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What we work on

Transformative Sustainability Research

RIFS 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 research approach is transformative, transdisciplinary, and co-creative.

About us

In brief

Gutedel Prize for Frank Baasner

Frank Baasner, co-director of the Franco-German Forum for the Future at RIFS, has been awarded the Markgräfler Gutedel Prize 2023 as one of 60 personalities for services to Franco-German cooperation.

The UK Hydrogen Strategy: A Partner for Europe?

A roundtable discussion jointly organised by the RIFS Potsdam and the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies on 13 October 2023, 11:00 till 12:30 CET/ 10:00-11:30 BST on Zoom.

The Right Way to Intervene in Clean Tech

Energy markets have clearly failed to accelerate the deployment of renewables. But as the pendulum swings in the direction of state intervention, policymakers must create the conditions for the public and private sectors to work together to manage a timely green transition and avoid a popular backlash against climate goals. A blog post by Andreas Goldthau


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Europe Is Not Making Sufficient Use of Its Hydrogen Potential

To reach climate neutrality, Europe’s industry will need large quantities of carbon-neutral hydrogen in the future. Many European countries, including Germany, are planning large investments to develop and ramp up the hydrogen industry needed for this. Within the HyPat research project, a new study by RIFS Potsdam, Fraunhofer ISI and the German Energy Agency (dena) makes five recommendations to the EU and the Member States.

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Climate policy

Strategic Framing, Financial Support and Capacity-Building Could Raise Climate Ambitions

The world’s technologically advanced countries have called for the adoption of a ‘green growth’ model of economic development in international climate negotiations. But advocacy alone will not motivate countries to protect the climate. Policymakers should highlight other benefits of climate action, such as for health and food security, researchers recommend in a new study.

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The Ocean: A Solution to Climate Change? Regulation of Negative Emissions Technologies Presents Many Challenges

The ocean will play a key role in efforts to tackle the climate crisis, according to scientists and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The use of so-called “negative emissions technologies” to enhance carbon sequestration and storage in the ocean is increasingly being discussed. In a study published in the scientific journal "Frontiers”, RIFS researchers Lina Röschel and Barbara Neumann describe the challenges that these technologies present for both the marine environment and society, and identify cornerstones for their responsible use.

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Deliberative Mini-Publics Dossier

Deliberative mini-publics are participatory processes in which a randomly selected and heterogenous group of citizens cooperate for a period to develop recommendations, ideas or solutions on a specific issue. RIFS accompanies these processes in various roles.

Focal Topic 2022/2023

Justice in Sustainability Dossier

The issue of justice is increasingly playing a greater role in the transformation towards sustainability. Calls to improve justice outcomes touch on a variety of issues, in particular the distribution of the costs and benefits of transformations as well as the burdens of climate change and environmental degradation. Other claims target procedural aspects: Who should have access to decision-making about transformation towards sustainability? A third set of justice claims focuses on recognition: Which groups are or should be recognized as rights-holders or as affected or especially vulnerable populations?

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, RIFS 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 RIFS analyses risks and opportunities around transformation processes for sustainable development and, in a second step, develops policy recommendations for the governance of systemic risks.