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What we work on

Transformative Sustainability Research

The Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) conducts research with the goal of understanding, advancing, and guiding processes of societal change towards sustainable development. Our researchers collaborate with diverse actors from science, policymaking and public administration as well as business and civil society to develop a common understanding of sustainability challenges and generate potential solutions. The Institute pursues a research approach that is transformative, transdisciplinary, and co-creative.

About us

In brief

Platform for Transdisciplinarity

The tdAcademy is a research and community platform for transdisciplinarity. IASS Director Ortwin Renn supports the project as a partner.

Neubauer et al. versus Germany

The spectacular ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court on the Climate Protection Act will be the topic of a lecture by Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow Louis Kotzé on January 27. Open to all, registration required.

How an open climate club can generate carbon dividends for the poor

Germany-led G7 can boost decarbonisation together with climate justice, write Andreas Goldthau and Simone Tagliapietra. Read the Opinion piece here on euractiv.com!


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A New Approach for International Environmental Law: Louis Kotzé is Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow for 2022

The current geological epoch is defined by impacts of human activities on the environment. The problems related to these effects are not adequately addressed by international environmental law. As Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow for 2022 at the IASS, Louis Kotzé, South African scholar of international environmental law, will develop innovative concepts that can underpin new legal norms to protect the entire Earth system.

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Invigorating South Africa’s Deal to Phase Out Coal-Fired Power

In Glasgow, Germany pledged 700 million euros to support South Africa’s efforts to phase out coal-fired power. But to secure South Africa's coal phase-out without economic and socioeconomic losses, a regional and national plan must provide for a Just Transition. The COBENEFITS team at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Research (IASS) has presented an analysis on decarbonisation that makes data-based recommendations for action in South Africa's coal mining hub, Mpumalanga.

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What Expertise is Needed to Design Collaboration?

The complex challenges of our time increasingly require scientists to step outside their conventional roles. A team of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) has examined innovative approaches to policy advice that support actors from politics and government in the development of collaborative processes to address socio-ecological issues. Their paper identifies the knowledge, skills and practices required to design collaborations.

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Ocean Governance

Marine Protected Areas Make Important Contributions to the SDGs

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.

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Sustainability in Brandenburg Dossier

Brandenburg is facing major sustainability challenges, such as agrarian transformation, energy transformation, mobility transformation, transformation of Lusatia, adaptation to climate change, promotion of rural areas, revitalisation of the economy after the Corona pandemic, and water supply and water protection. As a Potsdam institute, the IASS is actively involved in sustainability work in Brandenburg.

Systemic Risks Dossier

Modern societies are vulnerable to “systemic risks” such as pandemics, financial crises, or climate change. Due to their complex and interconnected nature, systemic risks pose a particular challenge to conventional approaches to risk analysis and management. The research group on systemic risks at the IASS analyses risks and opportunities around transformation processes for sustainable development and, in a second step, develops policy recommendations for the governance of systemic risks.

IASS Research on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Dossier

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

Brazil: Strengthening Resilience in Times of Crisis Dossier

With 200 million citizens of diverse ethnicities, Brazil is the largest and most populous nation in Latin America. Brazil is also home to most of the world’s largest rainforest: the Amazon. The Brazilian economy is the ninth-largest in the world but has languished in recent years. A group of researchers at the IASS is casting a spotlight on sustainable development and democratic change in Brazil.