Populist parties have been on the rise in recent years, and they are increasingly engaging with climate issues. While research and the media often focus on far-right parties, left-wing populist parties are also positioning themselves on climate protection. Laura Chazel (RIFS Potsdam) and Vincent Dain (Rennes I University) analyse the goals and discourse of two French parties in a new case study.
The LOSLAND project has supported ten municipalities across Germany in their efforts to facilitate public participation processes on issues that will shape the future of communities. On 20 April, participants and organisers took stock of the project's outcomes at the symposium “Forging a sustainable democracy through public participation in municipalities”. Discussions at the symposium show that public participation can enrich democracy, but processes must be tailored to the demands of specific issues and target groups.
Public participation is widely considered to be crucial for the success of the energy transition. In three new research projects, RIFS researchers are investigating the impacts of participatory processes, the potential of energy communities, and the application of digital visualization and communication tools in transition planning.
Structuring discussions, explaining contexts, identifying perspectives: all of these are among the tasks of facilitators. In cooperation with the city of Magdeburg, RIFS researchers designed and accompanied three mini-publics that were facilitated in different ways. Their analysis of strengths and weaknesses contributes to a better design of future participation processes.
In a podcast series, RIFS researchers discuss the role of carbon in climate and sustainability politics. They talk to academics, activists and artists whose work has influenced their own research on the transformations of our carbon-dependent society. In the fourth episode, Usha Natarajan (Columbia University/Dalhousie University) and Julia Dehm (La Trobe Law School) discuss their book “Locating Nature: Making and Unmaking International Law”.
Although structural transformations of the kind unfolding in Lusatia affect everyone, young people are rarely involved in decision-making processes. And yet everyone should have a say in shaping the future! The research project "Social Transformation and Policy Advice in Lusatia" at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) has developed a simulation game for six to 30 players in cooperation with game developers "Playing History". The game, which is suitable for younger audiences, was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
In recent years, the rights of children and youth to participate in political processes have been expanded. But there are still deficits when it comes to putting these rights into practice. In a new publication, IASS researchers make recommendations on how to successfully engage young people in processes of structural change.
Sustainability policy in Germany currently falls short of what is needed, despite ambitious rhetoric. In a study, IASS researchers show that the established way of mediating interests between politics, industry and trade unions stands in the way of a more ambitious agenda. For a successful transition, policymakers must remould the relationship between capitalism, democracy, and sustainability.
The Berlin Senate has set itself the goal to make the city "climate-neutral" by 2045. For that to happen, the everyday lives of Berliners are going to have to change in a number of areas, including housing, mobility, and energy use. To get the ball rolling, the Senate has taken up an initiative from civil society and created the Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change, which brings together randomly selected citizens to discuss climate mitigation measures in the city. The IASS will be providing scientific input for the work of the assembly.
What approach must sustainability research take in order to sucessfully advance the transformation toward a sustainable future? In a new publication, IASS Scientific Director Ortwin Renn outlines an approach that integrates different research concepts.
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.
One of our new IASS Fellows this year is John M. Meyer, who is professor in the department of politics at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt (USA). Meyer helped launch two interdisciplinary courses at the university: one focusing on power and privilege in environmental studies, and the other focusing on environment and community. He was additionally pivotal in founding the academic field of environmental political theory. Currently, Meyer is working on the topic of populism, which he talks about in this brief interview.
In contemporary societies, the relationship between democracy and sustainability has become ever more complex. A new handbook edited by IASS researchers provides comprehensive and critical coverage of this topic from both a theoretical level and through analysis of political discourses and practices.
The State of Berlin has begun the process of selecting members of the public to join a citizens' assembly to address the climate crisis. The Berlin Citizens’ Assembly on Climate will meet through to summer and develop recommendations for future climate policy at the state level. The IASS has been invited to advise the assembly throughout its deliberations.
The German government has pledged to facilitate a just transition in the former coal region of Lusatia. What exactly does that mean on the ground? A new paper published in the Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning by Konrad Gürtler (IASS) und Jeremias Herberg (Radboud Universität) examines the tensions between distributive justice and recognition in the context of public debate around the structural transformation in Lusatia.
As the course is now being set for the coming legislative period, policymakers should focus more on citizen participation. A team from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) Potsdam and the Institute for Research on Democracy and Participation (Institut für Demokratie- und Partizipationsforschung – IDPF) in Wuppertal have formulated a 7+5-point plan
What does German public opinion say about the clean-energy transition? According to the findings of a recent representative survey, almost 80 percent of Germans see the decarbonization of the energy and transport sectors as a collective responsibility. More than half think the transformation is not occurring with sufficient speed. In addition, most view the transformation as too expensive.
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.
