Renewable energy technologies can be true job motors: in 2020, the renewable energy sector employed at least 12 million people around the globe. Renewables can create sustainable jobs and improve the gender balance in the future energy sector. To harness the full socio-economic potential of renewables and to build the skills base needed for the energy transition, decisionmakers depend on reliable data, and trusted expert organisations to facilitate sound assessments.
In the climate protection debate and in many climate models, a growing role is played by "negative emissions", which are to be achieved with the help of “climate geoengineering technologies”. At the conference "Climate Engineering in Context", which took place from 4 to 8 October, international experts invited by the IASS discussed the scientific, ethical, political, and social dimensions of these technologies.
For the first time since it was founded in February, the Brandenburg Sustainability Advisory Board met in person on October 7 2021. The meeting at the IASS focused on the focal topic "Implementation of the energy transition in Brandenburg and CO2-free industrial processes”, as well as key considerations for improving the state’s sustainability strategy.
The communication culture at the UN Climate Change conferences relies heavily on conventional presentation and panel formats that are not conducive to mutual engagement and learning. In a new IASS Policy Brief, researchers make recommendations to reinvigorate the COPs through new formats of dialogue that can better foster collaboration and co-creation of climate change solutions.
The European Green Deal plays a crucial role in the EU’s efforts to achieve its ambitious climate policy goals. By implementing a carbon border adjustment mechanism that will impose levies on imports, the EU hopes to prevent companies from relocating their activities to countries with less ambitious climate policies. Which countries are exposed to greater economic risks as a result? What makes them particularly vulnerable? And how can the EU help them to protect the climate? IASS researchers have tackled these issues in a new study.
The environment in the Arctic Circle and the Yamal region of Western Siberia is changing rapidly and the outlook for the region’s social, political, economic, and environmental future is clouded in uncertainty. A new IASS Discussion Paper presents the findings of the research project “Yamal 2040: Scenarios for the Russian Arctic”, in which researchers explored different future scenarios in cooperation with local stakeholders.
Ambitious efforts to advance the clean-energy transition are not only good for the climate, but also pay off economically. According to a new study by the IASS, late decarbonizers are likely to face increasing risks to economic stability and industrial competitiveness. Furthermore, uneven decarbonization between countries could foster international tensions in coming years.
The countries that signed up to the Paris Agreement have pledged to limit the global temperature increase to well below 2ºC and, if possible, to below 1.5ºC. A key challenge to achieving this goal lies in pursuing action at both the national and international levels. The problems and opportunities arising around this process are the focus of a new booklet in the series "Information for Civic Education", which was developed with the support of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam.
On 21 June 2021 Brandenburg’s Sustainability Advisory Board convened for its second meeting to discuss two thematic priorities and adopt its programme of work. The meeting was chaired by IASS Scientific Director Ortwin Renn. The head of the state chancellery, Minister Kathrin Schneider, also attended the meeting.
The European interdisciplinary collaboration Seas Oceans and Public Health In Europe (SOPHIE) Project has outlined the initial steps that a wide range of organisations could take to work together to protect the largest connected ecosystem on Earth. In a commentary paper published in the American Journal of Public Health the researchers, among them Torsten Thiele of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), call on public health and medical professionals to harness the UN Ocean Decade (2021-2030) as a meaningful catalyst for global change, reminding us that ocean health is intricately linked to human health.
Summer is the ozone season: The harmful gas forms at ground-level on hot, sunny days. In recent years, however, the rise in ozone levels over the summer months has not been as pronounced in Germany as it was previously. According to a new study, this is primarily due to a reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions. This trend can be observed across Germany’s southwestern regions in particular, while Berlin lags behind.
Berlin's Mobility Act aims to strengthen eco-mobility by improving conditions in the city for cyclists, pedestrian traffic, and public transport. How do changes in mobility infrastructure affect air quality? Researchers from the IASS have evaluated the impacts of two trials: a bicycle lane and a community street space. Their measurements show that air pollution decreased significantly during these traffic trials.
Proponents of a “mobility transition” would do well to take lessons from such successful role models as Copenhagen, one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. Which discourses fuelled Copenhagen’s transformation into the city of cycles it is today? IASS researcher Theresa Kallenbach studied the coverage on cycle traffic in Danish daily newspapers and discovered that road safety took centre-stage in a debate from which environmental concerns were all but absent.
