Headline: RIFS Blog

The blog of the Research Institute for Sustainability (RIFS) contains contributions from employees in all RIFS departments and covers a huge range of themes. In addition to discussing the latest research findings and events, the blog authors comment on political developments.

 

Communication for Transformation

What Municipalities Need to Master Conflicts

This year the German government outlined its proposals for an amendment of the Federal Climate Protection Act, setting targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent compared to 1990 levels by 2030 and to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality by 2045. Many of the measures necessary to achieve these goals – especially when it comes to infrastructure – must be implemented at the municipal level. Bringing about change in towns and communities presents significant challenges and projects frequently meet with opposition.

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Decarbonizing Industry

How Decarbonization Will Transform the Geography of Industrial Production: New Evidence on the “Renewables Pull” Hypothesis

The availability of renewable energy is an important factor for future investment decisions in the chemical and steel industry. This is a key finding of our survey of 300 decision-makers from the chemical and steel industry. 92 per cent of the respondents anticipate that their company will relocate facilities as it seeks to decarbonize production. In addition to low-cost renewable energies, the respondents identify political support as a key factor in investment location decisions.

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The Political Economy of Green Hydrogen in Europe: Reinforcing Regional Inequalities?

In February 2023, the EU presented the Green Deal Industrial Plan, in which it laid out its strategy for the green transition in industry and energy. Green hydrogen will be an essential cornerstone of this transition. The scale-up of renewable hydrogen production and its use in industry and transport has the potential to achieve decarbonization where direct electrification is not an option. Green hydrogen also offers opportunities to develop technological leadership and economic perspectives within a future net-zero economy.

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A Limping Coalition of the Willing: Why is Transatlantic Cooperation on Clean Steel Lagging Behind?

The 2020s have arrived as a decade of multiple crises. Beyond their devastating impact, however, these crises have also changed our political debates. For instance, all around the world, we have started to think of “transformation”: To cope with the present challenges, we need to go beyond making small adjustments, efficiency improvements, and grabbing the low-hanging fruits and fundamentally alter our current way of life. The discussion has reached the heart of our economies and, first and foremost, those sectors that ten years ago we thought almost impossible to decarbonize such as the steel industry.

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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.

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Resolving Conflicts Around the Energy Transition

Running over three years, the research project "Demokon - A Democratic Conflict Culture for the Energy Transition" studied the characteristics of energy transition conflicts, explored their interactions with political populism, and considered options to improve their resolution. The project was funded by the Mercator Foundation and carried out by researchers from the Research Institute for Sustain (RIFS), Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences, Göttingen Institute for Democracy Research, the University of Siegen and the communications agency Institut für Raum und Energie.

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Hydrogen Policy

Clean Hydrogen Hubs: A Crucial Instrument in the US Hydrogen Strategy

The European continent dominated the global hydrogen race before 2022, with France, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and the European Union all presenting ambitious hydrogen strategies by 2020 that outlined their major areas of action and objectives, along with key policy interventions to achieve those goals. Nonetheless, in the fall of 2022, the world's attention shifted to the United States. An initial draft of its long-awaited Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap was published by the US Department of Energy (DOE), and in the summer of 2023, the final version of the strategy was issued (U.S. National Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap, referred to hereafter as “the strategy”).

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Hydrogen vs. Carbon Capture: Why Europe Needs Both for Net Zero

In their decarbonisation journey, European countries have so far focused on policies to dramatically increase the share of renewables and improve energy efficiency across diverse sectors, including industry, construction and housing. However, it has become clear that renewables alone will not enable the industrial sector to achieve its decarbonisation goals, as a large share of the carbon dioxide emissions from industry are emitted during manufacturing processes. Emerging technologies for carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) as well as hydrogen (H2) are currently being explored as the most promising solutions.

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Energy transition

The Geological Subsurface and Its Potential for the Energy Transition

If Germany’s geological subsurface is mentioned at all in public debate, then usually in the context of the potential exploitation of fossil energy resources such as natural gas. But the deep subsurface harbours many other opportunities that could be harnessed to build a more sustainable economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Tapping into these opportunities will require immense efforts and quite likely some very difficult decisions. So what exactly does the geological subsurface have to offer?

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Workshop at the IASS

Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Transformations Towards Sustainability at the Regional Level

Transformations towards sustainability need change at all levels. It takes people who have the courage to embrace goals and are empowered to pursue them. We need pioneers and projects that show that sustainable change and lifestyles are possible. And we need targets and incentives to help ensure that transformations are broad-based and lasting. One aspect that is rarely considered is the role that regions play in sustainability transformations. This was the focus of the workshop "Transformations towards sustainability at the regional level" on 25.11.2022 at the IASS in Potsdam.

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Excursion to Feldheim

A Renewables Frontrunner in Brandenburg

We like to think of Germany as a trailblazer in the transition to a sustainable energy system. But the energy crises unleashed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have highlighted the shortcomings in Germany’s energy policy. The truth is that when it comes to the energy transition, successive governments have dragged their heels and wasted precious time. Undaunted by this, many towns and villages have taken things into their own hands and created carbon-neutral energy and heating systems that power their communities and more.

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Discussing future hydrogen geographies in Europe: a conversation that is overdue

The transition to renewable energy in Europe has evolved dynamically since the turn of the century. The share of renewable energy in the European Union more than doubled between 2004 and 2022. Nevertheless, renewable energy represents only 22 percent of overall energy consumption and 37 percent of electricity generation in the EU. In other words, Europe still has a long way to go, even when it comes to the relatively easy task of converting its electricity production to renewables.

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Energy transitions

The Politics of Just Transitions: Definitions Matter

Just Energy Transition Partnerships represent a novel approach to financing the energy transitions in emerging economies. Spurred by the announcement of the Just Energy Transition Partnership with South Africa at COP26, a host of other countries have since expressed interest in their own JETPs. Nonetheless, while COP27 may witness the announcement of several new JETPs, these partnerships will likely vary in scope, size, and ambition. This is especially true for “just transition” policies, which have real-world consequences for the inhabitants of recipient nations.

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US and EU must overcome protectionist tendencies to cooperate on battery supply chains

As governments across the world decarbonize their economies, the shift toward clean energy is highlighting new geopolitical tensions, supply chain vulnerabilities, and sustainability challenges associated with raw material extraction. With electrification as the main pathway to achieving decarbonization, one key technology—the battery—plays an outsize role in this shift. As the lithium-ion battery is currently the dominant technology for electric vehicles and stationary energy storage, exponential growth in critical mineral mining is required to meet demand. The International Energy Agency projects that the metals industry would need to build 50 new lithium mines, 60 nickel mines, and 17 cobalt mines by 2030 to meet global demand in line with national emissions-reduction pledges.

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