The Franco-German Forum for the Future has published seven recommendations to strengthen environmental transformations and promote economic and social resilience in towns and communities. The recommendations are addressed to the governments of France and Germany and follow eighteen months of dialogue with stakeholders from local politics, public agencies, and civil society in both countries.
Metals such as cobalt and lithium play a vital role in the energy transition and are used in the manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles. However, the mining of these raw materials is environmentally harmful, working conditions are often hazardous, and local communities are frequently excluded from the planning and operation of mines. In a new article, an international research team led by IASS Scientific Director Ortwin Renn describes how current mining practices could be improved and the sourcing and management of metals better aligned with the goals of sustainable development.
Global heating, pandemics, cyberattacks, and large-scale forced migrations are among the increasingly interconnected and mutually reinforcing challenges faced by humanity over the last decades. A team of scientists has taken a look at the triggers and consequences of overlapping crises (polycrises), investigating what processes facilitate the interaction of crisis-triggering events as well as how this interaction can be prevented, or mitigated. The team has also developed an analytical framework that helps identify complex and interrelated crises.
Satellite data have played an important role in efforts to monitor the rate of deforestation in the Amazon Basin for decades. But the way these data are used has changed under the government of President Jair Bolsonaro. His supporters are questioning the validity of scientific findings as a means to propagate a worldview that puts profits first.
Solar power is booming across the globe, and public auctions have become the dominant policy tool for deployment. But a lack of solar-specific experience and capacity in newly adopting countries can result in technical failures and lower solar plant performance. International quality standards used as technical requirements in the design of public auctions could offer a solution. An IASS Policy Brief outlines the potential benefits and challenges.
Area-based management tools are an important means of protecting the ocean. In addition to marine protected areas, they include spatial regulations for activities such as fishing, shipping or deep sea mining, and more comprehensive approaches such as maritime spatial planning. These measures can contribute significantly to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the ocean. However, this requires better coordination of measures and effective implementation, as researchers have shown in a new study with the participation of the IASS.
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.
Scientific work is not always compatible with the agenda of decision-makers. The book "Breaking the Silos for Planetary Health – a Roadmap for a Resilient Post- pandemic World" aims to build bridges between the communities of health and environment, fundamental players to restructure our societies in the post-Covid era.
Finance is becoming increasingly important as a lever for sustainable development in all policy areas. In mid-May 2021, the fourth Advisory Council Dialogue 2021 of the Science Platform Sustainability (wpn) 2030 and Sustainable Development Solutions Network Germany (SDSN) took place. The results and impulses can now be found (in German) in the paper “Finanz. Macht. Zukunft.”
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.
With the "Losland" project, a team from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies e.V. (IASS) is working with Mehr Demokratie e.V. to support citizen participation at the local level. In the project, citizen participation processes tailored to ten German municipalities and cities are being carried out to answer the question: “How can we shape a future in our municipalities that takes into account the interests of our grandchildren?” Losland is supported by the Federal Agency for Civic Education.
How can science help societies to abandon unsustainable practices and tackle systemic risks? Initiated by IASS Scientific Director Ortwin Renn and funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, the Global Sustainability Strategy Forum (GSSF) has developed a range of recommendations. In an article published in the journal “Global Sustainability” the GSSF core team outlines how science can use creative approaches to promote a just and sustainable future in different cultures and contexts.
The use of autonomous vehicles is being trialled in cities around the world, with applications ranging from garbage collection to freight forwarding and public transport. Many of these trials examine not just technologies but also the social acceptance of autonomous vehicles. A new study by researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) and the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) looks to Singapore to explore how societies can best support the introduction of autonomous vehicles.
The coronavirus pandemic has created enormous social, economic and political challenges worldwide. The demand for immediate action often pushed climate policy ambitions into the background. Scientists from the University of Waterloo (Canada), together with Ortwin Renn from the IASS and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber of PIK have developed a new operational approach that provides guidance to decision-makers seeking to reconcile the demands of competing goals, including effective climate protection.
