The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is the world’s largest dedicated multilateral climate fund, and aims to support climate mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries. Mobilizing financial resources from the private sector is an important priority for the donor countries backing the GCF. However, so far the GCF has underperformed in this respect. According to a new study by Thomas Kalinowski (Ewha Womans University, Seoul, and Research Institute for Sustainability - Helmholtz Centre Potsdam) this is due to numerous shortcomings in the GCF’s strategy.
Michaela Büsse is a fellow at the Research Institute for Sustainability (RIFS). Her work casts a spotlight on socio-material transformations in the context of speculative urbanism, the energy transition, and climate change. In this interview, she explains her current research on visionary energy islands and talks about her forthcoming event at Berlin Science Week on 3 November: "Building (with) Nature".
This year’s Berlin Science Week (1-10 November 2023) will once again showcase the sciences across a host of events, promoting discussion of recent research and its findings. The ten-day festival is expected to attract over 20,000 visitors and will feature presentations from around 500 speakers, supported by some 150 organisations. RIFS researchers and fellows will also participate in this inspiring dialogue between science and society, art and research. An overview.
Gender justice is key for the transition to a more sustainable energy system, says Cara Daggett. During a one-year fellowship at the Research Institute for Sustainability, the political scientist is researching how policymakers can foster social structures that facilitate decarbonization.
Green hydrogen will likely play a crucial role in the global energy transition. RIFS Fellow Beatriz Couto Ribeiro is assessing the opportunities for Latin American economies to enter green hydrogen value chains. In this interview, she explains her research.
Conceptual artist Swaantje Güntzel is often asked: “Can’t you do something nice for a change?”. As she commences her year-long fellowship at RIFS, Güntzel is careful not to make any promises about her future work. And while the title of her project puts this question front and centre, she is not offering any answers. One thing is certain: her work will engage with a region that is especially important for sustainable development.
Nino Jordan is a visiting fellow specializing in environmental policy and governance at the Research Institute for Sustainability (RIFS). During his Klaus Töpfer Fellowship at RIFS he will conduct research on "International Policy Learning for Rapid Evaluation, Adaptation, and Diffusion of Embodied Emission Standards." In this interview, he explains his approach and the importance of networking.
Clubs consume a lot of electricity, popular DJs live a jetset life. But there are growing efforts in the club scene to protect the climate, for example with green energy and mobility. In addition to ecological sustainability, social sustainability plays an important role, with club managers and ravers taking a stand against racism, violence against LGBT people and other forms of oppression. At RIFS, social scientist Kerstin Meißner will take stock of sustainability efforts in club culture during a one-year fellowship.
Around 30 fellows come to RIFS every year to conduct research on current sustainability topics. Applications for next year are now open until 13 August 2023. With the Fellowship, the Institute offers the opportunity to pursue innovative ideas in a transdisciplinary environment.
Both Vietnam and Malaysia have made significant strides in recent years to scale their renewable capacity, and solar has played a cardinal role in both contexts. A new policy brief by RIFS affiliate scholar Emily Burlinghaus takes stock of developments in the two countries and draws lessons for energy transitions in Southeast Asia.
Around 30 Fellows come to the IASS each year to conduct research on sustainability issues alongside our scientists. The Institute offers Fellows the opportunity to pursue innovative ideas in a transdisciplinary environment. The IASS is fielding applications for Fellowships beginning in the coming year through to 31 July 2022.
One of the new IASS Fellows this year is Natalie Koch. She is a professor in the Department of Geography and Environment at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Koch is currently researching the geopolitics of sustainability and "post-oil" futures in the Arabian Peninsula. In this interview, she discusses her research project and the extent to which the war in Ukraine may be accelerating Europe's transformation to a renewable energy supply.
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.
The IASS Potsdam invites applications for the Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellowship 2023. The fellowship is aimed at individuals who, like IASS Founding Director and former German Environment Minister Klaus Töpfer, are committed to sustainable development and build bridges between science, politics, and society. Extended application deadline is 17 April.
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.
