Headline: Governance for the Environment and Society

The research area "Governance for the Environment and Society" focuses on transformation processes arising in connection with environmental challenges and associated societal changes, in particular in relation to air quality, climate change, mobility, oceans and the Arctic Region. What policy measures and shifts in behaviour contribute to more sustainable outcomes? How can science support these processes, in particular through co-creative research? Research in this area is performed in cooperation with partners at the local, regional, and international levels from civil society, government, and the private sector. The research groups within this area employ a transdisciplinary and transformative approach in which the research questions are developed in cooperation with partners from science, policy-making, and civil society. The researchers support and cooperate with these partners within the framework of policy development and governance processes, reflect critically on this transdisciplinary practice and, in doing so, contribute to transformative research. Working closely with decision-makers and societal actors, the research group on "Ocean Governance" explores and develops new approaches to improve marine conservation and the sustainable use of the oceans. The "Arctic Governance" research group cooperates with stakeholders to gain a better understanding of and shape the societal, legal, and economic changes affecting the Arctic Region. In the group "Climate Change and Air Pollution", researchers study the links and interactions between climate protection, air quality, and mobility in urban spaces. The "Network for Investigating Clean Air Solutions - Himalaya" aims to develop effective measures to improve air quality in Nepal. The research group "The Transport Transition as a Socio‐Ecological Real‐World Experiment" uses an integrated approach to investigate the factors that facilitate social-ecological mobility transitions in metropolitan areas.

Dossiers

IASS Research on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Dossier

By endorsing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the international community signalled its continued commitment to dealing with global challenges as a collective. The Agenda provides a blueprint for reconciling economic growth with social justice and environmental sustainability.

Contributing to the Sustainable Development of Arctic Regions

Sustainable Arctic Futures: A Regional and Global Challenge Dossier

Temperatures in the Arctic are currently rising twice as fast as in most other regions on the planet, a phenomenon most strikingly evidenced by the decreasing extent and volume of Arctic sea ice over the last decades. At the end of summer 2012, the extent of Arctic sea ice was the lowest since satellite measurements began: a mere 3.41 million km2, which is 49% below the 1979 to 2000 average. Since then, summertime sea ice in the Arctic has remained at a historically very low level. The processes currently under way in the Arctic are embedded in climate, economic, legal and social systems and processes that reach far beyond the Arctic Circle.

Air Quality and Climate

More Ambitious Legislation Needed to Protect People, Crops, and Ecosystems

Whether the air that we breathe will be cleaner or dirtier in the future will largely be determined by two key factors: pollutant emissions and climate change. In a new publication, the authors analyze projections of future air quality and compare their various effects on human health, crops, and ecosystems. The research reveals that emissions reductions beyond those required under current legislation will be needed if we wish to see significant improvements. Policymakers should also seek to couple air pollution control and climate policy more effectively.

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Car-free Friedrichstraße: IASS Evaluates Impacts on Air Quality

The Senate Department for the Environment, Transport and Climate Protection in Berlin will close Friedrichstrasse to vehicles for five months. A section of this major thoroughfare is to be transformed into a car-free zone from 29 August. Experts anticipate increases in pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Researchers will study how the closure affects air quality, with scientists from the IASS helping to measure and evaluate its impact on air pollution levels.

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Ecosystems

Integrated Ocean Management to Balance the Use and Protection of Our Oceans

We rely on the ocean to meet our growing demand for foodstuffs, energy, and transport. At the same time, marine ecosystems are facing serious challenges from over-exploitation, pollution, climate change, and loss of biodiversity. In a new report prepared with the support of IASS researchers, the High Level Panel for the Sustainable Ocean Economy, an international initiative of heads of state and government, recommends concrete steps to strike a balance between the use and protection of the oceans.

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IASS-Study

Pop-up cycle lanes increase sense of security

The Covid-19 pandemic is having an effect on our mobility behaviour. As a reaction to the crisis, pop-up cycle lanes have been set up in Berlin to allow for safe cycling with the required physical distance. How have these new cycle lanes been greeted by the city’s road users? The first preliminary answers to this question can be found in the results of a non-representative online survey of 1,661 Berliners carried out by researchers from the IASS Potsdam and the TU Berlin.

