The IASS is currently seeking nominations for the 2021 Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellowship. The fellowship is intended to honour individuals who strive, like Klaus Töpfer, to bring together the fields of science and politics in their work. Applicants from the fields of academia, politics, civil society, business, and the arts are invited to submit their applications by 12 April.
Micro-financing is an important tool to advance the growth and reach of modern energy systems in developing countries. With her start-up HEDERA Sustainable Solutions GmbH, engineer Natalia Realpe Carrillo has created a digital toolbox that enables micro-finance institutions to take stock of the sustainability impacts of their investments in clean energy systems. She will be joining the IASS as the new Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow on 1 November 2020, where she will continue to develop and improve these tools.
In 2019, the new Packaging Act entered into force in Germany, tightening regulations governing packaging and resulting waste. However, improvements to this legislation are needed in order to further reduce the ecological impact of packaging waste. A new IASS Policy Brief offers three recommendations.
The IASS is seeking applications for around 30 fellowships in 2021. The institute offers fellows the opportunity to develop their ideas in an international community of eminent researchers within the institute and in the wider Potsdam-Berlin area. Applications can be submitted up to 23 August 2020.
Brazil is one of the hotspots of the corona pandemic, and the Brazilian Amazon is particularly hard hit. In a new Discussion Paper, IASS Fellow Artur Sgambatti Monteiro and Lucas Lima dos Santos describe the impacts of the pandemic on the region. The virus has overwhelmed the poor healthcare system in Amazonian cities and towns. Indigenous groups are especially vulnerable because the pandemic has opened the floodgates for the illegal deforestation and invasion of their territories. The authors warn that the encroachment on previously untouched parts of the forest could give rise to new transmissible zoonoses.
Could an unconditional basic income foster freedom and equal opportunity, curb the excesses of an age of acceleration and help to conserve our finite natural resources? The freelance curator, author, theorist and activist Adrienne Goehler has studied this question as an IASS Fellow. Her recently published book "Nachhaltigkeit braucht Entschleunigung braucht Grundein/auskommen" presents essays, interviews, stories, diagrams and artistic interventions from a range of authors.
The use of bioenergy is increasing, despite the fact that the cultivation of biomass competes with food production and the conservation of natural ecosystems. A recent study suggests that the concept of ‘reflexive governance’ can support the development of more integrated biofuels policies by encouraging a shift from individual interests to an integrative approach.
The IASS will welcome nineteen new fellows in 2020. Representing a broad array of disciplines and professions, the fellows will have the opportunity to develop new ideas, cooperate with the staff of the institute, and interact with the wider Potsdam-Berlin sustainability communities during their time here.
The IASS is currently seeking nominations to the 2020 Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellowship. The fellowship is intended to honour individuals who strive, like Klaus Töpfer, to connect science and politics in their work. Applicants, who may come from academia, politics, civil society, business, and the arts, are invited to submit their applications by 24 February.
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.
Science and art are often viewed as two distinct worlds that differ in terms of both their essence and impacts. The connections and synergies between art and science have only been explored to a limited extent to date. A new fellowship programme established at the IASS for artists will foster dialogue on issues related to sustainability between science and art.
Brazilian health expert Nicole de Paula has been awarded the inaugural Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellowship. The 36-year-old won over an international jury with her excellent scientific references and extensive experience in policy consulting and cooperation with UN institutions.
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.
The European Union (EU) is currently finding its bearings after the recent elections, and the jostling for top positions is in full swing. Regardless of the outcome, sustainability is likely to play a stronger role in future EU policy. Now for the first time, the EU will report to the UN High-Level Political Forum on progress in implementing the SDGs. Senior Fellow Ingeborg Niestroy has closely monitored the EU’s sustainability policy over the last twenty years and just presented the IASS Science Platform Sustainability 2030 at this 'HLPF'. In the following interview, she talks about a study she led on the sustainability strategies of the EU member states.
In recent months young people across the world have been going on strike on Fridays to protest about their governments’ failure to adequately address the climate crisis. In their view, lack of political action to protect the climate is putting their future in jeopardy. But Wales is leading by example here with a law passed in 2015 that echoes the demands of the Fridays for Future protesters: the Well-being for Future Generations Act. It requires public authorities in Wales to consider the long-term effects of their decisions and make sustainable development a touchstone for policymaking.
The German Bundestag is considering a bill that would force companies to manage risks in their global supply chains (GSCs). While the passage of the bill would help to ensure better labour and environmental standards, revisions are still needed in key areas.
