The Ocean: A Solution to Climate Change? Regulation of Negative Emissions Technologies Presents Many Challenges
29.08.2023 The ocean will play a key role in efforts to tackle the climate crisis, according to scientists and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The use of so-called “negative emissions technologies” to enhance carbon sequestration and storage in the ocean is increasingly being discussed. In a study published in the scientific journal "Frontiers”, RIFS researchers Lina Röschel and Barbara Neumann describe the challenges that these technologies present for both the marine environment and society, and identify cornerstones for their responsible use. The existing regulatory and institutional frameworks for international ocean governance do not provide a comprehensive framework for the governance of these emerging technologies, the authors conclude. Instead, an approach is needed that integrates foresight mechanisms, considers the potential unintended impacts of these technologies on the ocean, and engages with diverse stakeholders.
Digital-Intensive Industries Not Always More Resilient
It is widely assumed that digitalisation improves the capacity of companies and sectors to cope with crises. But is it the case that digital intensive sectors proved more resilient during the Covid-19 crisis? Researchers from the Research Institute for Sustainability (RIFS) investigated this by analysing data relating to various socio-economic indicators pre- and post-crisis. Their findings are surprising: In some cases, less digital-intensive industries were actually more resilient. Pandemic-related assistance provided by the German government is one possible explanation for this.
March 13th, 2023
Benefits of the Net-Zero Emissions Strategy for Nepal
Achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement will require the combined efforts of states and companies around the world. How can developing countries achieve carbon neutrality and boost their resilience while pursuing economic growth and improved living standards? A study by the Research Institute for Sustainability (RIFS) draws on the example of Nepal to analyse the benefits of a net-zero emissions strategy.
February 22nd, 2023
Economic Crises Can Accelerate Decarbonization
Crises can accelerate structural change and spur an absolute decoupling of CO2 emissions from economic growth. Countries that have already embarked on an ambitious path towards climate action have proven themselves particularly adept in times of need.
January 1st, 2023
“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.
October 11th, 2022
Pop-Up Lanes Boost Bicycle Traffic and Air Quality
In the course of the pandemic many European cities seized the opportunity to accelerate the transition towards more sustainable urban mobility. Moving with the times, planners in Berlin created a number of pop-up bike lanes. IASS researchers have examined the impact of these innovations during the initial phase of the pandemic. Their findings show that the bike lanes are widely accepted and have encouraged cycling uptake. In addition, cyclists’ exposure to nitrogen dioxide decreased with the creation of the bike lanes.
August 26th, 2022
Two-year Countdown for Deep Seabed Mining
The clock is ticking down fast but is there a need to rush? In 2021, the island nation of Nauru triggered a treaty provision known as the “two-year rule” that obliges the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to finalize and adopt regulations for deep seabed mining within 24 months. Researcher Pradeep Singh of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) examines the legal implications of this provision in a paper published in the International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law.
Does industry drive politics?
Why involvement in clean energy value chains matters for policy ambition
Does a strong renewable energy industry lead to more ambitious renewable energy policies? Researchers at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) conclude: Yes, countries with clean energy industries increase ambition in the following years. So governments should address the distribution of risks and benefits of the energy transition in their policy design as local value creation can be a key component to promoting more ambitious target policies in line with the Paris Agreement's 1.5°C goal.
May 16th, 2022
Policymakers Underestimate Methane’s Climate and Air Quality Impacts
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. IASS researchers highlight the urgent need for action in a new study.
May 5th, 2022
Broad Participation Needed to Transform Mining for a Sustainable Future
Metals such as cobalt and lithium play a vital role in the energy transition and are used in the manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles. However, the mining of these raw materials is environmentally harmful, working conditions are often hazardous, and local communities are frequently excluded from the planning and operation of mines. In a new article, an international research team led by IASS Scientific Director Ortwin Renn describes how current mining practices could be improved and the sourcing and management of metals better aligned with the goals of sustainable development.
May 2d, 2022
Humanity Faces Grave Challenges, but They Are Manageable
Global heating, pandemics, cyberattacks, and large-scale forced migrations are among the increasingly interconnected and mutually reinforcing challenges faced by humanity over the last decades. A team of scientists has taken a look at the triggers and consequences of overlapping crises (polycrises), investigating what processes facilitate the interaction of crisis-triggering events as well as how this interaction can be prevented, or mitigated. The team has also developed an analytical framework that helps identify complex and interrelated crises.