The development of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was supposed to be more inclusive, transparent and participatory than previous processes, and to this end, civil society organizations were explicitly involved in the process. In a new study, IASS researchers Henrike Knappe and Oscar Schmidt analyse the engagement of these organizations and the visions of a better future that guided their contributions.
Climate change mitigation is about more than just CO2. So-called “short-lived climate-forcing pollutants” such as soot, methane, and tropospheric ozone all have harmful effects. Climate policy should be guided by a clearer understanding of their differentiated impacts.
In order to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, the world must reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Carbon pricing – recently introduced in Germany for transportation and heating – is viewed by many governments and experts as the most important climate policy instrument. However, a new study shows that carbon pricing has been less effective as a driver of technological change than was previously anticipated.
The European Union recently adopted more ambitious climate goals for 2030 – their implementation is now the focus of debate. What do the Member States need to consider? A new study shows how important it is that governments coordinate policy reforms to support renewable electricity. Otherwise, many investors are likely to shift their focus to technologies that will continue to be subsidized or to countries where subsidies are still available. This outcome would increase the overall costs of expanding renewable electricity generation in Europe.
The international community's current plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions do not go far enough to curb global warming. As a result, many governments are considering the use of so-called "negative emissions technologies" that would remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and sequester the captured emissions. A new study outlines some of the strategies available to open up the current debate around these emerging technologies with the aim of developing a responsible regulatory framework for their use.
A partial transition of German road transport to hydrogen energy is among the possibilities being discussed to help meet national climate targets. A team of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) has examined the hypothetical transition to a hydrogen-powered transport sector through several scenarios. Their conclusion: A shift towards hydrogen-powered mobility could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and greatly improve air quality - in particular, heavy duty vehicles represent a low-hanging fruit for decarbonization of road transport.
The EU wants to cooperate more intensively with Africa in five key areas: the green transition and energy access, digital transformation, sustainable growth and employment, peace and governance, and migration and mobility. A new Policy Brief makes recommendations for the successful implementation of the EU-Africa Strategy proposed in March 2020.
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.
The implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is indispensable for building a sustainable and just future. For that reason, technological innovations need to be assessed in terms of their compatibility with these goals. A new study shows that technologies for carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) can make a positive contribution to the energy transition.
The economic recession induced by Covid-19 is threatening the global supply chains on which low-carbon technologies depend. Prof. Andreas Goldthau talks about the resulting risk to the climate and appropriate policy responses.
Climate change is gaining prominence as a political and public priority. But many ambitious climate action plans foresee the use of climate engineering technologies whose risks are insufficiently understood. In a new publication, IASS researchers describe how evolving modelling practices are trending towards “best-case” projections.
The precise form a climate-neutral society should take and the pathways that will lead us to that goal are questions not just for scientists and politicians, but for the whole of society. Citizens must be involved in the transition to climate neutrality. A new handbook on climate protection (Handbuch Klimaschutz) condenses the findings of around 300 scientific studies and provides a sound basis for a future citizens' assembly for climate protection.
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.
Against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, health is receiving unprecedented public and political attention. Yet the fact that climate change also presents us with a health crisis deserves further recognition. A new IASS Policy Brief gives recommendations for integrating health and climate and achieving better outcomes in both arenas.
Innovations in the area of carbon utilisation are the subject of growing interest. Novel technologies that capture CO2 emissions for industrial use can contribute to building a circular carbon economy and reduce consumption of fossil‐based raw materials. A recent study analyses the economic challenges and opportunities these technologies present to different industries.
The level of public concern about climate change has risen significantly in recent years. The Fridays for Future movement enjoys broad political and public support, but this has so far not translated into tangible changes. IASS Fellow Elizabeth Dirth has now developed a resource – the Futuring Tool – and a more comprehensive Policy Brief aimed at decision-makers who want to make climate protection a guiding principle of their work.
In the face of a changing climate and widespread environmental destruction it is difficult to envision a future in which healthy people inhabit a healthy planet. Strategies to safeguard planetary health were the subject of an IASS symposium on the occasion of the inaugural "Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellowship" on 6 November in Berlin.