The measures imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic have hit children and young people especially hard, including in the town of Lauchhammer in Brandenburg, Germany. A new survey reveals how children there have fared since the outbreak of the pandemic and sheds light on their experiences and where and how they spent their time. Youth participation around local issues and projects is common in Lauchhammer and the survey also looks at how civic engagement could be jumpstarted again after the pandemic.
The citizens’ assembly “Germany’s Role in the World” convened in January and February of this year. The ten meetings held online saw 152 randomly selected citizens deliberate on German foreign policy and develop recommendations for the Bundestag and Federal Government. What worked well and what improvements need to be made for the future? Who participated in the assembly and how did the virtual format shape the process and its results? The Institute for Democracy and Participation Research (IDPF) at the University of Wuppertal and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam presented their analysis on 20 May.
How can school pupils get to grips with the transformation processes underway in the former coal-mining region of Lusatia and take an active role in shaping change? In a new study, IASS researchers show how teachers can engage with these issues in and outside their classrooms. The aim is not only to stimulate discussions, but also to empower young people to participate in the transformation process.
Societal transformations are often driven by the findings of science. The edited volume "Wissenschaft im Strukturwandel" shows how the interactions between science and society are changing research practice.
Calls for new forms of democratic sustainability and their achievement by way of a “great,” “socio-ecological,” and/or “democratic” transformation of societies have gained traction, both in academia and among policy makers. A special issue of the journal “Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy”, edited by researchers from the IASS, examines what is at stake in current debates.
The precise form a climate-neutral society should take and the pathways that will lead us to that goal are questions not just for scientists and politicians, but for the whole of society. Citizens must be involved in the transition to climate neutrality. A new handbook on climate protection (Handbuch Klimaschutz) condenses the findings of around 300 scientific studies and provides a sound basis for a future citizens' assembly for climate protection.
The coal phaseout in Lusatia has already been dragging on for three decades. In the face of delays to the promised structural transformation of the region, the out-migration of its young people, and local conflicts of interest, politicians now need to take action on two fronts. Financial investment alone will not be enough; the local population has to be involved in determining the direction its region is going to take. In a new publication IASS researchers analyse the obstacles to change and point to opportunities for democratically legitimised transformations.
Modern times are characterised by an increase in “wicked problems” that threaten established forms of democratic governability. What can labs ¬¬– collaborative spaces for testing innovative ideas – contribute to democratic innovation and sustainability in government? In the workshop “Toward Democratic Transformation: A Lab on Labs” at the IASS, international practitioners, leading researchers and government experts explored lab methods and principles to promote democracy and sustainability.
Today, more than ever, politicians rely on sound scientific advice to make decisions. The political issues that most need scientific input are those where the science itself is often complex and uncertain. A SAPEA working group under the leadership of Ortwin Renn has developed proposals for good scientific advice.
How can parliamentary representative democracies be strengthened and revitalised? In the context of the ever more complex future questions society has to grapple with, the study “Bundesrepublik 3.0” (Federal Republic 3.0) presents a concept for more citizen participation at national level. It was developed in a co-creative process where examples of best practice were considered and combined to generate new solutions.
Democracy, science, and the rule of law are increasingly coming under pressure. How can we defend them? How can we harness new technologies and use our knowledge, ingenuity and wealth to achieve the goal of sustainable development: a good life for all? To mark the eightieth birthday of former Minister of the Environment and IASS Founding Director Klaus Töpfer, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the IASS held a symposium titled “Friends of the Open Society” on 21 November 2018.
Digitalisation and globalisation are fundamentally changing the working world. International experts discussed the consequences at the “Thinking Space on the Future of Gainful Employment” held at the IASS on 30 November and 1 December.
The Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor is joining the IASS as a Senior Fellow for a month from mid-November to mid-December. He will contribute in particular to Scientific Director Patrizia Nanz’s research projects on truth and knowledge in post-factual times as well as on the loss of the value of democracy and social cohesion.
From adapting public spaces to climate change to rethinking mobility and decarbonising the heat supply – cities are grappling with major transformation processes as they move towards a more resilient and climate-friendly future. Researchers with the Franco-German Forum for the Future are studying cities in France and Germany that have embraced ambitious goals for change.
The small town of Loos-en-Gohelle in the north of France is a fascinating example of how culture can be harnessed to foster socio-ecological change. We were so intrigued by this story of transformation that we decided to take a closer look. Our findings are published in a new RIFS Study.
Gilles de Margerie, who has led the French government’s policy analysis institute France Stratégie since 2018, has served as the French Co-Director of the Franco-German Forum for the Future since its founding in 2020. As de Margerie’s term of office as Commissioner General at France Stratégie draws to a close, his German counterpart Frank Baasner spoke with him about the Forum’s achievements.