April 8th, 2022
High Expectations, Uncertain Benefits: Industry 4.0 and Improving Corporate Sustainability Performance
Company representatives expect that digitalisation will improve the environmental sustainability of their companies. However, actual experience paints a less positive picture: new technologies have so far largely failed to deliver anticipated improvements in resource efficiency. According to the researchers behind a new study, more political support is needed to harness the potential of Industry 4.0.
March 28th, 2022
Digitalisation and Sustainability: How Do DAX Companies Measure Up?
Can digitalisation contribute to the development of a more sustainable economy? Sustainability has emerged as a key concern for many DAX companies – but only insofar as their customers call for improvement. Most are reluctant to make more sweeping changes. However, a few pioneering companies are using their digital prowess to help tackle some of the challenges facing society.
March 17th, 2022
A New “Truth” About the Rainforest: How Bolsonaro’s Supporters Misuse Satellite Data
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.
March 15th, 2022
Business Models for CO2 Mineralisation
The cement industry is responsible for about seven per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. To encourage the decarbonisation of this industry, policymakers and the industry must find ways to incentivise reductions. A study from the Heriot-Watt University and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) gives us a first look at how CO2 mineralisation can reduce emissions from cement production by up to 33 per cent at no additional cost – under the right conditions.
November 4th, 2021
Making Aircraft Fuel From Sunlight and Air
Scientists at ETH Zurich have built a plant that can produce carbon-neutral liquid fuels from sunlight and air. The next goal will be to take this technology to industrial scale and achieve competitiveness. In a paper published in the scientific journal "Nature", researchers from Zurich and Potsdam describe how this novel solar reactor functions and outline a policy framework that would provide incentives to expand the production of "solar kerosene".
September 23rd, 2021
An Incentive or a Penalty? A Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism Could Hit Some Trade Partners Hard
The European Green Deal plays a crucial role in the EU’s efforts to achieve its ambitious climate policy goals. By implementing a carbon border adjustment mechanism that will impose levies on imports, the EU hopes to prevent companies from relocating their activities to countries with less ambitious climate policies. Which countries are exposed to greater economic risks as a result? What makes them particularly vulnerable? And how can the EU help them to protect the climate? IASS researchers have tackled these issues in a new study.
September 20th, 2021
Accelerating the Expansion of Wind Power
Ensuring the successful expansion of wind power will require the broad involvement of citizens. A new IASS Policy Brief offers recommendations for policymakers on how they can rally citizens behind the goals of the energy transition, support public participation at the municipal level, and improve the equity of participation opportunities.
September 15th, 2021
Losland Project has Started: Shaping the Future of Municipalities
With the "Losland" project, a team from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies e.V. (IASS) is working with Mehr Demokratie e.V. to support citizen participation at the local level. In the project, citizen participation processes tailored to ten German municipalities and cities are being carried out to answer the question: “How can we shape a future in our municipalities that takes into account the interests of our grandchildren?”. Losland is supported by the Federal Agency for Civic Education.
August 10th, 2021
Late Decarbonizers Face Mounting Economic Risks
Ambitious efforts to advance the clean-energy transition are not only good for the climate, but also pay off economically. According to a new study by the IASS, late decarbonizers are likely to face increasing risks to economic stability and industrial competitiveness. Furthermore, uneven decarbonization between countries could foster international tensions in coming years.
July 9th, 2021
New Index Balances Health, Economy, and Climate Risk
The coronavirus pandemic has created enormous social, economic and political challenges worldwide. The demand for immediate action often pushed climate policy ambitions into the background. Scientists from the University of Waterloo (Canada), together with Ortwin Renn from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director em. of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) have developed a new operational approach that provides guidance to decision-makers seeking to reconcile the demands of competing goals, including effective climate protection.
