Headline: Blog

The blog of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) contains contributions from employees in all IASS areas and covers a huge range of themes. In addition to discussing the latest research findings and events, the blog authors comment on political developments. The authors express their personal views.

 

Key Takeaways from COP24

The United Nations’ climate talks in Katowice, Poland this past December wrapped up with an agreement on the terms to finalize most of the Paris Rulebook and set the 2015 Paris Agreement into action. While the parties agreed on many important issues, the final text comes up short on several key fronts.

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The geopolitics of renewables. A new but messy energy world

Exhibiting the fastest growth among all fuels in the electricity sector, renewables are about to fundamentally change the energy system. This change is hoped to bring about important social and economic co-benefits, including sustainable and affordable energy for all, green job opportunities, and increased human health and wellbeing. But there may also be some fundamentally political implications of the low carbon shift. This is what a high level group of global leaders was tasked to look into, the result of which was published in their recent report titled A New World The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation, published by IRENA, the international renewable energy agency.

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Biofuels and nothing else? Brazil’s contribution to the Paris Agreement under Bolsonaro

Even before taking up office, the new Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro called into question the country’s role in the global climate protection regime. He caused considerable alarm when he withdrew the Brazilian offer to host the 25th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 25) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, just days before the start of COP 24. On top of this, it was revealed that Bolsonaro’s pick for the role of Minister for Foreign Relations considers global warming a plot by “cultural Marxists”. These announcements and other controversial statements by members of the incoming administration cast a shadow of uncertainty over the future of environmental governance and climate policy in Brazil.

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No Silver Bullet Against Climate Change

The 2018 COP24 climate conference in Katowice, Poland is over. Looking back at what has been achieved in the three years since the historical Paris Agreement reminds me a bit of the John Lennon lyrics: “So this is Christmas - and what have you done? Another year over, and a new one just begun.” While the conference was indeed successful in coming to an agreement over the rule book for how to account for countries upholding their commitments to limiting climate-relevant emissions under the Paris Agreement, there were no real breakthroughs.It is reassuring that the rule book was achieved, despite the considerable resistance from several countries, though it is exactly what was on the plan for this round of negotiations. Thus COP24 was another milestone in the steady progress being made towards implementing measures intended to help us achieve the chief goal of the Paris Agreement: keeping global warming well below 2°C, aiming to limit it to only 1.5°C.

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New Horizons for Public Participation at COP24

Participation played a key role at this year’s UN Climate Change Conference COP24 in Katowice. On the second day of COP24, Sir David Attenborough lent his signature voice to deliver the People’s Address before a full COP plenary. The address consisted of a two-minute video collage of social media video recordings, tweets and posts published under the #TakeYourSeat hashtag in the months prior and addressed to decision-makers at the summit.

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Questionable methane estimates in the gas industry: the lesson from the U.S.

A study recently published in Science suggests that losses of the greenhouse gas methane from the US upstream gas chain might be significantly higher than reported in current estimates, regardless of the exploitation technique used. A correct interpretation of these scientific finding tells us that the same is likely to be true for natural gas production systems in other parts of the world. Outdated databases and high uncertainties associated with monitoring and reporting systems worldwide should therefore be addressed as a matter of urgency.

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Nature with a Price Tag: How Payments for Ecosystem Services Work

“Economists are sounding the alarm […] bee death is wiping out up to 300 billion euro” (Die Welt, 2013). Cries of despair like this, which illustrate the interdependency of humans and nature, are commonplace nowadays. In recognition of the vital contribution they make to our lives, scientists refer to all of these functions as ecosystem services. In this line of thinking, nature provides a service that is worth paying for.

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The log and the flame: what fire can teach us about the transformation towards sustainability

The “Green Me Global Festival for Sustainability” is an annual event hosted at different locations around the world. Recent iterations of the festival have explored the elements earth, water and air across film screenings, discussions, and other initiatives. Researchers from the IASS have contributed to a number of these events over the years. The eleventh GreenMe Festival will take place in Berlin later this year under the motto “Action, Passion, Fire”. This prompted me to explore the themes of fire and sustainability in a dinner speech at a recent function to which sponsors and supporters of the festival were invited in early May. The following essay draws upon my comments there.

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