The IASS is currently seeking nominations for the 2021 Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellowship. The fellowship is intended to honour individuals who strive, like Klaus Töpfer, to bring together the fields of science and politics in their work. Applicants from the fields of academia, politics, civil society, business, and the arts are invited to submit their applications by 12 April.
Micro-financing is an important tool to advance the growth and reach of modern energy systems in developing countries. With her start-up HEDERA Sustainable Solutions GmbH, engineer Natalia Realpe Carrillo has created a digital toolbox that enables micro-finance institutions to take stock of the sustainability impacts of their investments in clean energy systems. She will be joining the IASS as the new Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow on 1 November 2020, where she will continue to develop and improve these tools.
In 2019, the new Packaging Act entered into force in Germany, tightening regulations governing packaging and resulting waste. However, improvements to this legislation are needed in order to further reduce the ecological impact of packaging waste. A new IASS Policy Brief offers three recommendations.
The IASS is seeking applications for around 30 fellowships in 2021. The institute offers fellows the opportunity to develop their ideas in an international community of eminent researchers within the institute and in the wider Potsdam-Berlin area. Applications can be submitted up to 23 August 2020.
Brazil is one of the hotspots of the corona pandemic, and the Brazilian Amazon is particularly hard hit. In a new Discussion Paper, IASS Fellow Artur Sgambatti Monteiro and Lucas Lima dos Santos describe the impacts of the pandemic on the region. The virus has overwhelmed the poor healthcare system in Amazonian cities and towns. Indigenous groups are especially vulnerable because the pandemic has opened the floodgates for the illegal deforestation and invasion of their territories. The authors warn that the encroachment on previously untouched parts of the forest could give rise to new transmissible zoonoses.
Could an unconditional basic income foster freedom and equal opportunity, curb the excesses of an age of acceleration and help to conserve our finite natural resources? The freelance curator, author, theorist and activist Adrienne Goehler has studied this question as an IASS Fellow. Her recently published book "Nachhaltigkeit braucht Entschleunigung braucht Grundein/auskommen" presents essays, interviews, stories, diagrams and artistic interventions from a range of authors.
The use of bioenergy is increasing, despite the fact that the cultivation of biomass competes with food production and the conservation of natural ecosystems. A recent study suggests that the concept of ‘reflexive governance’ can support the development of more integrated biofuels policies by encouraging a shift from individual interests to an integrative approach.
The IASS will welcome nineteen new fellows in 2020. Representing a broad array of disciplines and professions, the fellows will have the opportunity to develop new ideas, cooperate with the staff of the institute, and interact with the wider Potsdam-Berlin sustainability communities during their time here.
The IASS is currently seeking nominations to the 2020 Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellowship. The fellowship is intended to honour individuals who strive, like Klaus Töpfer, to connect science and politics in their work. Applicants, who may come from academia, politics, civil society, business, and the arts, are invited to submit their applications by 24 February.
In the face of a changing climate and widespread environmental destruction it is difficult to envision a future in which healthy people inhabit a healthy planet. Strategies to safeguard planetary health were the subject of an IASS symposium on the occasion of the inaugural "Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellowship" on 6 November in Berlin.
Science and art are often viewed as two distinct worlds that differ in terms of both their essence and impacts. The connections and synergies between art and science have only been explored to a limited extent to date. A new fellowship programme established at the IASS for artists will foster dialogue on issues related to sustainability between science and art.
Brazilian health expert Nicole de Paula has been awarded the inaugural Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellowship. The 36-year-old won over an international jury with her excellent scientific references and extensive experience in policy consulting and cooperation with UN institutions.
To avert devastating climate change impacts, we need to make dramatic lifestyle changes. Lance Bennett, Professor of Political Science and Communication at the University of Washington and currently IASS Senior Fellow, explains how better communication can help us succeed in changing course.
David Dunetz has worked for 20 years at the Heschel Center for Sustainability in Tel Aviv, which leads the Israel Climate Forum, a consortium of civil society organizations. As a Visiting Research Fellow at the IASS Potsdam on a joint program with the Israel Public Policy Institute, he is currently researching how civic engagement and participation processes can advance climate policy and democratic innovation.
