency, building heating alone represents around 32 per cent of the country’s total energy consumption. So the energy transition in the heating sector is a key arena for successful climate protection. The Building Energy Act (Gebäudeenergiegesetz) adopted by the German Bundestag on 18 June explicitly refers to the need for action in this sector.

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Pandemic

Realising the Transformative Potential of Decentralised Renewable Energy in Emergency Response

The vital role of electrification in emergency response has become strikingly clear during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Electricity is indispensable for the effective operation of healthcare facilities and the provision of health services, the timely diffusion of information, and undisrupted communications at a time when social isolation measures are in place. Access to electrification also makes it easier to carry out important household activities and follow essential hygiene recommendations. The pandemic has therefore served as a reminder of the vulnerability of the 860 million people who have no access to electricity, most of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Facing Down the Plastic Flood – Recycling, a Plastic Tax, and the Barriers to Behaviour Change

In May 2020 I was a guest on an episode of the TV show “Planet Wissen” dedicated to “Pathways out of the Plastic Flood”. It was an opportunity for me to talk about the preliminary results of our work in the ENSURE project on “Plastic: Social Perception and Behaviour Patterns”. The journalist Andrea Wojtkowiak had sent me a few questions in advance, but – as is so often the case – there wasn’t enough time to discuss everything in detail during the programme itself. So for all those interested in the issue of plastic, here are the more in-depth answers.

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Cycling through times of change

In Berlin, one unique change that has continued to develop over the past few months is the installation of “Pop-up” bike lanes on busy streets around the city. Citing the pandemic, city officials have been fast-tracking plans for new, protected bike lanes in order to allow citizens to travel safely by bike and avoid overcrowding in public transport. A recent IASS Study shows that these new bike lanes are strongly supported by people who identify primarily as cyclists, pedestrians, or users of public transport, but are disliked by those who identify as car drivers. While these results are unsurprising, they capture Berlin’s quite recent citizen-led shift in transport policy, ultimately culminating in the recent Mobility Law of 2018. That does not mean, however, that these new bike lanes are without criticism.

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