The world has reached a pivotal moment as threats from Earth system tipping points – and progress towards positive tipping points, accelerate – a new report shows. The Global Tipping Points Report, the most comprehensive assessment of tipping points ever conducted, says humanity is currently on a disastrous trajectory. The speed of fossil fuel phase out and growth of zero-carbon solutions will now determine the future of billions of people.
A new RIFS Policy Brief warns that the promise of future technologies for the abatement and removal of carbon dioxide is being used to justify inaction on reducing fossil fuels, even though this is incompatible with limiting warming to 1.5°C or 2°C. Ahead of COP28 in Dubai, the authors urge policymakers to face up to the inescapable reality that achieving the goal of “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) will require deep and rapid reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, and that this in turn means nearly completely phasing out fossil fuels.
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.
The UN climate change conferences (COPs) are attended annually by tens of thousands of actors working on climate change topics. Outside of the formal negotiations, the communication culture is dominated by 'side events,' a format that relies on conventional presentations and panels. In a new commentary, 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.
Methane emissions have been increasing rapidly in recent years, contributing significantly to global warming. Despite this, methane is not adequately treated within existing national and international governance frameworks. Researchers at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam highlight the urgent need for action in a new study.
Renewable energy technologies can be true job motors: in 2020, the renewable energy sector employed at least 12 million people around the globe. Renewables can create sustainable jobs and improve the gender balance in the future energy sector. To harness the full socio-economic potential of renewables and to build the skills base needed for the energy transition, decisionmakers depend on reliable data, and trusted expert organisations to facilitate sound assessments.
The communication culture at the UN Climate Change conferences relies heavily on conventional presentation and panel formats that are not conducive to mutual engagement and learning. In a new IASS Policy Brief, researchers make recommendations to reinvigorate the COPs through new formats of dialogue that can better foster collaboration and co-creation of climate change solutions.
The countries that signed up to the Paris Agreement have pledged to limit the global temperature increase to well below 2ºC and, if possible, to below 1.5ºC. A key challenge to achieving this goal lies in pursuing action at both the national and international levels. The problems and opportunities arising around this process are the focus of a new booklet in the series "Information for Civic Education", which was developed with the support of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam.
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted efforts to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in some cases stalled progress decades in the making. The pandemic has revealed social inequalities and widened the gulf between countries. In a new study published by the IASS a team of Alexander von Humboldt Climate Protection Fellows analyses the effects of the pandemic on climate mitigation and sustainable development in the Global South.
The development of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was supposed to be more inclusive, transparent and participatory than previous processes, and to this end, civil society organizations were explicitly involved in the process. In a new study, IASS researchers Henrike Knappe and Oscar Schmidt analyse the engagement of these organizations and the visions of a better future that guided their contributions.
Climate change mitigation is about more than just CO2. So-called “short-lived climate-forcing pollutants” such as soot, methane, and tropospheric ozone all have harmful effects. Climate policy should be guided by a clearer understanding of their differentiated impacts.
The international community's current plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions do not go far enough to curb global warming. As a result, many governments are considering the use of so-called "negative emissions technologies" that would remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and sequester the captured emissions. A new study outlines some of the strategies available to open up the current debate around these emerging technologies with the aim of developing a responsible regulatory framework for their use.
Climate change is is accelerating rapidly, but the results of the UN Climate Change Conferences regularly fall short of what is required. Does this have something to do with how these international conferences are organised? Could a new mindset help us to make more progress in the climate policy arena? Which inner qualities and mindsets are conducive to better forms of communication and collaboration?
The IASS will host a “Dialogue and Reflection Space” at the forthcoming climate conference in Madrid. The space will provide an alternative setting for discussion, with daily events including guided reflection and a variety of interactive discussion formats. The space will be used to explore how a culture of cooperation can be leveraged to advance climate negotiations at the COP.
Science has already given us a much better understanding of what we must do in order to leave our world intact for future generations. However, that understanding has had little impact on our collective behaviour. At the first Global Sustainability Strategy Forum in March 2019, 17 prominent scientists looked at how science can help bring about the changes we need to see. They have now published their findings in an IASS Discussion Paper.
Hope was high when the Paris Climate Agreement was adopted 2015. Under the agreement, countries pledged to keep global warming well below two degrees Celsius. Five years later, the situation is sobering. In an article in Science magazine, Mark Lawrence and Stefan Schäfer of the IASS argue that the centralized approach to addressing global warming has failed and only greater democratic engagement can reanimate global climate politics.
Despite extensive efforts among members of the international community and the historical agreement reached in Paris in 2015, greenhouse gases continue to be emitted in vast amounts, with potentially devastating consequences around the world.
