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What we work on

Transformative Sustainability Research

RIFS conducts research with the goal of understanding, advancing, and guiding processes of societal change towards sustainable development. Our researchers collaborate with diverse actors from science, policymaking and public administration as well as business and civil society to develop a common understanding of sustainability challenges and generate potential solutions. The research approach is transformative, transdisciplinary, and co-creative.

About us

In brief

Superconducting cables

The EU-funded project SCARLET has gathered a number of international partners to develop superconducting cables that will enable more efficient and less costly power transmission from renewable electricity generation sites. The project’s kick-off meeting took place at the RIFS.

News

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RIFS Study

China's Hydrogen Strategy: Sustainable Generation Not A Priority

Hydrogen is widely viewed as a beacon of hope for the global energy transition. China is pursuing an ambitious agenda to strengthen its hydrogen sector. As a new RIFS Study of China's emerging hydrogen economy shows, its current efforts prioritize industrial development ahead of decarbonization and energy security concerns.

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Partizipation

Berlin Senate Adopts Most of the Recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on Climate

On 20 December 2022, the Berlin Senate issued a statement on the recommendations prepared by the Berlin Citizens’ Assembly on Climate and announced that it would partially or fully incorporate 42 of the assembly’s 47 recommendations into its Energy and Climate Protection Programme (BEK 2030). RIFS (then IASS) advised the Citizens’ Assembly on Climate and accompanied the participation process.

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Transformation

Goals Alone Will Not Suffice: Negotiating Pathways Towards Sustainability

Not abstract goals but the paths we take towards their implementation will determine whether we are able to forge a sustainable society in this century. Policymakers will need to negotiate with key societal actors on the concrete steps if this transformation is to succeed. Political institutions must embrace public participation as a means to develop actionable solutions in cooperation with citizens, argue RIFS researchers Jörg Radtke and Ortwin Renn in the new anthology "Umkämpfte Zukunft. Zum Verhältnis von Nachhaltigkeit, Demokratie und Konflikt“.

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IASS becomes RIFS - at the GFZ

“An ideal addition to the Helmholtz Association”

The turn of the year is a time of change - so too, in Potsdam. As of 1 January 2023, the IASS has been renamed as the Research Institute for Sustainability (RIFS) and embedded into the administrative structures of Helmholtz Centre Potsdam – GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, where it will conduct its research under the umbrella of the Helmholtz Association.

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Dossiers

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Deliberative Mini-Publics Dossier

Deliberative mini-publics are participatory processes in which a randomly selected and heterogenous group of citizens cooperate for a period to develop recommendations, ideas or solutions on a specific issue. RIFS accompanies these processes in various roles.

Focal Topic 2022/2023

Justice in Sustainability Dossier

The issue of justice is increasingly playing a greater role in the transformation towards sustainability. Calls to improve justice outcomes touch on a variety of issues, in particular the distribution of the costs and benefits of transformations as well as the burdens of climate change and environmental degradation. Other claims target procedural aspects: Who should have access to decision-making about transformation towards sustainability? A third set of justice claims focuses on recognition: Which groups are or should be recognized as rights-holders or as affected or especially vulnerable populations?

Sustainability in Brandenburg Dossier

Brandenburg is facing major sustainability challenges, such as agrarian transformation, energy transformation, mobility transformation, transformation of Lusatia, adaptation to climate change, promotion of rural areas, revitalisation of the economy after the Corona pandemic, and water supply and water protection. As a Potsdam institute, RIFS is actively involved in sustainability work in Brandenburg.

Systemic Risks Dossier

Modern societies are vulnerable to “systemic risks” such as pandemics, financial crises, or climate change. Due to their complex and interconnected nature, systemic risks pose a particular challenge to conventional approaches to risk analysis and management. The research group on systemic risks at RIFS analyses risks and opportunities around transformation processes for sustainable development and, in a second step, develops policy recommendations for the governance of systemic risks.