The positive impacts of renewable energy development for people and the planet are widely acknowledged. However, the direct contribution of local renewable energy projects to local community well-being has received limited attention to date. A new study prepared by researchers at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) describes a social performance approach to investing in the energy sector that focuses on promoting the well-being of individuals and energy project host communities.
Plastic waste is considered one of the biggest environmental problems of our time. IASS researchers surveyed consumers in Germany about their use of plastic packaging. Their research reveals that fundamental changes in infrastructures and lifestyles, as well as cultural and economic transformation processes, are needed to make zero-waste shopping the norm.
Germany’s first national Citizens' Assembly on Climate has agreed on over 80 recommendations for climate policy, addressing mobility, construction, heating, food systems, and energy. The assembly was accompanied and supported by a panel of experts, led by Professor Ortwin Renn of 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.
Would humanity be helped by deploying technologies to modify solar radiation in such a way as to slow global warming, while also creating complex problems? A team of researchers with participation from the IASS has reviewed the current state of knowledge on solar radiation modification. The resulting study offers an overview of how geo-engineering interventions could affect efforts to achieve the SDGs.
Will changes in our routines and lifestyles during the pandemic translate into more sustainable behaviour over the longer term? A team of researchers from the Science Platform for Climate Protection (Wissenschaftsplattform Klimaschutz - WPKS) examined this question with the support of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) and considered whether policy measures could help to consolidate gains.
Sustainable Development Goal 14 (“Life below water”) of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development addresses the protection and sustainable use of the ocean and its resources. Conventional approaches to environmental policy and governance are less suited to transboundary systems such as the ocean. A new study by researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) examines the challenges and potentials of collaborative processes at the level of marine regions.
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted efforts to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in some cases stalled progress decades in the making. The pandemic has revealed social inequalities and widened the gulf between countries. In a new study published by the IASS a team of Alexander von Humboldt Climate Protection Fellows analyses the effects of the pandemic on climate mitigation and sustainable development in the Global South.
160 randomly selected citizens, twelve meetings, 25 scientists from the climate and social sciences: Germany’s first Citizens’ Assembly on Climate has commenced its work under the patronage of former German President Horst Köhler. This “Council of 160” will develop recommendations for Germany’s climate policy with the support of a board of experts led by Professor Ortwin Renn from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam. In this interview, Prof. Renn explains what the Citizens’ Assembly is setting out to achieve.
Sharing knowledge and experience, collaboration, and coordinated action across politics, science, and society are vital to foster sustainable development and deliver on the goals of the German Sustainable Development Strategy. An online dialogue conducted on 10 February 2021 brought together experts from the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Sustainable Development and the co-chairs of Science Platform Sustainability 2030 (wpn2030) Christa Liedtke (Wuppertal Institute) and Mark Lawrence (IASS).
Millions of tonnes of plastic waste find their way into the ocean every year. A team of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam has investigated the role of regional ocean governance in the fight against marine plastic pollution, highlighting why regional marine governance should be further strengthened as negotiations for a new global agreement continue.
In no other policy area is the discrepancy between knowledge and action greater than in the field of sustainability. What can academic institutions do to ensure that scientific insights are translated into action in business, politics and civil society? At the third Global Sustainability Strategy Forum, 35 sustainability experts discussed this question – especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Science Platform Sustainability 2030 (wpn2030) has published a report with recommendations for the Federal Government on fostering sustainable work. In the report, the authors call for a new understanding of what constitutes "good work" and urge policymakers to use the German Sustainable Development Strategy as a framework to promote sustainable work.
For customers, investors and consumers alike, it can make a difference whether a company operates sustainably and adheres to ethical and ecological standards. Standardized and verifiable reports are needed so that companies can provide credible and verifiable evidence of their ability to walk the talk of sustainability. Reporting standards should present corporate contributions to sustainable development in manner that facilitates comparison and be universally applicable to companies of all sizes and types.