The term “triple crisis” loomed large in 2022: The interlinking crises of the pandemic, the climate and energy crises, and the war in Ukraine took many people to their existential limits this past year. Geopolitically, we now face a fragmented world in which power relations are increasingly contested. This was evident at the Sharm el-Sheikh Climate Change Conference (COP 27) in November, where familiar lines of conflict shaped negotiations. Tensions between countries of the Global North and South, for example: Who bears how much responsibility for the climate change that is already occurring (not least of all financial responsibility!) and who (still) counts as a developing country and should be granted support? Debate also continues to rage around the exploitation and use of fossil fuels, which many countries wish to continue for as long as possible – even under the Paris Agreement.
Together with several partner organizations, the TranS-Mind research group at the IASS is particularly interested in the question: How can we design (political) spaces that incorporate and embrace the inner dimension of transformation?
We will not see quick transformations towards sustainable futures without the consideration of past and present inequalities and injustices. We can tackle the climate crisis much more efficiently and sustainably only if equity and justice are treated as top priorities by all countries at the negotiation table. While we acknowledge that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions to today’s complex and diverse challenges, and that the process begins from different starting points, a closer look at the negotiations of the COP26 and ongoing actions around climate change can help us identify locations and processes that promote injustices and inequalities in preparations for the COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.
Today marks International Women’s Day (IWD), a global celebration of the cultural, political, and socio-economic achievements of women throughout history. IWD is an opportunity to raise awareness of women’s rights and of the importance of empowering women and working towards gender equality.
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?
In late February 2021, Japanese trading company Mitsubishi Corporation decided to pull out of the Vinh Tan 3 coal-fired power plant project in Vietnam after facing considerable pressure from investors and activists over the company’s fossil fuel investments. This decision follows in the footsteps of HSBC’s withdrawal one year previously. Scheduled to go on-grid in 2024, the 2-gigawatt plant was expected to feature ultra-supercritical technology. This is the first time that Mitsubishi has pulled out of a coal development project. Work on Vinh Tan 3 will now continue under the aegis of China Southern Power Grid, which is also a major investor in the Vinh Tan 1 power plant. However, this outcome will not serve the interests of Vietnam in terms of job creation, air quality, and achieving climate targets.
Five years have passed since the so-called ‘Paris Agreement’ was concluded at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) following years of deliberation between the member States. For the ocean, the Paris Agreement represents a turning point: previously issues relating to the ocean were side-lined in COP negotiations.
On 20 January 2021, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th President of the USA. His election has boosted hopes for international efforts to protect the climate. But the recent riots in Washington DC underscore the fact that Biden will be taking the helm of a deeply divided nation – and climate protection promises to be a particularly thorny issue.
Do you remember the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos? “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act” – that was Greta Thunberg’s impassioned plea to the participants, and the rest of the world. Now, almost two years after her remarkable speech, the international community is celebrating the fifth birthday of the Paris Climate Agreement. On this anniversary, the focus has been firmly on the updates by individual state parties to their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). But there’s little to celebrate: only 21 of 197 states have submitted new or updated plans, excluding most of the major emitters. And concrete climate protection measures are few and far between.
Vietnam has recently incorporated a new section into its updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to emphasize the socio-economic co-benefits of climate action for the country.
Even though unit costs for renewable energy have fallen sharply, there’s clearly more finance needed for mitigation and adaptation. The least developed countries still don’t have the technologies they need. Can the private sector deliver, or should governments and the UN intervene?
The United Nations’ climate talks in Katowice, Poland this past December wrapped up with an agreement on the terms to finalize most of the Paris Rulebook and set the 2015 Paris Agreement into action. While the parties agreed on many important issues, the final text comes up short on several key fronts.
It smelled like smoke when I arrived in Katowice, Poland, early on a Sunday morning, at the start of last December’s UN Climate Change Conference COP24. It instantly reminded me of landing in Beijing for the first time in 2016: back then the smell of coal-tinged air was immediately present upon walking up the jetway into the shiny, ultra-modern Beijing airport.
The adoption at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Katowice of a rulebook for the implementation of the Paris Agreement is an important milestone – but the international community should not be content with this.
The 2018 COP24 climate conference in Katowice, Poland is over. Looking back at what has been achieved in the three years since the historical Paris Agreement reminds me a bit of the John Lennon lyrics: “So this is Christmas - and what have you done? Another year over, and a new one just begun.” While the conference was indeed successful in coming to an agreement over the rule book for how to account for countries upholding their commitments to limiting climate-relevant emissions under the Paris Agreement, there were no real breakthroughs.It is reassuring that the rule book was achieved, despite the considerable resistance from several countries, though it is exactly what was on the plan for this round of negotiations. Thus COP24 was another milestone in the steady progress being made towards implementing measures intended to help us achieve the chief goal of the Paris Agreement: keeping global warming well below 2°C, aiming to limit it to only 1.5°C.