The “Future Box: Carbon” developed by the IASS in cooperation with Berlin’s Futurium Museum offers school pupils an exciting and hands-on introduction to climate change and raw materials. This learning resource is suitable for use in classes from 8th Grade up and for all school types. The Future Box can be used in different subjects and will help to build awareness of sustainable development issues.
On October 1st, 2019, representatives from EIT Climate-KIC, the Global CO2 Initiative, the Phoenix Initiative, and other interested stakeholders gathered in Brussels to discuss the future of Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) assessment methodologies, a critical step in unlocking R&D and commercialisation efforts for this growing climate solution.
From 23 – 25 September 2019, heads of government from around the world will convene at the United Nations’ General Assembly to discuss efforts to advance climate action and global sustainable development. The summit aims to boost national ambitions to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement and will review the implementation of measures relating to the Sustainable Development Goals. The relationship between air pollution and climate change plays an important role in this context, and is the subject of a new IASS Policy Brief titled “A Practical Approach to Integrating Climate and Air Quality Policy”.
As well as helping to make sustainable mobility more visible, the STADTRADELN campaign exposes the weak links in Potsdam’s cycling infrastructure. As an online IASS survey reveals, the campaign only managed to convert a few people to cycling: nearly all of the participants were already regular bike-users.
To avert devastating climate change impacts, we need to make dramatic lifestyle changes. Lance Bennett, Professor of Political Science and Communication at the University of Washington and currently IASS Senior Fellow, explains how better communication can help us succeed in changing course.
David Dunetz has worked for 20 years at the Heschel Center for Sustainability in Tel Aviv, which leads the Israel Climate Forum, a consortium of civil society organizations. As a Visiting Research Fellow at the IASS Potsdam on a joint program with the Israel Public Policy Institute, he is currently researching how civic engagement and participation processes can advance climate policy and democratic innovation.
Germany’s Ministry of the Environment (BMU) and Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) have appointed IASS Director Ortwin Renn to the steering committee of the scientific platform for the German Climate Action Plan 2050. The committee, which is composed of up to ten renowned scientists and academics, is tasked with helping the German federal government advance and implement its long-term climate strategy.
Many different technologies already exist for converting the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) into products like construction materials and chemicals. But which of them can make a real contribution to climate protection? A new study commissioned by the European Commission provides answers.
In our daily lives we tend to hurry past construction sites. But the fence surrounding a major building site on Friedrich-Ebert-Straße in Potsdam has been attracting attention following the launch of a hugely interesting open-air exhibition on Saturday, 19 January. The exhibition showcases the range of research projects based in the city and explores its diverse research landscape.
The 24th UN Climate Change Conference (COP24) is due to take place in the Polish city of Katowice from 2 to 14 December. At this year’s COP, minds will focus on concrete steps towards implementing the Paris Climate Agreement. A whole host of experts from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) will be there. At the international symposium on “Safeguarding Our Climate, Advancing Our Society”, IASS Scientific Director Patrizia Nanz will speak about the role democratic structures can play in the shift to sustainability. And IASS Scientific Director Mark Lawrence will represent the institute at the High Level Assembly of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition on the margins of the conference.
The cost advantage of diesel has caused the number of newly registered diesel cars to sky-rocket over the last twenty years. Scientists have now calculated the exact effects of this “diesel boom”: In a new study published in the journal “Atmospheric Environment” they show that the diesel boom in Europe has failed to benefit the climate.
The City of Potsdam has set itself an ambitious climate protection goal: It wants to reduce its CO2 emissions to practically zero by the year 2050. A new long-term partnership between the city and Potsdam-based research institutes is intended to pave the way for this.
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.
With Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) technologies, carbon dioxide can be converted into products such as building materials, chemicals, and fuels. A new study investigates perceptions of carbon utilisation technologies in the UK and Germany.
At COP26 in Glasgow, the ocean was addressed in many discussions on climate solutions. But despite the frequently noted importance of putting the ocean-climate nexus on the agenda and promising pledges made by various governments, there is still work to be done to ensure measurable progress and favourable outcomes for the climate, the ocean, and people.
They advocate climate protection, criticise daily experiences of racism, and work toward fairer structures in world trade: The scope of German NGOs is highly diverse. But their personnel are not: They are mostly made up of white academics. It is time for this to 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.