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Cooperation

New Platform Aims to Strengthen EU’s Role in Ocean Governance

Strengthening the European Union’s role in international ocean governance - this is the aim of the EU International Ocean Governance Forum (IOG Forum) developed by the European Commission and the European External Action Service with the support of the IASS and other project partners. In late April 2020, the IOG Forum was launched online with a series of online-seminars attended by 450 experts. The series addressed a range of issues, including the protection and sustainable use of the oceans, how to deal with the oceans in the context of climate change and the role of research and science for a sustainable future for the oceans.

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UN Sustainable Development Goals

Marine Regions Crucial to Ocean Conservation

The next decade will be crucial for the future of our oceans. What role can marine regions play in efforts to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals? Which approaches have proven successful and what can be done to enhance their coordination? Experts developed solutions to these questions and more at the Marine Regions Forum held in Berlin, Germany last autumn. On 4–5 February, IASS project lead Sebastian Unger will present the most important recommendations at a preparatory meeting for the United Nations’ 2020 Ocean Conference.

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Raw materials

Regulation of deep seabed mining to protect the common heritage of mankind

Interest in the extraction of mineral resources from the deep seabed has grown in recent years. In order to protect the marine environment, the existing legal framework must be strengthened through the addition of environmental objectives and regulations to minimize harmful impacts. A team of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam recommends the establishment of ecological safeguards for deep-seabed mining in a new report commissioned by the German Environment Agency (UBA).

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Air quality

IASS Presents First Emissions Inventory for Nepal

Data on emission amounts and sources have an important role to play in shaping policy on climate protection and air quality. Now, a team of researchers under the guidance of IASS Scientific Director Mark Lawrence has presented the first high-resolution inventory to record emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants in Nepal over an extended period of time. The researchers plan to use the data to develop further air quality strategies in Nepal.

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Crowdfunding campaign

IASS Researcher Selected for the Homeward Bound Leadership Programme

IASS marine researcher Carole Durussel is among 80 female scientists from around the world selected to participate in the Homeward Bound leadership initiative. The year-long programme, which includes a series of online training seminars and a three-week expedition to Antarctica, will help the participating researchers develop networks to address environmental problems.

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Publication

New Study on the Future of the Global Seafloor

The ocean hosts an inconceivable wealth of marine life and diverse habitats, most of which remains unknown. International plans to mine minerals from the deep seafloor threaten this largely unexplored biodiversity hotspot. States are currently seeking to develop a legal framework for deep seabed mining. In cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation, an international team of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) has published a new study warning against a rush to exploit deep seafloor resources and calling for coordinated efforts to develop alternative approaches.

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IPCC Report and Marine Regions Forum

Fresh Impetus for Marine Conservation

Climate change is having particularly devastating impacts on the world’s oceans: they are becoming warmer and more acidic, with profound consequences for their complex ecosystem. The special report on “The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate”, due to be presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on 25 September, evaluates current scientific research on changes to the oceans. The Marine Regions Forum will convene in Berlin shortly afterwards with the aim of delivering clear recommendations, actionable results, and more support for regional partnerships.

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Catalogue of measures

A Rescue Plan for the Ocean

A comprehensive High Seas Treaty and extensive marine protected areas are urgently needed in the next decade to preserve life-supporting ocean function. These are just two of eight measures recommended in a study, to which Torsten Thiele from the Ocean Governance team at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) contributed.

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New study on air pollution

"Bad Atmosphere" on City Cycle Lanes

The cause of millions of premature deaths annually, air pollution is a global challenge. It affects both developing and developed countries, with cities, in particular, struggling to meet air quality standards. A new study by a team of researchers at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) investigates air pollutant concentrations in urban areas and the factors that affect air quality. The study includes a number of recommendations that will interest urban planners and citizens alike.