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.
Together with an interdisciplinary group of academic experts, we were invited to develop a set of practical proposals to address serious environmental issues raised by the EU-Mercosur Association Agreement (EUMAA). While recognising the broader developmental and human rights context in which EUMAA is taking place, the statement concentrates on five priority issues.
"The Packaging Act of 2019 is already having an effect here [on recycling]. But there is still far too much packaging waste in Germany. More than half of all plastic waste is disposable packaging, and that really bothers many citizens, and it really bothers me personally", remarked Minister of the Environment Svenja Schulze on the latest amendment to Germany’s Packaging Act (the Verpackungsgesetz).
Germany's first Waste Prevention Programme was adopted by the federal government in 2013. According to Section 33 (9) of the Circular Economy Act, programmes must be reviewed every six years and revised, if necessary. In early January 2021, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety published an updated Waste Prevention Programme titled “Treasure Not Trash” (an information brochure in English is available here).
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.
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.
Brazilian geographer Bertha Becker referred to the Amazon region as the oldest periphery of the capitalist world system. Its colonial occupation, or 'frontier economy', is based on the continuous incorporation of available land and the exploitation of their resources – both of which are regarded as infinite. This perspective on the Amazon has existed for centuries and continues to loom large in Brazil today. To meet its growing demand for raw materials, the outside world assumed the rainforest to be of little value, discounting the services that it provides to humankind. This view encourages the rainforest’s destruction and is not sustainable. A model for the sustainable development of the Amazon region is feasible however and could play an important role in Brazil's post-pandemic economic recovery efforts.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What are some of the key frameworks that can be used for transdisciplinary research? What are their particular strengths? How can you choose one that’s most suitable for your transdisciplinary project?
What is biodiversity? Often understood as the ensemble of plants, animals and microorganisms on Earth, biodiversity is, above all, a rich sample of genetic differences among species and the variety of ecosystems. In fact, the richer the diversity of life, the greater the opportunity for medical discoveries, economic development, and adaptive responses to wicked challenges such as climate change.
Humans are intrinsically connected to the natural environment. This fundamental truth has been neglected by the way we conceive our development choices and we implement policies. The Covid-19 pandemic is an unfortunate reminder. Occurrences of diseases that cross over from wildlife to human populations (zoonotic diseases) are increasing and highlight how human health, animal health, and natural ecosystems are one. The current crisis shows us that we’ve lost a necessary symbiotic relation between humans and their natural environment. We, humans, are not separate from nature. We are nature.
The spread of the coronavirus has had rapid and far-reaching effects on the daily life of individuals and across professions and industries. The waste management sector is no exception here. This blog will highlight some of the challenges faced by the waste management sector in Germany. Similar to other European countries, the two most prominent measures taken by Germany to halt the spread of the coronavirus are the closing of its borders and the enforcement of reduced social contact.
Affiliate IASS scholar Man Fang has been working online from Germany since late January as a volunteer coordinator to support her hometown of Wuhan, organizing donations and helping to transport medical resources from around the world to the local hospitals. Here on the IASS-Blog she answers a few questions how differently the pandemic is dealt with in Germany and China and expresses her thoughts and feelings about it.
Worldwide over one billion people are on coronavirus lockdown. Overnight, the frantic economies of the twenty-first century ground to a halt. All of the sudden, an invisible organism became our number one enemy, demonstrating the fragility of an über-connected planet. The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented event and will leave a much changed world in its wake. The question of global cooperation looms large in thinking about the post-pandemic world. Are we entering a world that is less free and open? A world of more authoritarian states? Or is this pandemic an opportunity to “unlearn” mistakes and build our societies based on trust, knowledge and cooperation?
Given the fact that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its implications are dominating not only the news but the daily lives of nearly the whole globe, it is unsurprising that many have been thinking about the consequences of the coronavirus on climate action.
The Women Leaders in Global Health Conference 2019 (WLGH19) took place on 9-10 November in Kigali. Hosted by University of Global Health Equity (UGHE), the event brought together representatives from more than 81 countries committed to health and gender equity. In this article, I’ll share my experiences at the Women Leaders in Global Health Conference, highlight an area that promises to deliver greater synergies, and close with an invitation.
The German naturalist, writer, and statesman Alexander von Humboldt taught that all things are truly connected to everything else; that our entire world is an interwoven tapestry. The only way to ensure a dignified life for all, without poverty and hardship, is to make climate change and the limits of global resources central criteria in all political and economic decisions. One proposed solution to the growing problem of poverty is unconditional basic income (UBI).