We are happy to announce the adoption of the institute’s inaugural focal topic. Throughout 2022 we will undertake collaborative research activities, hold public events, and publish research exploring themes related to matters of social justice.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Five years have passed since the so-called ‘Paris Agreement’ was concluded at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) following years of deliberation between the member States. For the ocean, the Paris Agreement represents a turning point: previously issues relating to the ocean were side-lined in COP negotiations.
On 20 January 2021, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th President of the USA. His election has boosted hopes for international efforts to protect the climate. But the recent riots in Washington DC underscore the fact that Biden will be taking the helm of a deeply divided nation – and climate protection promises to be a particularly thorny issue.
Do you remember the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos? “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act” – that was Greta Thunberg’s impassioned plea to the participants, and the rest of the world. Now, almost two years after her remarkable speech, the international community is celebrating the fifth birthday of the Paris Climate Agreement. On this anniversary, the focus has been firmly on the updates by individual state parties to their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). But there’s little to celebrate: only 21 of 197 states have submitted new or updated plans, excluding most of the major emitters. And concrete climate protection measures are few and far between.
Food consumption and production are one of the key entry points available to human societies for effecting a transformation towards sustainability. Food production is a major contributor to a whole range of environmental problems including climate change, biodiversity loss, water overuse, and air and water pollution. Also, unhealthful diets cause chronic disease and millions of premature deaths around the world each year. One common link between these two unsustainable trends is high levels of consumption of animal products—meat, dairy, eggs, etc., particularly in industrialized countries, but also increasingly in developing countries. Thus, efforts to shift diets en masse away from animal products towards plant-based foods can reap multiple sustainability benefits.
Concern with the Amazon is common in international climate discourse. Indeed, “saving” the Amazon for the sake of the climate has become a rallying cry among climate policymakers and researchers alike. In this post, I want to argue that while curbing deforestation in the Amazon is undoubtedly important, framing the challenge as a mission to “save” the Amazon in order to fight climate change is problematic.
Empowering consumers to adopt more sustainable food habits is one of the foremost goals of the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy. This goal is diluted by a recent amendment passed by the EU Parliament that imposes strict limits on how substitutes for dairy products can be described and marketed.
Vietnam has recently incorporated a new section into its updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to emphasize the socio-economic co-benefits of climate action for the country.
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.
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.
The corona pandemic caught our society off guard. That is one reason for the scale of the crisis. This makes it all the more important to learn from the current situation, not least in the area of climate and energy policy. In what follows, I discuss the lessons we can draw from the crisis in reflections clustered around the terms vulnerability, resilience and solidarity.
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.
The Europe-wide shutdown is reducing both energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. At first glance, this might seem like good news. But it has also caused CO2 certificates traded under the European Union Emissions Trading System to lose a third of their value since March. Economic activity is expected to be significantly depressed over the coming weeks and months and production capacities underused.
“We need to start by telling people they are awesome.” This was one of the central messages from climate communications expert George Marshall in his opening keynote at K3: Kongress zu Klimawandel Kommunikation und Gesellschaft, the German-language congress on climate communication that took place this September in Karlsruhe. As in: we have to accept people for who they are, listen to them, and frame climate action in terms that align with their values.
"Future generations" have become an integral part of discussions about sustainability. This stems all the way back to the very definition of sustainable development in the Brundtland Report, but has gained new significance with the explosion of youth environmental movements we’ve seen in recent years. The general public seems to agree that future generations should be taken into account in political decision-making processes: More and more people are understanding that their children’s or their grandchildren’s lives are under threat because of our decisions and lack of action on environmental degradation, climate change, and other sustainability challenges.
From 23 to 25 September 2019, heads of government met at the United Nations in New York to discuss the fight against climate change and, later, the progress made towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Jonathan Franzen’s essay on the “climate apocalypse” has drawn a lot of criticism. His fatalistic attitude is uncomfortable, but it may be more inspiring for our thinking and acting than unrealistic optimism.
The ocean plays a fundamental role in regulating global temperatures. Not only does the ocean absorb 93 percent of the heat trapped by rising anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2), but it also absorbs approximately 25 to 30 percent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions that would otherwise remain in the atmosphere and increase global warming.
It has been a year since the first day of the very first school strike for climate. The school strike movement that sprung up in its wake has spread to over 1000 cities and countries around the world, with growing numbers of young people attending the weekly protest marches. As the movement enters its second year, it stands at an important turning point: either that there is a slow dismantling by way of red-tape and new rules that will force young people into submission; or societies will seize on the transformational potential of this moment to initiate meaningful responses to youth demands for climate justice.