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.
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.
We rely on the ocean to meet our growing demand for foodstuffs, energy, and transport. At the same time, marine ecosystems are facing serious challenges from over-exploitation, pollution, climate change, and loss of biodiversity. In a new report prepared with the support of IASS researchers, the High Level Panel for the Sustainable Ocean Economy, an international initiative of heads of state and government, recommends concrete steps to strike a balance between the use and protection of the oceans.
Strengthening the European Union’s role in international ocean governance - this is the aim of the EU International Ocean Governance Forum (IOG Forum) developed by the European Commission and the European External Action Service with the support of the IASS and other project partners. In late April 2020, the IOG Forum was launched online with a series of online-seminars attended by 450 experts. The series addressed a range of issues, including the protection and sustainable use of the oceans, how to deal with the oceans in the context of climate change and the role of research and science for a sustainable future for the oceans.
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.
Just five weeks after the UK formally left the European Union, a shared learning event organised by the IASS and the Welsh Government on 5 March in Berlin showed that the desire for Welsh-German cooperation in the area of sustainability is unwavering. A summary of the day in texts and videos.
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 Science Platform Sustainability 2030 (wpn2030) started the New Year with a new management team. Daniela Jacob, Director of the Climate Service Center Germany and Chairperson of the German Committee Future Earth (DKN Future Earth), and Christa Liedtke, Director of the Sustainable Production and Consumption department at the Wuppertal Institute, Professor at the Folkwang University of the Arts, and member of the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Germany, have joined IASS Director Patrizia Nanz at the helm of the Platform.
How effective is Germany's sustainability policy and how could the Sustainable Development Strategy better support it? The Science Platform Sustainability 2030 (SPS2030) has grappled with these questions since it was established in 2017. At its first annual conference in Berlin (5–6 December, Umweltforum), the platform presented its initial response in a wide-ranging reflection paper.
Taking place in Madrid from 2 to 13 December, the 25th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 25) will focus on the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement. The Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) will be represented in Madrid by a number of experts, who will address a range of issues.
The Platform for Sustainability in Brandenburg provides a forum for discussion and networking opportunities for sustainable development initiatives from across the state. Following the launch of its new website – https://plattform-bb.de/ – regional initiatives, organisations and institutions are invited to register with the platform and explore opportunities to collaborate for a more sustainable Brandenburg.
At its most recent meeting, the steering group of the platform “Sustainable Development in Brandenburg” adopted a list of demands aimed at the parties currently negotiating to form a new state government. The platform calls on the parties to prioritize climate protection and sustainability and to extend the platform’s mandate into the coming legislative term.
Science has already given us a much better understanding of what we must do in order to leave our world intact for future generations. However, that understanding has had little impact on our collective behaviour. At the first Global Sustainability Strategy Forum in March 2019, 17 prominent scientists looked at how science can help bring about the changes we need to see. They have now published their findings in an IASS Discussion Paper.
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.
Hope was high when the Paris Climate Agreement was adopted 2015. Under the agreement, countries pledged to keep global warming well below two degrees Celsius. Five years later, the situation is sobering. In an article in Science magazine, Mark Lawrence and Stefan Schäfer of the IASS argue that the centralized approach to addressing global warming has failed and only greater democratic engagement can reanimate global climate politics.
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.
Our human livelihoods depend on the oceans, and the conservation of this vital resource is one of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), which together form the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In order to achieve SDG 14, the sustainable use and development of the world’s oceans, a plethora of voluntary commitments have been made in recent years. IASS researchers Barbara Neumann and Sebastian Unger have studied these voluntary commitments. Their findings and recommendations for improving the existing system have now been published in the prestigious journal Science.
Greater cooperation is needed to advance sustainability, urges Patrizia Nanz, co-chair of the Science Platform Sustainability 2030. Her statement supports a central finding of the “2018 Peer Review on the German Sustainability Strategy”, which was launched in Berlin at the 18th Annual Conference of the Council for Sustainable Development on 4 June.