June 30th, 2021
Reducing Plastic Waste Will Require Fundamental Change in Culture
Plastic waste is considered one of the biggest environmental problems of our time. IASS researchers surveyed consumers in Germany about their use of plastic packaging. Their research reveals that fundamental changes in infrastructures and lifestyles, as well as cultural and economic transformation processes, are needed to make zero-waste shopping the norm.
Press release (article) (PDF)
April 26th, 2021
Ozone Pollution Falls Thanks To Lower Nitrogen Oxide Emissions
Summer is the ozone season: The harmful gas forms at ground-level on hot, sunny days. In recent years, however, the rise in ozone levels over the summer months has not been as pronounced in Germany as it was previously. According to a new study, this is primarily due to a reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions. This trend can be observed across Germany’s southwestern regions in particular, while Berlin lags behind.
April 7th, 2021
The Opportunities and Risks of Digitalisation for Sustainable Development
Digitalisation can support transitions towards a more sustainable society if technologies and processes are designed in line with suitable criteria. This requires a systemic focus on the risks and benefits of digital technologies across the three dimensions of sustainable development: the environment, society, and the economy. This is the conclusion of a study prepared by a team of researchers at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam. Applying this precautionary approach to digitalisation requires the active involvement of developers, users, and regulators.
Press release (article) (PDF)
March 23th, 2021
Pandemic Exacerbates Challenges for International Energy Transition
The Covid-19 Crisis is deepening the divide between energy transition frontrunners and laggards. In a new publication, researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam present an overview of the global impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the energy sector. Their findings show that low- and middle-income countries need more support in their efforts to ditch fossil fuels.
February 18th, 2021
Deep Seabed Mining Must Benefit All Humankind
As investors set their sights on the mineral resources of the deep seabed, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) is developing regulations that will govern their future exploration and possible exploitation. A new IASS Policy Brief, published in cooperation with the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), presents three recommendations to ensure that future deep seabed mining would be to the common benefit all humankind, as required by international law.
February 16th, 2021
Insights from Complexity Science: More Trust in Self-Organization Needed
Globalization, digitalization, sustainabilization – three major waves of transformation are unfolding around the world. The social upheaval caused by these transformation processes has given rise to populist movements that endanger social harmony and threaten democratic values. What rules and institutions can promote stability in the face of such systemic risks? A new study published by the IASS offers some surprising answers.
February 10th, 2021
Recommendations for Regional Action to Combat Marine Plastic Pollution
Millions of tonnes of plastic waste find their way into the ocean every year. A team of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam has investigated the role of regional ocean governance in the fight against marine plastic pollution, highlighting why regional marine governance should be further strengthened as negotiations for a new global agreement continue.
January 18th, 2021
Carbon Pricing's Disappointing Effect on the Pace of Technological Change
In order to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, the world must reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Carbon pricing – recently introduced in Germany for transportation and heating – is viewed by many governments and experts as the most important climate policy instrument. However, a new study shows that carbon pricing has been less effective as a driver of technological change than was previously anticipated.
December 15th, 2020
Supporting Renewable Electricity: EU Member States Should Coordinate Reform Efforts
The European Union recently adopted more ambitious climate goals for 2030 – their implementation is now the focus of debate. What do the Member States need to consider? A new study shows how important it is that governments coordinate policy reforms to support renewable electricity. Otherwise, many investors are likely to shift their focus to technologies that will continue to be subsidized or to countries where subsidies are still available. This outcome would increase the overall costs of expanding renewable electricity generation in Europe.
December 2nd, 2020
Patrizia Nanz appointed Vice President of Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management
Patrizia Nanz, Scientific Director at the IASS, will leave the institute on 31.01.2021 to take up the position of Vice President of the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management.
December 1st, 2020
Hydrogen-Powered Heavy Duty Vehicles Could Contribute Significantly To Achieving Climate Goals
A partial transition of German road transport to hydrogen energy is among the possibilities being discussed to help meet national climate targets. A team of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies has examined the hypothetical transition to a hydrogen-powered transport sector through several scenarios. Their conclusion: A shift towards hydrogen-powered mobility could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and greatly improve air quality – in particular, heavy duty vehicles represent a low-hanging fruit for decarbonization of German road transport.
October 29th, 2020
Micro-financing Clean Energy: Start-up Founder Named Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow for 2020
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.