Even though unit costs for renewable energy have fallen sharply, there’s clearly more finance needed for mitigation and adaptation. The least developed countries still don’t have the technologies they need. Can the private sector deliver, or should governments and the UN intervene?
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.
It smelled like smoke when I arrived in Katowice, Poland, early on a Sunday morning, at the start of last December’s UN Climate Change Conference COP24. It instantly reminded me of landing in Beijing for the first time in 2016: back then the smell of coal-tinged air was immediately present upon walking up the jetway into the shiny, ultra-modern Beijing airport.
The adoption at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Katowice of a rulebook for the implementation of the Paris Agreement is an important milestone – but the international community should not be content with this.
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.
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.
Latest estimates indicate that the value of health gains from climate action would be approximately double the cost of mitigation policies at global level, and the benefit-to-cost ratio is even higher in countries such as India and China.
The knowledge about global warming and its consequences for people and the environment is now part and parcel of mainstream society, and most people are well aware of the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement to limit warming to well below 2 degrees above preindustrial levels. Many proposals for reducing human emissions of CO2 hinge...
On 11 December 1997, the world’s first internationally binding climate agreement was adopted: the Kyoto Protocol. It obligated 37 industrialized countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions individually.
Germany is widely regarded as an international frontrunner in the global energy transition. Efforts to promote renewable energy have played a key role in lowering the cost of wind and solar power and contributed significantly to the growth of these technologies around the world.
Letzte Woche nahm ich an der UN-Klimakonferenz COP23 in Bonn teil. Abgesehen davon, dass ich im Mai 2017 bei den Verhandlungen zwischen den Konferenzen ein interaktives Side Event moderiert hatte, war das mein erster Besuch bei einer der jährlich stattfindenden COPs des UNFCCC.
Ever since Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, spoke in 2015 before Lloyd’s of London about climate change, the future of the energy industries, and financial stability, finance ministers and central bank governors around the world have underscored climate protection’s systemic threat to the world’s financial system.
Dr Saleemul Huq is Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) in Bangladesh and has participated in the international climate negotiations since their inception in 1992.
Dr Saleemul Huq is Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) in Bangladesh and has participated in the international climate negotiations since their inception in 1992. His current work focuses on the engagement of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The annual conference of the parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an important venue for stakeholders to highlight the blind spots of international climate protection efforts. The transport sector was one of them at this year’s COP23 in Bonn, missing from most countries’ climate pledges under the Paris Climate Agreement. In this neglected policy area, Germany and the U.S.
As the world gathered in Bonn for its twenty-third Conference of the Parties (COP23), the newly published Emissions Gap Report 2017 by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) helped to underline the mantra of the conference: all countries need to raise their climate protection efforts quickly and substantially.
The report shows that even if fully implemented, each nation’s current nationally determined commitments (NDCs), laid out by each of the signatories to th
As aspects of life that affect all of us, traffic and transportation often generate a diversity of strong opinions. This was highlighted at the 1stPotsdam Traffic Forum on Public Transportation on 14 October 2017.
With one “diesel summit” following swiftly on the heels of another these days, we should not lose sight of the overarching mobility transition project. Cargo bike sharing should be promoted to give city dwellers more alternatives to cars.
Let’s face it; a diesel car will never be clean. At best, it might become less dirty. While technical upgrades to diesel vehicles are essential, on their own they will solve neither the traffic problems in our cities nor the issue of dangerous emissions in the transport sector as a whole.
As an unprecedented weather event unfolded last week across the Atlantic Ocean, affecting Gulf Coast states and major cities in the United States as well as island communities throughout the Caribbean, over 40 young professionals and graduate students from over 30 countries gathered at the IASS to discuss “Human Environments in a Changing World” – the topic of the fourth Potsdam Summer School.
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.
To improve air quality in the long term diesel vehicles must be subject to the same emissions standards as other vehicles and the tax advantages that diesel enjoys must be abolished.
At the recent ‘Diesel Summit’ in Berlin, politicians, car manufacturers and others met to discuss possible ways out of the current diesel mess. The measures on the table include banning diesel vehicles from cities, introducing a ‘blaue Plakette’, and retrofitting older models. But none of these will suffice.