The European Union (EU) is currently finding its bearings after the recent elections, and the jostling for top positions is in full swing. Regardless of the outcome, sustainability is likely to play a stronger role in future EU policy. Now for the first time, the EU will report to the UN High-Level Political Forum on progress in implementing the SDGs. Senior Fellow Ingeborg Niestroy has closely monitored the EU’s sustainability policy over the last twenty years and just presented the IASS Science Platform Sustainability 2030 at this 'HLPF'. In the following interview, she talks about a study she led on the sustainability strategies of the EU member states.
In recent months young people across the world have been going on strike on Fridays to protest about their governments’ failure to adequately address the climate crisis. In their view, lack of political action to protect the climate is putting their future in jeopardy. But Wales is leading by example here with a law passed in 2015 that echoes the demands of the Fridays for Future protesters: the Well-being for Future Generations Act. It requires public authorities in Wales to consider the long-term effects of their decisions and make sustainable development a touchstone for policymaking.
“These new policies show that we don’t have to wait hands-in-pockets for carbon pricing to drive down emissions from construction products such as steel and cement”, Nino Jordan concluded at the end of the two-day conference “Carbon Footprint Policy Accelerator Conference: Learning about Buy Clean and Whole Life Carbon Regulatory Standards for Buildings” held recently in Potsdam.
The three transparent boxes on display contain a burgundy velvet hat adorned with lavish brown feather-work, a straw hat brim with feathers, leaves and flowers draped over it to form a nest, and a third hat topped with pink feathers and a stuffed bird's head. These three items of headwear take centrestage at a "Tiny Gallery" presented by RIFS Art Fellow Susanne Schmitt at the Berlin Science Week. Together, they highlight the pivotal role that hats and hat-making played in the development of environmental and wildlife conservation. The gallery is part of the exhibition "Dare to Know: Creative Science, Precise Art" on show at Holzmarkt 25 through to 10 November.
The international exhibition “Examples to follow! – Expeditions in aesthetics and sustainability” has returned to its initial station in Berlin after 13 years on the road. The exhibition has been shown in Addis Ababa, Lima and Beijing, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, Puebla, Haifa and Jerusalem, as well as in Bonn, Bremen, Essen, and Hamburg.
Global challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change have boosted interest in the findings of scientific research. Liliann Fischer, Head of Quality and Transfer at Wissenschaft im Dialog, and Philipp Prein, Head of Communications at Agora Verkehrswende, spoke with RIFS fellows and researchers in late April on building better dialogue between science, society and politics. Effective science communication should not be left to chance and requires input from communications experts, participants at the workshop agreed.
We often look to Berlin and Brussels to push ahead with the social-ecological transformation. And there is no question that the big decisions are made there – be it on subsidy programmes, project funding or regulatory measures governing manufacturing and trade. But we’d be overlooking some great potential if we assumed that these are the only places where change takes shape. Plenty of ambitious and inspiring socio-ecological projects are born far from the centres of political power, in community halls, town assemblies, youth centres, within neighbourhood initiatives and movements, and in community-supported farming projects.
Green hydrogen (H2) is often portrayed as a key component for the green energy transition, since it is produced with renewable energy through electrolysis – the splitting up of freshwater into hydrogen and oxygen – and does not emit carbon dioxide when combusted. Not only does green hydrogen harbour huge potential for the decarbonization of hard-to-abate sectors (e.g. steelmaking and production of fertilizers) as well as maritime shipping and aviation, its use as an energy storage solution makes it particularly promising for remote and sparsely populated areas with an abundance of renewable energy resources.
Four years ago, the student-led climate strike movement took the world by storm. Ever since, the strikes have played an important role in the strategic repertoire of the global climate movement. Yet as emissions keep rising, even mass protests with millions of participants have proved unable to build sufficient political pressure to secure meaningful political concessions. This presents a strategic dilemma to the movement: How does one even strike amidst an escalating climate crisis?