Participation played a key role at this year’s UN Climate Change Conference COP24 in Katowice. On the second day of COP24, Sir David Attenborough lent his signature voice to deliver the People’s Address before a full COP plenary. The address consisted of a two-minute video collage of social media video recordings, tweets and posts published under the #TakeYourSeat hashtag in the months prior and addressed to decision-makers at the summit.
Latest estimates indicate that the value of health gains from climate action would be approximately double the cost of mitigation policies at global level, and the benefit-to-cost ratio is even higher in countries such as India and China.
Both sustainability ambitions and obstacles are growing exponentially. This begs for the kind of expectation management arguably performed by the IASS Potsdam and other organizations, for instance the Future Earth network. In addressing the advisory role of science in sustainability, Future Earth is building advisory capacities and raising expectations at the same time.
Dr Saleemul Huq is Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) in Bangladesh and has participated in the international climate negotiations since their inception in 1992. His current work focuses on the engagement of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The annual conference of the parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an important venue for stakeholders to highlight the blind spots of international climate protection efforts. The transport sector was one of them at this year’s COP23 in Bonn, missing from most countries’ climate pledges under the Paris Climate Agreement. In this neglected policy area, Germany and the U.S.
As the world gathered in Bonn for its twenty-third Conference of the Parties (COP23), the newly published Emissions Gap Report 2017 by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) helped to underline the mantra of the conference: all countries need to raise their climate protection efforts quickly and substantially.
The report shows that even if fully implemented, each nation’s current nationally determined commitments (NDCs), laid out by each of the signatories to th
On 20 January 2017, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the forty-fifth president of the United States. His previous announcements on energy policy mark a clear departure from the climate policy ambitions of his predecessor, Barack Obama. But what exactly should we expect from Trump’s climate and energy policies? Will he really be able to overturn the climate policies adopted by the US under the Obama Administration?
The Paris Agreement, the new international climate treaty, enters into force today on 4 November 2016. This rapid entry into force, occurring within a year of its adoption, is unusual for an international climate treaty: to date, 97 Parties have ratified the Paris Agreement. Together they are responsible for around 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement, negotiated just ten months ago, enters into force ahead of the UN Marrakech Climate Change Conference, which begins on 7 November.
Nearly one year ago, in December 2015, 195 nations adopted the Paris Agreement, a global, legally binding treaty for keeping global climate change “well below 2°C”, pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C. Preparations are underway for this year’s UN Climate Conference, COP22, which will take place from 7-18 November in Marrakesh, Morocco. Thanks to a recent surge in ratifications, the Paris Agreement stands a high chance of entering into force this year.
One of the key questions I’m being asked a lot recently in relation to the Paris Agreement is “When will it come into force?” The answer to this question is somewhat more complex than it might at first seem.
On 4 and 5 September the next G20 Summit will take place in Hangzhou, China. While the G20 was initially created as a forum for discussion and collaboration to prevent financial crises, in the last several years the promotion of a sustainable energy supply has been added to the agenda. Some important first steps have already been made, but they are far from sufficient to bring about a global energy transition.
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.
2016 marks the tenth anniversary of Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen’s seminal 2006 contribution on geoengineering, “Albedo enhancement by stratospheric sulfur injections: A contribution to resolve a policy dilemma?”.
In the aftermath of COP21 in December 2015, when the world celebrated the adoption of a new climate treaty, several commentators and academics asked an all important question: what about climate migrants? Many articles have since sprung up analysing whether and how climate migration has been addressed by the Paris Agreement.
When I told friends and co-workers that I would be attending the COP21 climate summit, the first response I got was usually “cool!” followed by “so what are you actually going to do there??” Well, I knew what I would be doing there: for months now, I have been working on behalf of the IASS with partners from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) to organize two side events on the connection between climate change and air quality in order to highlight how better air quality can have benefits for climate, health, and development.
The British House of Commons is holding an inquiry into European environmental policy tomorrow (2 December 2015). The aim is to assess the extent to which EU environmental objectives and policies have succeeded in tackling environmental issues in the UK.
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.
Rómulo Fernando Acurio Traverso is the Deputy Representative of Peru for Climate Change. In this function, he played a central role in the previous United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conferences and is currently preparing the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris this year, where 96 countries will come together to seek a deal to limit emissions to less than 2˚C above pre-industrial levels.