Without China, little can change in Africa. This is why Germany should work closely with Beijing on the issue of investments in climate-friendly infrastructure in Africa.
Following the USA’s announcement of its withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, the international community is facing the first serious crisis of global climate policy since the breakthrough in 2015. Initially, this may not have much impact on reducing emissions in the USA itself.
No post-fossil future is imagined for Russia, least of all by the Russians. The kleptocrats flee the country and stash their bounty in safe havens, countries with confidential banking, enough rule of law to avoid the confiscation of their spoils, and pliable politicians to provide protection. The export of capital and the purchase of expensive houses and other assets outside Russia reveal that large parts of its ‘economic elite’ do not think they will stay in power for long.
The economic era of fossil energy will end, and petro-states will decline with it.
Clean energy was a key climate policy instrument during the Obama presidency. Obama also understood the promotion of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and comparatively low-emission natural gas as a driver of economic growth (Obama, 2017). Donald Trump has set out his energy policy in the America First Energy Plan – a strategy paper that stretches to about half an A4 page. It focuses on the promotion of fossil fuels with the aim of promoting economic growth and making the country energy independent (The White House, 2017a) .
Walking westwards along Oranienburger Strasse in Berlin-Mitte, the building-high mural How Long Is Now dominates the horizon, eclipsing nearby landmarks. It is, as I learned, a now legendary artwork adorning the derelict art centre Kunsthaus Tacheles (‘straight talking’ in Yiddish). The building embodies what is true for the city as a whole, at least as it is initially experienced by an outsider: wearing on its sleeve a succession of external and internal revolutionary changes.
The 2017 G20 summit takes place in the country that has won international recognition for its “Energiewende” – a fundamental transformation of its energy system. This provides an important window of opportunity for strengthening the G20 agenda on sustainable energy. The world’s overall energy supply is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels, which undermines climate protection objectives and the resilience of financial markets.
On 20 January 2017, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the forty-fifth president of the United States. His previous announcements on energy policy mark a clear departure from the climate policy ambitions of his predecessor, Barack Obama. But what exactly should we expect from Trump’s climate and energy policies? Will he really be able to overturn the climate policies adopted by the US under the Obama Administration?
Phasing out coal and oil extraction is the most difficult aspect of climate policy. While renewable energies dazzle with the promise of new markets and feed-in payments, phase outs put losers front and centre.
The Paris Agreement, the new international climate treaty, enters into force today on 4 November 2016. This rapid entry into force, occurring within a year of its adoption, is unusual for an international climate treaty: to date, 97 Parties have ratified the Paris Agreement. Together they are responsible for around 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement, negotiated just ten months ago, enters into force ahead of the UN Marrakech Climate Change Conference, which begins on 7 November.
Happy and motivated people, a sunny day, delicious homemade pastries, a short opening speech, and there we were—ready to launch our first Cycle or Walk to IASS Challenge on this morning of 27 June 2016! Our goal?
Germany’s energy transition, its Energiewende, is the backdrop for Juli Zeh’s novel Unterleuten. The title has multiple meanings. First, Unterleuten is the name of a small rural town where citizens learn one day that a wind farm is to be built in their midst.
Nearly one year ago, in December 2015, 195 nations adopted the Paris Agreement, a global, legally binding treaty for keeping global climate change “well below 2°C”, pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C. Preparations are underway for this year’s UN Climate Conference, COP22, which will take place from 7-18 November in Marrakesh, Morocco. Thanks to a recent surge in ratifications, the Paris Agreement stands a high chance of entering into force this year.
“Be unique, make a change” was one of the take-home messages from Potsdam secondary school students, who, together with young professionals attending the Potsdam Summer School, worked on the interpretation of a metaphor story about a giant frog originating from the culture of Australian Aborigines. Storytelling, lively discussions, and great views of Potsdam at sunset have been part of an event organized by the IASS in the framework of the 2016 Potsdam Summer School at the Bildungsforum Potsdam.
A guest scholar at the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, Drew Bush is completing a doctoral dissertation in the Department of Geography and School of Environment at McGill University in Montreal. His research examines how inquiry-based teaching using a climate model developed by the Goddard Institute impacts student learning of climate change science.