The debate on how the financial burdens imposed by the adverse impacts of climate change should be shared took center-stage at COP27. The Global Climate Fund could play an important role in efforts to address the emerging issue of loss and damages.
Plenty of people talk to their plants. But what about touching them? Tracing the veins on their leaves, caressing their stems, holding them, moving them? And what about the many ways that plants - from trees to shrubs to water lilies and flowers - touch us? At the recent Berlin Science Week, IASS fellow, anthropologist and artist Susanne Schmitt teamed up with community gardeners Prinzessinnengärten and natural building lab Dis+Ko to create a unique space: Haptic Hortus.
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.
Everyone agrees that overcoming the climate crisis hinges on countries working together. Yet international cooperation repeatedly fails. The war in Ukraine has made us painfully aware of just how fragile our international system is. And the COP negotiations taking place in Egypt in November are a source of concern for many.
Were good ideas enough to overcome the climate crisis, there would probably never have been the need for a climate movement. Despite the countless number of global climate reports, policy proposals and transformation strategies published in recent years, urgency on the level of discourse has done little to change the fossil-fuel status quo.
While climate change-related disasters are increasing at an alarming rate, concrete action to limit such devastating effects is progressing at a different pace. Instead of addressing the main cause of climate change by curbing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions from the production and consumption of fossil fuels, the Carbon Majors – the top producers of crude oil, natural gas, coal, and cement in the world – continue to be largely unregulated. In the Philippines, a landmark inquiry recently found legal grounds to hold corporations accountable.
Elias König recently joined the IASS as a Justice and Sustainability Fellow and will be working on a research project that examines the youth-led climate strike movement. In this blog post, he outlines his professional background and his plans for the fellowship.
The Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellowship of the IASS was established in honour of its founding director Prof. Dr Klaus Töpfer. It supports people who, like him, are committed to sustainable development. Applications for the Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellowship in 2023 are currently open, and the application deadline has been extended to April 17 2022. The fellowship seeks change agents who build bridges between science, politics, and society.
Malika Virah-Sawmy recently joined the IASS as our new Justice and Sustainability Fellow and will be working on youth climate action during her fellowship. In this blog post she outlines her professional background and her plans for the fellowship.
The April 2021 decision of the German Federal Constitutional Court in the case Neubauer et al. vs Germany has drawn a lot of attention worldwide. Louis Kotzé, Research Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law, North-West University, South Africa and currently Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow at the IASS, and Jannis Krüßmann, a young climate activist, spoke on the ruling and its wider consequences for climate litigation on January 27, 2022 as part of the focal topic "Justice and Sustainability".
At COP26, we saw decisions and a handful of statements, pledges, and declarations parallel to the official negotiations centered on Just Transition. But did anything change in the substance of the JT debate in Glasgow?
On November 17, the European Commission proposed a regulation on deforestation-free products. This initiative is groundbreaking in that it tackles legal deforestation next to illegal. What does this legislative proposal mean for commodity-producing countries? In the case of Brazil, effective regulations will depend on a combination of trade, financial, technological, and cooperative measures.
"Cooperation needs to be fair, transparent, accountable, and with excellent coordination in order to succeed." This was the bold message shared by the speakers in the opening session of the DAAD TU Berlin Alumni Online Seminar, Energy Transition on Africa, an event organized by TU Berlin in cooperation with the African Center of Excellence in Energy for Sustainable Development (ACE-ESD) and hosted by the TU Berlin Alumni Program, together with HEDERA Sustainable Solutions and with the support of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies e.V.
What kind of help do remote rural villages in developing countries need to sustainably improve their infrastructure? What is the state of electricity supply and services, the availability and quality of cooking solutions, and the quality of water access in these settlements? Is there a nexus between access to basic services and nutrition in these areas? And, if a project is implemented, how can progress made at the household level be monitored, reported, and evaluated? These questions are at the heart of the project “Action-Based & Impact-Driven Research: Establishing Collaborative Frameworks for Researchers, Impact Makers, and Sustainable Entrepreneurs (IMPACT-R).”