October 29th, 2020
The IASS at the Berlin Science Week
Berlin Science Week and Falling Walls invite you to the 2020 World Science Summit, which will be held remotely from 1 – 10 November. Scientists from the IASS will be participating in three events.
Press release (PDF)
October 19th, 2020
Cross-Party Agreement on Decarbonisation Targets but No Master Plan for Future Electricity System
Which political parties have the most ambitious climate and energy policies? The answer, according to a new study, is surprising. In Germany, France, Spain and Italy, parties across the political spectrum, from the Greens to the Liberals, show a similar level of ambition on this score. However, researchers have also identified a major impediment to the energy transition: none of the investigated parties has a convincing idea for a technology mix that would ensure grid stability despite weather-related fluctuations in wind and solar energy.
October 19th, 2020
The Soft Power Concept of German Energy Foreign Policy
As part of its foreign policy, Germany hopes to promote energy transitions abroad through international energy partnerships. A new study by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) analyses these bilateral energy partnerships. Building on its reputation as an energy transition frontrunner, Germany is currently pursuing a soft power strategy aimed at winning over foreign countries to its policy approaches in the energy sector. According to this analysis, Germany's bilateral energy partnerships are the central policy instrument to this end.
Press release (article) (PDF)
September 15th, 2020
Automobile industry: Big Data Can Support Corporate Environmental Management
Faced with the challenges of digitalization and the climate crisis, many companies are keen to improve their sustainability. In a new study, researchers examine the potential uses of data analysis to strengthen corporate environmental management in the automotive industry. As part of the study, the researchers interviewed corporate sustainability officers and invited data analysis experts to evaluate their key statements. The study reveals that Big Data could enhance corporate environmental management in a variety of ways and that many of these opportunities are going untapped.
September 10th, 2020
“Investing in the Future is a Better Bet than Reshoring”
The economic recession induced by Covid-19 is threatening the global supply chains on which low-carbon technologies depend. Prof. Andreas Goldthau talks about the resulting risk to the climate and appropriate policy responses.
September 7th, 2020
Climate Engineering: Modelling Projections Oversimplify Risks
Climate change is gaining prominence as a political and public priority. But many ambitious climate action plans foresee the use of climate engineering technologies whose risks are insufficiently understood. In a new publication, IASS researchers describe how evolving modelling practices are trending towards “best-case” projections. They warn that over-optimistic expectations of climate engineering may reinforce the inertia with which industry and politics have been addressing decarbonisation. In order to forestall this trend, they recommend more stakeholder input and clearer communication of the premises and limitations of model results.
September 2d, 2020
Creating a global standard for sustainability reporting
For customers, investors and consumers alike, it can make a difference whether a company operates sustainably and adheres to ethical and ecological standards. Standardized and verifiable reports are needed so that companies can provide credible and verifiable evidence of their ability to walk the talk of sustainability. Reporting standards should present corporate contributions to sustainable development in manner that facilitates comparison and be universally applicable to companies of all sizes and types.
August 14th, 2020
Green Electricity for Europe: Small Scale Solutions Also Affordable
The European Union aims to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and is relying largely on renewable electricity to reach this goal. The implementation of this energy transition is the subject of heated debate: A continental-scale system that concentrates energy generation infrastructure in the most suitable locations would provide the most affordable solution but many citizens favour smaller, more dispersed supply networks. A new study prepared by researchers in Potsdam and Zurich shows that the implementation of such systems would not incur significant additional costs.
August 7th, 2020
Renewables in Europe: Land Requirements Can Be Reduced at Low Cost
Transitioning our energy supply from coal, oil and gas to wind and solar power is feasible. However, renewables require more land than conventional forms of energy generation. A new study explores the options to reduce the land requirements of a fully renewable energy supply in Europe and their possible impact on the cost of electricity.
June 30th, 2020
The Impact of the Pandemic on Global Energy Policy
The coronavirus pandemic has triggered an economic recession with potentially stronger effects than the 2008 financial crisis. The recession has been accompanied by a global decline in energy demand. A new study by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) examines the impacts of the pandemic on the global energy sector, and considers whether recent political decisions are accelerating the transformation of energy systems or perpetuating reliance on fossil fuels.