One of the key questions I’m being asked a lot recently in relation to the Paris Agreement is “When will it come into force?” The answer to this question is somewhat more complex than it might at first seem.
On 4 and 5 September the next G20 Summit will take place in Hangzhou, China. While the G20 was initially created as a forum for discussion and collaboration to prevent financial crises, in the last several years the promotion of a sustainable energy supply has been added to the agenda. Some important first steps have already been made, but they are far from sufficient to bring about a global energy transition.
Scientists working at the IASS address diverse topics across the field of sustainability research. But how sustainable is our institute? In the summer of 2014 staff at the IASS launched an initiative to seek answers to this question. Our goal is to promote sustainability at the institute and minimise its ecological footprint. We aim to reduce emissions, improve resource efficiency at the institute, and make sustainability a part of our everyday professional practice.
It is Easter Monday and I am at the United Nations in New York in a full room of representatives from member states and organisations. An Easter chocolate bunny proudly stands on the European Union’s desk and provides for jovial talks before the meeting is officially opened by the Chair, His Excellency Mr Eden Charles from Trinidad and Tobago.
With the adoption of the Renewable Energy Act (2014), Germany prepared the ground for the replacement of feed-in tariffs (FiTs), which provided grid operators with a set fee for every kilowatt-hour of wind energy or solar power, to an auction-based system in accordance with the requirements of the European Commission. This system has been tested in a series of pilot auctions for solar (PV) parks.
Once again, the political discussion is focusing on a state fund to finance renewables in Germany instead of using a surcharge on power consumption. This time, Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer is calling for it. At first glance, it seems to be a good idea." For a long time, Germany’s Renewable Energy Act (EEG) provided renewable technologies with support similar to that given to other technologies, such as nuclear power, by means of taxes.
2016 marks the tenth anniversary of Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen’s seminal 2006 contribution on geoengineering, “Albedo enhancement by stratospheric sulfur injections: A contribution to resolve a policy dilemma?”.
Boosted by impressive technological innovation and cost reductions, renewable energy in a growing number of countries is now primarily considered for its social and economic benefits. Among these benefits are opportunities for local value creation, for responding to growing energy demands and for reducing conflicts over scarce water, which are aggravated by fossil power generation.
In the aftermath of COP21 in December 2015, when the world celebrated the adoption of a new climate treaty, several commentators and academics asked an all important question: what about climate migrants? Many articles have since sprung up analysing whether and how climate migration has been addressed by the Paris Agreement.
Carbon Capture and Utilisation or Recycling (CCU or CCR) and related technologies could play an important role in a future sustainable and diversified energy supply with lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. CCU entails capturing CO2 from large emitters like coal-fired power plants and re-utilising it to manufacture useful products; as such, CCU represents an alternative to Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS).
When I told friends and co-workers that I would be attending the COP21 climate summit, the first response I got was usually “cool!” followed by “so what are you actually going to do there??” Well, I knew what I would be doing there: for months now, I have been working on behalf of the IASS with partners from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) to organize two side events on the connection between climate change and air quality in order to highlight how better air quality can have benefits for climate, health, and development.
The British House of Commons is holding an inquiry into European environmental policy tomorrow (2 December 2015). The aim is to assess the extent to which EU environmental objectives and policies have succeeded in tackling environmental issues in the UK.
While the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is now established as a global voice for renewable energies, the International Energy Agency (IEA) is coming under increased pressure to modernise.
On 11 November 2015, the International Energy Agency (IEA) presented the World Energy Outlook 2015 in Berlin. From the speech of the new IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol, it was clear that the IEA is under pressure to modernise.
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).
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
Urban areas account for more than 70% of CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. If the top 50 emitting cities were a single country, its emissions would rank third globally, behind China and the United States. In addition to playing a major role in rising atmospheric CO2 and global warming, cities are also heat islands. A heat island is formed on the one hand from waste heat emitted from cars, poorly insulated buildings and industrial plants, and on the other from heat stored and reradiated from the artificial surfaces that cover our cities.
When I initially heard about the VW scandal, it was secondhand and I hadn’t read any of the news yet, I didn’t have any of the facts. But I remember thinking (and saying), I don’t know what the big deal is about, everyone knows those chassis dynamometer tests they use for estimating emissions don’t get anywhere close to the real-world emission values. Then I read about it and saw what all the fuss was about – 35 times higher than the US limit value?! And cheating software to pass the test?!