On 31 May 2021, the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies hosted an event under the title “The Global South: Where and what is it?”. The event was planned and organized by Alexandra Tost, Artur Sgambatti Monteiro, Flávio Lira, Natalia Realpe Carrillo, Pradeep Singh and Achim Maas. This online event was the result of several months of preparation among fellows and researchers at the IASS who had realized the potential for a discussion around this topic.
We need other, more sustainable, cross-cutting forms of funding to tap the potential of art and culture, advance society with new ideas, and enable cooperation with science.
The aim of the Fund Aesthetics and Sustainability |FÄN is to close this gap. The FÄN is intended to open up a further space of possibility and expand the artistic radius of action.
The German Bundestag is considering a bill that would force companies to manage risks in their global supply chains (GSCs). While the passage of the bill would help to ensure better labour and environmental standards, revisions are still needed in key areas.
The behavioural and production patterns of humankind have put the world on a collision course with our planetary boundaries. As global warming leads us towards large-scale disaster, ecosystems are becoming more fragile by the day and social inequality is growing fast. We must urgently move towards a more sustainable and equitable collective existence. This text is about the consequences of current unsustainability, rather than its causes.
Together with an interdisciplinary group of academic experts, we were invited to develop a set of practical proposals to address serious environmental issues raised by the EU-Mercosur Association Agreement (EUMAA). While recognising the broader developmental and human rights context in which EUMAA is taking place, the statement concentrates on five priority issues.
"The Packaging Act of 2019 is already having an effect here [on recycling]. But there is still far too much packaging waste in Germany. More than half of all plastic waste is disposable packaging, and that really bothers many citizens, and it really bothers me personally", remarked Minister of the Environment Svenja Schulze on the latest amendment to Germany’s Packaging Act (the Verpackungsgesetz).
Germany's first Waste Prevention Programme was adopted by the federal government in 2013. According to Section 33 (9) of the Circular Economy Act, programmes must be reviewed every six years and revised, if necessary. In early January 2021, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety published an updated Waste Prevention Programme titled “Treasure Not Trash” (an information brochure in English is available here).
Food consumption and production are one of the key entry points available to human societies for effecting a transformation towards sustainability. Food production is a major contributor to a whole range of environmental problems including climate change, biodiversity loss, water overuse, and air and water pollution. Also, unhealthful diets cause chronic disease and millions of premature deaths around the world each year. One common link between these two unsustainable trends is high levels of consumption of animal products—meat, dairy, eggs, etc., particularly in industrialized countries, but also increasingly in developing countries. Thus, efforts to shift diets en masse away from animal products towards plant-based foods can reap multiple sustainability benefits.
Empowering consumers to adopt more sustainable food habits is one of the foremost goals of the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy. This goal is diluted by a recent amendment passed by the EU Parliament that imposes strict limits on how substitutes for dairy products can be described and marketed.
Brazilian geographer Bertha Becker referred to the Amazon region as the oldest periphery of the capitalist world system. Its colonial occupation, or 'frontier economy', is based on the continuous incorporation of available land and the exploitation of their resources – both of which are regarded as infinite. This perspective on the Amazon has existed for centuries and continues to loom large in Brazil today. To meet its growing demand for raw materials, the outside world assumed the rainforest to be of little value, discounting the services that it provides to humankind. This view encourages the rainforest’s destruction and is not sustainable. A model for the sustainable development of the Amazon region is feasible however and could play an important role in Brazil's post-pandemic economic recovery efforts.
How do you get a feel for a place? I have to be there in person. I feel the ground, taste the air, dip my fingertips in the water; I let the sounds weave its stories me. Since April, I've been working on an artistic project about the region of Lusatia. The region has long captivated my imagination, since learning about its cross-border identity and the history of the Sorbs in Lusatia, pre-dating current nation states.
