How can science and business help build sustainable societies? This question took centre-stage at the second Global Sustainability Strategy Forum, held on 22 – 24 March 2020. The event did not take place in Bangkok as previously planned due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, 25 leading experts from business and sustainability science came together online to discuss how the two sectors could work together more effectively.
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.
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).
The coal phaseout in Lusatia has already been dragging on for three decades. In the face of delays to the promised structural transformation of the region, the out-migration of its young people, and local conflicts of interest, politicians now need to take action on two fronts. Financial investment alone will not be enough; the local population has to be involved in determining the direction its region is going to take. In a new publication IASS researchers analyse the obstacles to change and point to opportunities for democratically legitimised transformations.
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.
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.
Eighteen people were recently awarded the Order of Merit of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg by Governor Winfried Kretschmann. Professor Ortwin Renn, Scientific Director at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) was among them. Renn was honoured for his outstanding contribution to the transfer of scientific insights into politics, public administration and management and his unstinting commitment to a just and sustainable economic and social order.
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.
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.
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.
The international energy transition is already delivering numerous benefits, but it is also creating new inequalities. The risks posed by this transformation will impact especially on developing countries, which lack access to technologies and capital. What, then, can be done to ensure that these countries too can make the transition to a low-carbon economy? This question is the focus of a new project that will study the systemic impacts of the global energy transition.
In September, UN member states will begin negotiating a treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity on the high seas. But such challenges as ocean conservation cannot be resolved at the global level alone. A new study focusing on the Southeast Pacific shows what role regional organisations can play.
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.
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.
Substantial financial assistance is being provided to Germany’s former coal regions to support their socio-economic transformation, but an active civil society will also be crucial to their revitalisation. Grass-roots initiatives in Lusatia are struggling in the face of hostility and a lack of support from local government.
Roll up your sleeves, seize every opportunity and take the future by the horns! Surely that is the best way to approach the transformation of the economy in the region of Lusatia? Played up by policymakers, this upbeat narrative is indeed vital to the success of what is a mammoth undertaking. But so too are the experiences of people and institutions across the region. As scientists working in the field of sustainable development, we must consider the broader social context of efforts to foster a less-resource intensive economy and way of life in Lusatia.
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.
Negotiations on a conservation agreement for the high seas are currently under way at the United Nations in New York. This agreement has to be ambitious if it is to protect our oceans from profiteers. After more than a decade of heated debate, the United Nations have begun to negotiate a new agreement on the...