Headline: Homepage

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

How conflictive is renewable energy technology trade?

How much trade conflict was there around renewable energy technologies (RET) in the past decade – and how did this compare to other trade conflicts? An analysis by RIFS researchers suggests that improved conflict-resolution institutions for RET are needed.

A new climate of communication at the COP

Outside of the formal negotiations of the UN climate change conferences (COPs), the communication culture is dominated by "side events," a format that relies on conventional presentations and panels. RIFS scientist Kathleen Mar and co-authors make a case for reimagining these communication formats in order to strengthen the COP's role as a platform for learning and community-building.


Show all

Benefits of the Net-Zero Emissions Strategy for Nepal

Achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement will require the combined efforts of states and companies around the world. How can developing countries achieve carbon neutrality and boost their resilience while pursuing economic growth and improved living standards? A study by the Research Institute for Sustainability (RIFS) draws on the example of Nepal to analyse the benefits of a net-zero emissions strategy.

Read more
Ariadne Analysis

Does One Size Really Fit All? How Regional Differences in Public Opinion Can Influence Climate Policy

The energy transition is a whole-of-society challenge. Politicians and officials in local government can benefit immensely from a clearer picture of public opinion on the ground when it comes to planning wind farm projects near communities or introducing speed limits or air quality measures. Researchers with the Ariadne project conducted two nationwide panel surveys to gauge approval of 26 climate protection measures at the regional level, revealing both geographic differences and shifts in public opinion over time.

read more
RIFS Discussion Paper

Legal Consequences of Hesitancy over Deep-sea Mining

Negotiations on draft text regulations for deep seabed mineral exploitation activities will resume next week at the International Seabed Authority (ISA) in Kingston, Jamaica. Owing to the invocation of a treaty provision known as the two-year rule in June 2021, the Council of the ISA is faced with a deadline to complete and adopt the regulations by 9 July 2023. It is likely that the Authority will miss this deadline. What will happen in this case? A RIFS Discussion Paper provides some insights and possible interpretations.

read more


Show all

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.