The former seat of the Prussian Kings and Kaisers, Potsdam is famous for its ensemble of parks and palaces, which has made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage list. But Potsdam is also an international science hub, where international researchers spend anything from a month to several years at one of the city’s many research institutes. To learn more about these international guest scholars and their needs, a working group on “Internationales Wohnen und Begegnen” was formed within the City Administration in 2017. Angela Borowski from the IASS has contributed to its work.
According to a recent report, German households are producing 15% more waste compared to before the pandemic as concerns around hygiene and safety overshadow the public's interest in sustainability. Additionally, with people enjoying outdoor spaces in the summer, plastic packaging waste is even more starkly noticeable in the environment. With common plastic items, and particularly to-go food packaging, constituting 10-20% of the waste found in parks, public places and streets in Germany, the urgent need to regulate these products cannot be understated. Long-term measures to avoid the excessive production and consumption of plastic in its various forms are clearly needed.
Socio-environmental governance is not an area of exclusive government action. Corporations, investors, civil and consumer organizations are reinventing themselves as political players in an increasing number of self-regulatory arrangements. Private environmental governance covers a wide-range of schemes such as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria; Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSSs) and certifications. Private initiatives have been praised for their potential to contribute to the goals of the Paris Agreement. Nonetheless, the current situation in Brazil shows that the private sector has a role to play not only in making its own environmental commitments, but in demanding that governments respond.
What are some of the key frameworks that can be used for transdisciplinary research? What are their particular strengths? How can you choose one that’s most suitable for your transdisciplinary project?
What is biodiversity? Often understood as the ensemble of plants, animals and microorganisms on Earth, biodiversity is, above all, a rich sample of genetic differences among species and the variety of ecosystems. In fact, the richer the diversity of life, the greater the opportunity for medical discoveries, economic development, and adaptive responses to wicked challenges such as climate change.
Humans are intrinsically connected to the natural environment. This fundamental truth has been neglected by the way we conceive our development choices and we implement policies. The Covid-19 pandemic is an unfortunate reminder. Occurrences of diseases that cross over from wildlife to human populations (zoonotic diseases) are increasing and highlight how human health, animal health, and natural ecosystems are one. The current crisis shows us that we’ve lost a necessary symbiotic relation between humans and their natural environment. We, humans, are not separate from nature. We are nature.
The spread of the coronavirus has had rapid and far-reaching effects on the daily life of individuals and across professions and industries. The waste management sector is no exception here. This blog will highlight some of the challenges faced by the waste management sector in Germany. Similar to other European countries, the two most prominent measures taken by Germany to halt the spread of the coronavirus are the closing of its borders and the enforcement of reduced social contact.
Affiliate IASS scholar Man Fang has been working online from Germany since late January as a volunteer coordinator to support her hometown of Wuhan, organizing donations and helping to transport medical resources from around the world to the local hospitals. Here on the IASS-Blog she answers a few questions how differently the pandemic is dealt with in Germany and China and expresses her thoughts and feelings about it.
Worldwide over one billion people are on coronavirus lockdown. Overnight, the frantic economies of the twenty-first century ground to a halt. All of the sudden, an invisible organism became our number one enemy, demonstrating the fragility of an über-connected planet. The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented event and will leave a much changed world in its wake. The question of global cooperation looms large in thinking about the post-pandemic world. Are we entering a world that is less free and open? A world of more authoritarian states? Or is this pandemic an opportunity to “unlearn” mistakes and build our societies based on trust, knowledge and cooperation?
Given the fact that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its implications are dominating not only the news but the daily lives of nearly the whole globe, it is unsurprising that many have been thinking about the consequences of the coronavirus on climate action.
The Women Leaders in Global Health Conference 2019 (WLGH19) took place on 9-10 November in Kigali. Hosted by University of Global Health Equity (UGHE), the event brought together representatives from more than 81 countries committed to health and gender equity. In this article, I’ll share my experiences at the Women Leaders in Global Health Conference, highlight an area that promises to deliver greater synergies, and close with an invitation.
The German naturalist, writer, and statesman Alexander von Humboldt taught that all things are truly connected to everything else; that our entire world is an interwoven tapestry. The only way to ensure a dignified life for all, without poverty and hardship, is to make climate change and the limits of global resources central criteria in all political and economic decisions. One proposed solution to the growing problem of poverty is unconditional basic income (UBI).