Ocean conservation ranked high on the international political agenda in 2017. But did stakeholders succeed in turning the tide towards greater sustainability? Representatives from science, policymaking and civil society met at the IASS on 13-14 December to discuss this.
In its inaugural publication, the Science Platform Sustainability 2030 has called for a significant increase in efforts to implement the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Germany.
We will not see quick transformations towards sustainable futures without the consideration of past and present inequalities and injustices. We can tackle the climate crisis much more efficiently and sustainably only if equity and justice are treated as top priorities by all countries at the negotiation table. While we acknowledge that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions to today’s complex and diverse challenges, and that the process begins from different starting points, a closer look at the negotiations of the COP26 and ongoing actions around climate change can help us identify locations and processes that promote injustices and inequalities in preparations for the COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.
From 21 March to 1 April 2022 governments will continue negotiations of international regulations for deep seabed at the International Seabed Authority (ISA). Scientists from IASS will attend the 27th Session of the ISA Council as part of research on environmental standards for deep seabed mining.
From 7 to 18 March 2022, governments will continue negotiations on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction under the auspices of the United Nations. After a break of nearly two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, a binding UN instrument should be ready this year.
At COP26, we saw decisions and a handful of statements, pledges, and declarations parallel to the official negotiations centered on Just Transition. But did anything change in the substance of the JT debate in Glasgow?
The UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow is an important meeting for all countries. Research conducted at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) tackles many of the issues addressed in the negotiations. Some of our researchers attended the Climate Conference in person or virtually. We share some of their observations here.
A brightly coloured dome stands out among the lights of Kigali: The convention centre shines in the Rwandan national colours of blue, yellow and green. For the Rwandan ambassador to Germany, Igor Cesar, its image symbolises progress and the spirit behind it: "When you fly over Kigali at night, you can see how far our electrification efforts have come. Rwanda is characterised by its will to advance technologically, but we don't want to lose our origins, our identity in the process." The architecture of the convention centre represents the Rwandan path between preservation and new beginnings: a modern building whose shape is reminiscent of a traditional hut.
Advancements in new technologies open up new ocean industries and possibilities to explore the ocean. Some of these new technologies, such as swarms of underwater mini robots to map the seafloor or sensors on automated underwater vehicles, assist scientists in their work and produce growing quantities of ocean data.
What kind of help do remote rural villages in developing countries need to sustainably improve their infrastructure? What is the state of electricity supply and services, the availability and quality of cooking solutions, and the quality of water access in these settlements? Is there a nexus between access to basic services and nutrition in these areas? And, if a project is implemented, how can progress made at the household level be monitored, reported, and evaluated? These questions are at the heart of the project “Action-Based & Impact-Driven Research: Establishing Collaborative Frameworks for Researchers, Impact Makers, and Sustainable Entrepreneurs (IMPACT-R).”
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.
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.
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.
On 5 March 2020, the Welsh Government and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) will be jointly hosting a shared learning event in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Berlin. The event, "The Future is Now", will be a tangible demonstration of Sustainable Development Goal 17, “Partnerships for the Goals”. Specifically, it will seek to show how collaboration between European countries, at a local and sub-national level, can strengthen our response to the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030.
In December 2019, twenty-five experts from Germany, Austria and Switzerland gathered at the IASS in Potsdam to tackle an ambitious project: The development of a common statutory standard based on leading sustainability reporting standards.
As 2019 comes to an end and the world prepares for COP 25, one can wonder about the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in different continents, and especially in Africa. Based in Kigali, Rwanda, the SDGs Center for Africa organized its major SDG conference in June 2019, where it launched its landmark “SDG Index and Dashboard Report” 3.5 years after the UN adopted its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The report paints a mixed picture of progress towards achieving the SDGs across the African continent.