King Coal – as the most widespread and cheapest fossil energy source is often called – is entering a crucial, maybe definitive, phase. Indeed, worldwide coal consumption has decreased significantly in recent years due to a growing hostility to the generation of electricity using unsustainable coal.
The second international Potsdam Summer School drew to a close on 23 September. Over 10 days, 40 participants from various fields and 28 different countries discussed this year’s Summer School theme, “Facing Natural Hazards”, with renowned scientists from Potsdam-based research institutes and international experts. One of those participants was Nina Köksalan. Nina studied geography, art history, philosophy and sociology and has been working for three and a half years at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in Rome.
When the German Foreign Office asked me in March whether I would like to become a member of the Working Group on Sustainable Arctic Development in the German Observer Delegation of the Arctic Council, of course I did not hesitate. What a splendid opportunity for an Arctic scholar to experience Arctic governance first-hand!
Rómulo Fernando Acurio Traverso is the Deputy Representative of Peru for Climate Change. In this function, he played a central role in the previous United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conferences and is currently preparing the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris this year, where 96 countries will come together to seek a deal to limit emissions to less than 2˚C above pre-industrial levels.
It was one of the most important messages to emerge from the 2014 climate negotiations in Lima: beyond the discussions of goals and time frames, we mustn’t forget to take action. When climate negotiations take place once again at the end of this year in Paris, they should serve above all to give an emphatic boost to processes towards sustainable development and globally effective climate protection. In the fight against climate change, verifiable paths need to be identified and embarked upon in a concerted way.
What does reforming the international monetary system have to do with saving the climate? As it happens quite a bit, says Robert Wade, Professor for Political Economy and Development at the London School of Economics. At a guest lecture at the IASS on 15 June, he described a number of proposals for reducing macroeconomic imbalances and strengthening the resilience of the international financial system.
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”.
Recently, the Eiffel Tower in Paris was equipped with two small vertical wind turbines, which, while they spawned many news articles, have a generation capacity that is rather symbolic. In the same week, the French Parliament debated and voted on an extensive new bill laying out the country’s plans for transforming its energy supply and curbing GHG emissions.
A silent revolution is under way. In November, Dubai announced the construction of a solar energy park that will produce electricity for less than $0.06 per kilowatt-hour – undercutting the cost of the alternative investment option, a gas or coal-fired power plant.
The plant – which is expected to be operational in 2017 – is yet another harbinger of a future in which renewable energy crowds out conventional fossil fuels.
Germany aims to reduce its carbon emissions by at least 40 per cent compared to 1990 levels by the year 2020 and achieve an emissions reduction of 80 to 95 per cent by 2050. Kiel University is one of the research institutes that are already playing their part in this process.
Many cities are currently creating more green spaces and planting trees. The growing momentum to increase the amount of green space in urban areas, seen, for example, in various ‘Million Tree’ campaigns, brings many benefits to urbanites. A reduction in summer temperatures, additional recreational opportunities, and storm-water control are among the motivations behind such programmes.
In its most recent report, the German government’s Expert Commission on Research and Innovation criticised Germany’s feed-in tariff for renewable energy and the associated costs for electricity consumers based on two central claims. Firstly, the rapid diffusion of renewable energy – so the commission argues – has no effect on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
How can ordinary people be familiarised with science? Few other researchers have devoted as much attention to this question as the Belgian atmospheric scientist Guy Brasseur. From 2009 to 2014, he was head of the Climate Service Center (CSC) in Hamburg, whose task is to communicate the latest climate research findings to politicians, scientists, and business people. Before he joined the Climate Service Center, Guy Brasseur headed the Earth and Sun Systems Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.
Part 1 of a blog series on climate protection and structural change through participation by Katleen de Flander and Ina Richter
In recent weeks, the issue of climate protection has been high on the national and international political agenda. At international level, participants at the UN Climate Conference in Lima last week laid the foundations for a global climate agreement that is due to be concluded next year in Paris.
This December, the 20th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) will be held in Lima, Peru. There climate change negotiations will focus on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, the long-lived greenhouse gas primarily responsible for anthropogenic climate change. However, on the short-term, air pollutants that also have an influence on climate, known as short-lived climate forcing pollutants (SLCPs) should also be addressed.