"Future generations" have become an integral part of discussions about sustainability. This stems all the way back to the very definition of sustainable development in the Brundtland Report, but has gained new significance with the explosion of youth environmental movements we’ve seen in recent years. The general public seems to agree that future generations should be taken into account in political decision-making processes: More and more people are understanding that their children’s or their grandchildren’s lives are under threat because of our decisions and lack of action on environmental degradation, climate change, and other sustainability challenges.
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.
Last week in Germany, retired pulmonary physician Dieter Köhler made waves by publishing a statement, signed by over one hundred other fellow lung doctors, calling into question the science behind air quality standards and suggesting that current EU-wide limits for nitrogen oxides and fine particulate matter are unnecessarily strict. Not coincidentally, this comes at a time when diesel driving bans are being imposed in many German cities because of their inability to meet the EU-wide limit value for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), for which diesel cars are the main source. This has sparked debate on many levels, from the journalistic to the political. In this blog post we specifically address the topic of air quality limit values based on our expertise in the fields of air quality and public health.
Even before taking up office, the new Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro called into question the country’s role in the global climate protection regime. He caused considerable alarm when he withdrew the Brazilian offer to host the 25th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 25) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, just days before the start of COP 24. On top of this, it was revealed that Bolsonaro’s pick for the role of Minister for Foreign Relations considers global warming a plot by “cultural Marxists”. These announcements and other controversial statements by members of the incoming administration cast a shadow of uncertainty over the future of environmental governance and climate policy in Brazil.
As an health professional, I see that health needs to be viewed in a much broader perspective than the mere absence of disease, and that well-being is clearly connected to the healthy planet we inhabit. My research on air pollution and health aims to reveal the extent to which our well-being is related to our environment, and to show how important it is that we care for the latter.
The new German government got down to work in April 2018 and it will be interesting to see how it goes about tackling the big future questions of our time. Together with the Chancellery, the ministries have a huge responsibility to manage and shape the far-reaching technological and societal changes currently under way.
Ever since Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, spoke in 2015 before Lloyd’s of London about climate change, the future of the energy industries, and financial stability, finance ministers and central bank governors around the world have underscored climate protection’s systemic threat to the world’s financial system.
As a child, I lived near the forests and walked everywhere on foot because we did not have motorable roads, nor could my parents afford to buy a family car. If I were to narrate this story to sociologists or media reporters, then I would feel that I was exposing my limited wealth compared with people in developed countries. But when I shared my story with scientists at the IASS, I narrated it confidently, because they think that we are on the right path towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
No post-fossil future is imagined for Russia, least of all by the Russians. The kleptocrats flee the country and stash their bounty in safe havens, countries with confidential banking, enough rule of law to avoid the confiscation of their spoils, and pliable politicians to provide protection. The export of capital and the purchase of expensive houses and other assets outside Russia reveal that large parts of its ‘economic elite’ do not think they will stay in power for long.
The economic era of fossil energy will end, and petro-states will decline with it.
Environmentalists are often critical of technological fixes to problems caused by technology. But when it comes to geo-engineering, a clear distinction needs to be made between the message and the messenger.
Let’s say you don’t exercise enough, eat too much snack food, and get drunk too often. Then your doctor tells you he’s putting you on medication for high blood pressure. Would you accuse your doctor of being part of an evil conspiracy?
Integration, the magic word of the EU, has lost its power. Yet integration continues to be a noble endeavour of all progressive forces. But how is it to be achieved? And with whom? Time is of the essence given the overheating of the planet, displacement and migration, and the threat to Western values posed by kleptocracy, illiberalism and autocracy.
New Zealand: geographically distant, culturally close
There are two dimensions to integration. Firstly, there is the creation of a common legal sphere and market in an effectively decentralised, federal EU.