June 24th, 2020
Integrating Health and Climate Agendas: Recommendations for a Post-Pandemic World
Against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, health is receiving unprecedented public and political attention. Yet the fact that climate change also presents us with a health crisis deserves further recognition. A new Policy Brief from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, Germany, gives recommendations for integrating health and climate and achieving better outcomes in both arenas.
May 29th, 2020
Better Prepared for Future Crises: Recommendations from Risk Researchers
Although there were early warnings of an exponentially growing pandemic, most policymakers around the world were unprepared and reluctant to act when Covid-19 first spread from China around the world. Since then the crisis has led to unprecedented restrictions and triggered the worst recession since the Second World War. In an article published in the Journal of Risk Research, Aengus Collins, Marie-Valentine Florin (both EPFL International Risk Governance Center) and IASS Scientific Director Ortwin Renn analyze the key factors and offer recommendations on how we can better prepare for future crises.
May 18th, 2020
The Neglected Heating Sector
A comparative study of decarbonisation strategies in building heating in Germany and the UK
Heating accounts for over 50 per cent of final energy consumption. So reducing the emissions that result from heating buildings would make a huge difference to the climate. What strategies are being pursued to realise this potential in Germany and the UK? A study by researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) finds that both countries could do a lot more to mitigate climate change in the heating sector.
May 11th, 2020
How is Covid-19 affecting the global economic order? Scenarios for the Global Monetary System
Supply chains collapse, companies are facing bankruptcy, and mass unemployment ensues. Covid-19 has triggered a global financial crisis and is forcing states to develop rescue packages on a scale not seen before. In addition, the crisis has called into question the US dollar's hegemony and could redefine the global monetary system. A team of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) has developed four scenarios that show how political decisions will shape the post-Corona world.
February 13th, 2020
Sustainable Development: Innovative Ways to Deliver Accelerated Action in Europe
Join us for a one-day workshop on 5 March in Berlin hosted by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) and the Welsh Government. The workshop will be an opportunity to explore questions like: What can governments and public administrations learn from the experience of innovative communities and regions? And how can a European-level dialogue between governments, civil society, science and business communities strengthen our collective capacity to mobilise and accelerate transformation processes? The Welsh government will present its response to these questions: The Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015.
Press invitation (PDF)
December 11th, 2019
Recommendations for Responding to the Fridays for Future Movement
The level of public concern about climate change has risen significantly in recent years. The Fridays for Future movement enjoys broad political and public support, but this has so far not translated into tangible changes. The Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, Germany, has now published a resource – the Futuring Tool – and a more comprehensive Policy Brief aimed at decision-makers who want to make climate protection a guiding principle of their work.
November 28th, 2019
Creating the Conditions for a Globally Just Energy Transition
Study provides recommendations for strengthening an international alliance for ambitious climate protection.
How can the energy transition be organized in a globally just way? Will developing countries struggle to transition to clean energy because they lack the financial and technical means? A new Policy Brief by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) focuses on the risks of an uneven transition and makes concrete proposals to prevent such risks.
November 21st, 2019
Global Climate Change Conference in Madrid: The IASS at COP25
Taking place in Madrid from 2 to 13 December, the 25th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 25) will focus on the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement. The Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) will be represented in Madrid by a number of experts, who will address a range of issues.
November 14th, 2019
New Study on the Future of the Global Seafloor
The ocean hosts a wealth of marine life and diverse habitats, most of it unknown and unseen. International plans to mine marine minerals from the deep seafloor threaten this biodiversity hotspot. States are currently seeking to develop a legal framework for deep seabed mining. An international team from the IASS has published a study warning against a rush to exploit deep seafloor resources and calling for coordinated efforts to develop alternative approaches.
October 9th, 2019
Seizing Opportunities for More Climate Protection
Climate Opportunity 2019 on 15 October 2019 in Berlin’s Futurium.
On 15 and 16 October 2019, ministerial representatives and more than 150 international experts and leaders from science, public administration, politics, the private sector and civil society will meet in Berlin on the occasion of Climate Opportunity 2019: Co-Benefits for Just Energy Futures.