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Interview

Energy Transition: Populism is the Path to the Worst Case Scenario

The transition to a net-zero-emission economy will create new rivalries, winners and losers. What scenarios are possible? As part of the Geopolitics and Energy Transformation 2030 (GET 2030) project at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), a team of international experts has looked into the developments that are conceivable in the international energy transition and their geopolitical implications. A team led by Professor Andreas Goldthau has commented on the results of this investigation in the journal “Nature”. In an interview with the IASS, Goldthau outlined the different possible scenarios.

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Climate negotiations

Most Affected, Least Heard

It seems reasonable to expect that the people who suffer most from the impacts of climate change are represented in the international climate negotiations. Patrick Toussaint, a researcher at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), has analysed the status quo from the perspective of international law. He concludes that those who currently bear the brunt of climate change – or will do so in the foreseeable future – have little or no influence on the negotiations.

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Effective Agreements and Greater Cooperation: Recommendations for Marine Conservation in South America and Africa

The United Nations wish to adopt a new global agreement for the protection of the high seas in the coming year. The negotiations among the UN member states offer an opportunity to strengthen marine conservation and extend protections to ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction. IASS researchers have developed a number of recommendations to strengthen relevant legal frameworks and bolster institutional cooperation in West Africa and South America.

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Global Sustainability Strategy Forum

From Knowledge to Action: Recommendations to Advance the Transformation Towards Sustainability

Fifteen renowned scientists gathered in Potsdam for one week to discuss the state of play and the need for action to support the implementation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals around the world. Their deliberations have resulted in new insights and recommendations to improve policymaking for sustainable development.

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Climate change

A Duty of Care: How Indigenous Knowledge Can Help the Arctic

Retreating ice, more shipping, fewer reindeer – climate change is already leaving its mark in the Arctic. How are people on the ground coping with these changes? At a recent event in Potsdam, indigenous scientist and entrepreneur Jocelyn Joe-Strack explained why numbers don’t tell the whole story and how her people in the Canadian Arctic are rebuilding their holistic relationship with nature.

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From Voluntary Commitments to Ocean Sustainability: IASS Researchers Propose Global Registry and Uniform Monitoring System

Our human livelihoods depend on the oceans, and the conservation of this vital resource is one of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), which together form the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In order to achieve SDG 14, the sustainable use and development of the world’s oceans, a plethora of voluntary commitments have been made in recent years. IASS researchers Barbara Neumann and Sebastian Unger have studied these voluntary commitments. Their findings and recommendations for improving the existing system have now been published in the prestigious journal Science.

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Marine Conservation: New Dialogue Forum to Strengthen Cooperation

Our oceans are increasingly suffering under the pressure of overfishing, pollution, climate change, and acidification. Yet in spite of this, the various institutions responsible for conserving them still tend to operate in isolation from each other. That situation is about to change: On 8 and 9 October, about 40 international experts gathered at the IASS to further refine the concept for a new informal dialogue forum at the interface of science, policy and society.

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Understanding the Arctic: New Textbook on Arctic Politics

The new textbook “Internationale Politik und Governance in der Arktis” offers a vivid and detailed overview of the actors, events, and processes that have shaped the governance of the Arctic Region. The textbook was written by IASS researcher Kathrin Stephen, Sebastian Knecht from Freie Universität Berlin and Golo M. Bartsch from the European External Action Service (Brussels).

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Benefit Sharing and the Common Heritage of Mankind: Policy Brief Makes Recommendations for the Governance of Deep Seabed Mining

How could the exploitation of the resources of the deep seabed conceivably benefit humanity? What risks does such exploitation pose to the marine environment? And how can we ensure that governance in this area is fair – for all of humankind? The latest IASS Policy Brief examines what the International Seabed Authority can do to reconcile the use of the ‘common heritage of mankind’ with the global sustainable development goals formulated in the 2030 Agenda.