"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.
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.
Last week in Germany, retired pulmonary physician Dieter Köhler made waves by publishing a statement, signed by over one hundred other fellow lung doctors, calling into question the science behind air quality standards and suggesting that current EU-wide limits for nitrogen oxides and fine particulate matter are unnecessarily strict. Not coincidentally, this comes at a time when diesel driving bans are being imposed in many German cities because of their inability to meet the EU-wide limit value for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), for which diesel cars are the main source. This has sparked debate on many levels, from the journalistic to the political. In this blog post we specifically address the topic of air quality limit values based on our expertise in the fields of air quality and public health.
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.
As an health professional, I see that health needs to be viewed in a much broader perspective than the mere absence of disease, and that well-being is clearly connected to the healthy planet we inhabit. My research on air pollution and health aims to reveal the extent to which our well-being is related to our environment, and to show how important it is that we care for the latter.
The new German government got down to work in April 2018 and it will be interesting to see how it goes about tackling the big future questions of our time. Together with the Chancellery, the ministries have a huge responsibility to manage and shape the far-reaching technological and societal changes currently under way.
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.
As a child, I lived near the forests and walked everywhere on foot because we did not have motorable roads, nor could my parents afford to buy a family car. If I were to narrate this story to sociologists or media reporters, then I would feel that I was exposing my limited wealth compared with people in developed countries. But when I shared my story with scientists at the IASS, I narrated it confidently, because they think that we are on the right path towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
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.
Environmentalists are often critical of technological fixes to problems caused by technology. But when it comes to geo-engineering, a clear distinction needs to be made between the message and the messenger.
Let’s say you don’t exercise enough, eat too much snack food, and get drunk too often. Then your doctor tells you he’s putting you on medication for high blood pressure. Would you accuse your doctor of being part of an evil conspiracy?
Integration, the magic word of the EU, has lost its power. Yet integration continues to be a noble endeavour of all progressive forces. But how is it to be achieved? And with whom? Time is of the essence given the overheating of the planet, displacement and migration, and the threat to Western values posed by kleptocracy, illiberalism and autocracy.
New Zealand: geographically distant, culturally close
There are two dimensions to integration. Firstly, there is the creation of a common legal sphere and market in an effectively decentralised, federal EU.
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.
My short-term research and lecture visit to the IASS in November and December 2016 is now over, sadly. I was invited by and cooperated with Dr Birgit Lode of the ELIAS project. I first met Birgit at a conference organized by the American Society of International Law (ASIL), of which both of us are active members.
The IASS has produced what is probably the most comprehensive overview on the results of recent renewable energy auctions yet. The study, which is soon to be published in English (it’s available here in German), thus fills a crucial gap. Policymakers will want to know the findings so they can improve policy design – and the study sheds light on some surprising gaps.
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.
How can local governments and civil society partner to produce sustainable cities? This was one of the central questions cutting across four panels of the conference “Co-producing sustainable cities?”, which was organized by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in cooperation with the Technical University of Berlin. This conference served as a discussion forum in preparation for the adoption of the “New Urban Agenda”, which will be steering sustainable urban development for the next twenty years.
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.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the latest Arctic Summit Science Week in Fairbanks, Alaska. Building on the outcomes of last year’s summit in Toyama, Japan (see my previous post), the scientific community is increasingly seeking to unify synergies between the social and natural sciences to tackle problems related to Arctic change.
Meeting global energy needs represents a key challenge for climate change mitigation. This is because the energy system today is dominated by fossil fuels, which emit a significant amount of CO2 to the atmosphere. In fact, the energy sector is responsible for the majority of anthropogenic emissions, contributing more than 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In order to avoid dangerous climate change it is crucial that we transition our global energy system away from fossil fuels and towards low-carbon, sustainable energy.
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.
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”.
I’m just back from a trip to the USA, where I attended a workshop on future perspectives for Arctic air pollution research. While I originally intended to write about the workshop here, I’ve decided to postpone that article and want instead to write about my experience of the host city, Boulder, Colorado - a city with a multitude of sustainability initiatives.
Boulder is one of the happiest cities in the U.S.
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.
Research into technologies for manipulating the planetary environment in order to forestall the effects of climate change is rapidly proceeding from small laboratory and desktop studies to the field. Concurrent with these developments, there have been calls for the establishment of governance mechanisms to ensure that the risks and concerns that this research presents are addressed appropriately, given the complex issues at stake.