Walking westwards along Oranienburger Strasse in Berlin-Mitte, the building-high mural How Long Is Now dominates the horizon, eclipsing nearby landmarks. It is, as I learned, a now legendary artwork adorning the derelict art centre Kunsthaus Tacheles (‘straight talking’ in Yiddish). The building embodies what is true for the city as a whole, at least as it is initially experienced by an outsider: wearing on its sleeve a succession of external and internal revolutionary changes.
My short-term research and lecture visit to the IASS in November and December 2016 is now over, sadly. I was invited by and cooperated with Dr Birgit Lode of the ELIAS project. I first met Birgit at a conference organized by the American Society of International Law (ASIL), of which both of us are active members.
The IASS has produced what is probably the most comprehensive overview on the results of recent renewable energy auctions yet. The study, which is soon to be published in English (it’s available here in German), thus fills a crucial gap. Policymakers will want to know the findings so they can improve policy design – and the study sheds light on some surprising gaps.
Germany’s energy transition, its Energiewende, is the backdrop for Juli Zeh’s novel Unterleuten. The title has multiple meanings. First, Unterleuten is the name of a small rural town where citizens learn one day that a wind farm is to be built in their midst.
How can local governments and civil society partner to produce sustainable cities? This was one of the central questions cutting across four panels of the conference “Co-producing sustainable cities?”, which was organized by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in cooperation with the Technical University of Berlin. This conference served as a discussion forum in preparation for the adoption of the “New Urban Agenda”, which will be steering sustainable urban development for the next twenty years.
With the adoption of the Renewable Energy Act (2014), Germany prepared the ground for the replacement of feed-in tariffs (FiTs), which provided grid operators with a set fee for every kilowatt-hour of wind energy or solar power, to an auction-based system in accordance with the requirements of the European Commission. This system has been tested in a series of pilot auctions for solar (PV) parks.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the latest Arctic Summit Science Week in Fairbanks, Alaska. Building on the outcomes of last year’s summit in Toyama, Japan (see my previous post), the scientific community is increasingly seeking to unify synergies between the social and natural sciences to tackle problems related to Arctic change.
Meeting global energy needs represents a key challenge for climate change mitigation. This is because the energy system today is dominated by fossil fuels, which emit a significant amount of CO2 to the atmosphere. In fact, the energy sector is responsible for the majority of anthropogenic emissions, contributing more than 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In order to avoid dangerous climate change it is crucial that we transition our global energy system away from fossil fuels and towards low-carbon, sustainable energy.
Urban areas account for more than 70% of CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. If the top 50 emitting cities were a single country, its emissions would rank third globally, behind China and the United States. In addition to playing a major role in rising atmospheric CO2 and global warming, cities are also heat islands. A heat island is formed on the one hand from waste heat emitted from cars, poorly insulated buildings and industrial plants, and on the other from heat stored and reradiated from the artificial surfaces that cover our cities.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the Arctic Science Summit Week (ASSW) 2015 in Toyama, Japan, organised by the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) and the Science Council of Japan. The event brought together nearly 700 international scientists, students, policy makers, research managers, Indigenous Peoples, and other key players with the goal of “developing, prioritizing and coordinating plans for future Arctic research”.
I’m just back from a trip to the USA, where I attended a workshop on future perspectives for Arctic air pollution research. While I originally intended to write about the workshop here, I’ve decided to postpone that article and want instead to write about my experience of the host city, Boulder, Colorado - a city with a multitude of sustainability initiatives.
Boulder is one of the happiest cities in the U.S.
Many cities are currently creating more green spaces and planting trees. The growing momentum to increase the amount of green space in urban areas, seen, for example, in various ‘Million Tree’ campaigns, brings many benefits to urbanites. A reduction in summer temperatures, additional recreational opportunities, and storm-water control are among the motivations behind such programmes.
Research into technologies for manipulating the planetary environment in order to forestall the effects of climate change is rapidly proceeding from small laboratory and desktop studies to the field. Concurrent with these developments, there have been calls for the establishment of governance mechanisms to ensure that the risks and concerns that this research presents are addressed appropriately, given the complex issues at stake.