A systemic sustainability transformation requires fundamental shifts in various areas of society. A particularly persistent need for change lies in the organisational structures of political administration and decision-making. Here, many of the prevailing structures stem from rather traditional mindsets that are ill-suited to the complex, interconnected crises and challenges facing societies today. Traditional administrative structures lack resilience and adaptability, particularly as many of the people working within these structures suffer from excessive workloads and are frustrated by what they experience as a lack of agency. This is reflected by rising rates of burnout and other poor health outcomes.
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.
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?
The ambivalent role of material infrastructure (and especially large-scale energy technologies) in planetary crises has attracted increasing scholarly attention in recent years. RIFS Fellow Benno Fladvad examined this issue in January’s Justice in Sustainability lecture.
What do reactive border closures and the de-nationalization of undocumented populations around the world have to do with the climate crisis-mobility nexus? As part of the RIFS public lecture series `Justice in Sustainability’, Dr Mimi Sheller recently examined the interconnections of the climate crisis, unsustainable mobilities, and migration through the lens of the politics of movement, also known as kinopolitics.
As we start off the new year and set our sights on new goals and projects, we also want to take stock of the many activities and achievements of the RIFS “Justice in Sustainability” focal topic team during 2022.
Africa is a continent rich in cultures, natural resources and biodiversity. However, the continent faces diverse environmental challenges, including pollution, deforestation, and species extinction. In a recent lecture Dr. Caiphas Brewsters Soyapi argued that traditional knowledge offers a moral compass that Africans can use to find their own response to ecological problems, a view that many judiciaries are coming to share.
Seit 2020 ist ein Abschnitt der Friedrichstraße für Menschen zu Fuß oder mit dem Fahrrad geöffnet und für dem Autoverkehr geschlossen. Das Berliner Verwaltungsgericht hat im Oktober verkündet, dass auf diesen circa 500 Metern der Friedrichstraße wieder Autos fahren sollen. Jenseits des Juristischen Streits dreht sich die Debatte darum, ob der Einzelhandel leidet, wenn Kunden nicht mit dem Auto kommen können. Aber diese Debatte greift zu kurz.
The BMBF-funded accompanying research project "Social Transformation and Policy Advice in Lusatia" at the IASS is coming to an end after almost four years. In seven theses, we spotlight some of the findings from our research in this stormy field.
The debate on “Kiezblocks” (similar to the concept of low-traffic neighbourhoods) in Berlin has so far been driven by civil society. Now, the engagement of more than fifty of them has got the new red-red-green government coalition in Berlin to anchor Kiezblocks in their coalition agreement. Even researchers and the public administration are starting to take the idea seriously. But how does an idea go from a demand to a democratically taken decision, and then to implementation? Are these processes a symbol of participative urban planning, or is their being taken up in the coalition agreement instead a top-down government programme? Does it even matter? In this blog post, we hope to shed some light on these questions.
The SPD's success in the Bundestag elections is surprising, even though the polls predicted this outcome in the days and weeks leading up to the election. In July, polls by infratest-dimap and the Elections Research Group suggested that the SPD could win as little as 15-16 percent of the vote and a neck-and-neck race between the CDU/CSU and the Greens seemed likely. But things turned out differently, and now the Social Democrats are the victors, even though the SPD's 25 percent win is a far cry from the results returned by previous SPD chancellors.
On 29 April 2021, Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court handed down a truly historic judgement when a complaint filed by nine young people against the Federal Climate Change Act (2019) (Bundes-Klimaschutzgesetz – KSG) met with partial success, with the court ruling that some of the provisions of the Act are incompatible with the fundamental rights of youth especially.
The world watched with astonishment and horror at the violence unfolding in and around the Capitol as Congress convened to confirm the results of the United States' presidential election. How is it possible, one wonders, that a country whose traditions of democratic government span more than two hundred and thirty years could fall prey to such chaos?
As part of a pilot project funded by the State of Berlin, the borough of Tempelhof-Schöneberg is currently experimenting with a new form of citizen participation: citizen councils. The IASS is supporting the process and helping to establish citizen councils as a permanent fixture in the locality.
On Berlin’s Karl-Marx-Allee a handful of parking spaces (173 to be exact) may soon be replaced by a green median. This has generated much public debate, with local politicians trading arguments on why these particular parking spaces are so worthy of protection. It seems that for some, parking spaces are still sacred cows.
It has been a year since the first day of the very first school strike for climate. The school strike movement that sprung up in its wake has spread to over 1000 cities and countries around the world, with growing numbers of young people attending the weekly protest marches. As the movement enters its second year, it stands at an important turning point: either that there is a slow dismantling by way of red-tape and new rules that will force young people into submission; or societies will seize on the transformational potential of this moment to initiate meaningful responses to youth demands for climate justice.
Election Sunday left me at once elated, uncertain, and angry. Voter turnout has improved, the Greens were the clear winners in many places, and the climate crisis is taking centre-stage at last. At first glance the AfD appears to have lost some of its momentum. But this is only true if one ignores their successes in the former East German states – sadly, that is impossible to do.