October 1st, 2019
The Deployment of Carbon Capture and Utilisation Technologies Takes a Key Step Forward
International Effort Establishes Global Standards to Meet Tech’s Growth and Opportunity Across Sectors
On October 1st, 2019, representatives from EIT Climate-KIC, the Global CO2 Initiative, the Phoenix Initiative, and other interested stakeholders gathered in Brussels to discuss the future of Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) assessment methodologies, a critical step in unlocking R&D and commercialisation efforts for this growing climate solution.
September 18th, 2019
Climate Protection and Clean Air: An Integrated Approach
From 23 – 25 September 2019, heads of government from around the world will convene at the United Nations’ General Assembly to discuss efforts to advance climate action and global sustainable development. The summit aims to boost national ambitions to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement and will review the implementation of measures relating to the Sustainable Development Goals. The relationship between air pollution and climate change plays an important role in this context, and is the subject of a new IASS Policy Brief titled “A Practical Approach to Integrating Climate and Air Quality Policy”.
September 2nd, 2019
Europe’s Future is Renewable
Europe has enough solar and wind resources to meet its electricity demand entirely from renewable sources. A new study by researchers at the Institute for Transformative Sustainability Research (IASS) in Potsdam shows that many regions and municipalities could meet their electricity demand using electricity systems based exclusively on renewables. However, their development would exacerbate land use pressure around metropolitan areas and larger conurbations.
August 27th, 2019
The Lessons of Failed Energy Policies
Potsdam, 27 August 2019. Even though electricity generated from solar and wind energy is becoming increasingly cost-competitive, the expansion of renewable energies continues to depend on policy support. When such support is lacking, setbacks to the energy transition can often result – as seen in the cases of the former pioneer countries Spain and the Czech Republic. What energy policy lessons can we learn from this? A study published in the journal Energy Policy makes recommendations for effective policy design.
August 1st, 2019
Connecting Science and Society
How can scientific insights be integrated more effectively into society? This year’s Potsdam Summer School (PSS) will explore the role of science communication from 20to 29August. In what ways and via which channels can topics related to sustainability and global change be effectively communicated?
July 25th, 2019
Study: Fracking Likely to Result in High Emissions
Natural gas releases fewer harmful air pollutants and greenhouse gases than other fossil fuels. That’s why it is often seen as a bridge technology to a low-carbon future. A new study by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) has estimated emissions from shale gas production through fracking in Germany and the UK. It shows that CO2-eq. emissions would exceed the estimated current emissions from conventional gas production in Germany.
July 11th, 2019
An interview with EU expert Ingeborg Niestroy: “The SDGs have become ‘Chefsache’ in many European countries”
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 different EU member states.
Press release (Article) (PDF)
July 4th, 2019
"Bad Atmosphere" on City Cycle Lanes: Study on air pollution exposure in metropolitan areas
The cause of millions of premature deaths annually, air pollution is a global challenge. It affects both developing and developed countries, with cities, in particular, struggling to meet air quality standards. A new study by a team of researchers at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) investigates air pollutant concentrations in urban areas and the factors that affect air quality. The study includes a number of recommendations that will interest urban planners and citizens alike.
June 28th, 2019
G20 Summit: Sustainable Energy for All – Only Possible with More International Cooperation
About 80 per cent of current CO2 emissions are caused by the member states of the G20. So it’s clear that they have a particular responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage a shift to renewable energy. The leaders of these countries now need to act on that responsibility at the G20 Summit in Osaka on 28 and 29 June.
Press release (Article)
May 31st, 2019
More Democracy – A Second Chance for Climate Politics
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: global emissions of carbon dioxide and other climate-relevant gases continue to rise. In an article in Science magazine, Mark Lawrence and Stefan Schäfer of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) argue that the centralized approach to addressing global warming has failed and only greater democratic engagement can reanimate global climate politics.
May 15th, 2019
Risk Governance Concept: Advancing Disaster Risk Reduction
Populations are growing in disaster-prone areas around the world. The interaction of natural hazards with physical infrastructure in these regions can trigger devastating chain reactions, harming societies and their technical foundations. What can be done to address these challenges? A team at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) has developed a multi-level risk governance concept for natural disasters.