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Governing in Times of Digitalisation and the Crisis of Democracy: Policy Brief Points the Way to Innovative Governance

Digitalisation is changing not only how we live and work, but also how governments operate and make laws. Synthetic biology and new genetic engineering methods allow for targeted interventions in our bodies, quality of life and private sphere, while also transforming the way we think about society and politics. The erstwhile peace project Europe is mired in crisis, and people are losing faith in democracy and the state. There is an urgent need for innovations to open up new avenues for politics and administration. A new IASS Policy Brief makes a number of recommendations for governing in the twenty-first century.

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The Skin of our Planet: Call for Applications to the 2018 Potsdam Summer School

The Earth’s surface is the foundation of all human activity. Geological, biological and climatic dynamics like the carbon cycle, soil formation, and climate and ocean currents form a complex web of connected processes, whose interactions are not yet fully understood. The fifth Potsdam Summer School from 10 to 19 September 2018 is devoted to “The Skin of our Planet – the Earth’s Surface System”.

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Meeting with State Government

A Future Commission for Brandenburg

The Governor of Brandenburg and members of the state government came to the IASS on 12 December to discuss energy policy and climate protection. Together with the directors of the IASS and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), they explored the idea of a Future Commission to ensure that Brandenburg’s energy transition is socially responsible and economically sustainable.

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Blog Posts

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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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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Coronavirus

The “Wicked Problem” of the Covid-19 Pandemic

The current outbreak of the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) will affect virtually every person on Earth, either directly or indirectly. Many people will die of the infectious disease caused by this coronavirus (Covid-19), and others will lose people close to them. Many more will suffer other extreme hardships – psychological, social and financial – due to the extensive physical distancing measures that are reducing the spread of the virus. While there may be some perceived “silver linings”, such as temporarily reduced air pollution and CO2 emissions, and for some an opportunity to slow down and contemplate their ways of living, in the balance the effects are already tremendously challenging for the world, and are likely to get much worse before the pandemic is over.

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Q & A with Elena Nikitina

Climate Change in the Arctic: Partnerships and Better Data Needed

Climate change in the Arctic is unfolding twice as rapidly as in other parts of the world. This poses various challenges for the sustainable development of Northern communities and companies. The European research project Blue-Action evaluates the impact of climate change in the Arctic and develops new techniques to improve forecast accuracy. As part of a case study of the Yamal region in Russia, researchers are exploring the roles, perceptions and interests of various stakeholder groups in the sustainable development of the Arctic. Elena Nikitina, head of the Center for Global Economy at IMEMO, recently visited the IASS and provided insights into the formation of adaptive governance in the Arctic.

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The ocean we need for the future we want

A healthy ocean is critical to the survival of every life on earth. However, given that the marine environment, including its currents and species that inhabit its waters, are transboundary, national action alone cannot ensure its conservation. Each one of us must resolve the pressing issues facing the ocean, from marine pollution and overfishing to securing vulnerable coastal communities.

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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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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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Stop the blame game: Russia is waking up to climate change

During my last visit to Russia I was watching Russian TV – an awful source of propaganda and misinformation, according to many. To my surprise, one of the federal (i.e. government-controlled) channels was reporting about climate change in a primetime slot. To my further surprise, the program didn’t rehash the usual conspiracy theories about what a fraud global warming is, invented by western politicians with the goal of harming Russia. No, it was a rather good report, which explained the correlation between climate change and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events.

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The Arctic Circle - A Report from Reykjavik

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Reykjavik to attend Arctic Circle 2015, a large gathering bringing together scientists, policy makers, civil society, intergovernmental organisations and industry representatives (the accompanying short film provides a snapshot of the event).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDkhMU78niQ

The gathering is the brainchild of the Icelandic president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson and aims to serve as a platform to increase participation in Arctic dialogue and strengthen the in

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Fostering Synergies to Tackle Arctic Sustainability Challenges

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the Arctic Science Summit Week (ASSW) 2015 in Toyama, Japan, organised by the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) and the Science Council of Japan. The event brought together nearly 700 international scientists, students, policy makers, research managers, Indigenous Peoples, and other key players with the goal of “developing, prioritizing and coordinating plans for future Arctic research”.

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