May 2nd, 2019
Energy Transition: Populism is the Path to the Worst Case Scenario
The transition to a net-zero-emission economy will create rivalries, winners and losers. What scenarios are possible? As part of the Geopolitics and Energy Transformation 2030 (GET 2030) project at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), a research team has looked into what developments are conceivable in the international energy transition and what geopolitical implications they may have. A team led by Professor Andreas Goldthau has commented on the results of this investigation in the journal Nature. In an interview with the IASS, Goldthau outlined the different possible scenarios.
April 29th, 2019
International climate negotiations: Most Affected, Least Heard
It seems reasonable to expect that the people who suffer most from the impacts of climate change are represented in the international climate negotiations. Patrick Toussaint, a researcher at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), has analysed the status quo from the perspective of international law. He concludes that those who currently bear the brunt of climate change – or will do so in the foreseeable future – have little or no influence on the negotiations.
April 15, 2019
Governance for Future Generations
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.
April 10, 2019
German Experience in Grid Integration Could Advance International Energy Transition
Survey on incentive regulation shows: Grid integration a success, but smart grid technologies struggling to gain ground.
April 09, 2019
Democracy 3.0: The Key to More Successful Citizen Participation
New concept for more citizen participation at national level
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.
February 21, 2019
2018 Social Sustainability Barometer:
Growing Dissatisfaction with Energiewende Implementation Process
A clear majority of Germans across all income brackets, age groups and educational backgrounds still supports the Energiewende. Indeed, since the publication of the first Social Sustainability Barometer in 2017, there has been a notable rise in the number of people who view the energy transition as a broad societal task to which they personally want to contribute. However, there is growing criticism of the implementation of the energy transition by the German Government: Three quarters of respondents describe the process as “expensive”, while over half view it as “chaotic” and “unfair”. The population would also like to see faster progress in the area of climate protection, with greater emphasis placed on social justice. There is, however, a general unwillingness to pay more for climate protection, and a relative majority would like some form of financial relief to offset possible costs. People are also more reserved in their support for e-mobility and reluctant to invest in wind and PV systems for self-generation.
Press release (article)
January 4, 2019
From Voluntary Commitments to Ocean Sustainability
IASS Researchers Propose Global Registry and Uniform Monitoring System
Our human livelihoods depend on the oceans, and the conservation of this vital resource is one of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), which together form the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In order to achieve SDG 14, the sustainable use and development of the world’s oceans, a plethora of voluntary commitments have been made in recent years – mainly by national governments but also by the private sector, scientific institutes, and non-governmental organisations.
January 2, 2019
How can Energy Transition Succeed in Developing Countries?
The international energy transition is already delivering numerous benefits, but it is also creating new inequalities. The risks posed by this transformation will impact especially on developing countries, which lack access to technologies and capital. A new project at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam is developing policy recommendations with a view to making the energy transition a success in developing countries too.
November 28, 2018
At the Interface of Science and Politics: Call for Nominations for the Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellowship
Klaus Töpfer has shaped the development of the IASS since the idea of the institute was first mooted. In recognition of Töpfer’s work towards the goal of sustainability over many years, his activities at the interface of science and politics, and his contribution to establishing the IASS, the institute awards a Klaus Töpfer Fellowship every year.
November 6, 2018
The Diesel Boom and the Climate: Study Lends More Weight to Calls to End Subsidies
Nitrogen oxides have dominated the diesel emissions scandal. But what about carbon dioxide emissions? For a long time, diesel engines were considered indispensable for efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and this is one of the reasons for the privileged treatment of diesel fuel within the tax systems of many European countries, including Germany. This cost advantage has caused the number of newly registered diesel cars to sky-rocket over the last twenty years. Scientists have now calculated the exact effects of this “diesel boom”: In a new study published in the journal “Atmospheric Environment” they show that the diesel boom in Europe has failed to benefit the climate.
October 1, 2018
IPCC Special Report: IASS Recommendations for Climate Protection and the Energy Transition
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is to publish a special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels on 8 October. Under the Paris Agreement, States have agreed to pursue efforts to limit global temperature increase to this level. The key message of this special report: More far-reaching measures will be necessary in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
Scientists at the IASS conduct research across a range of climate-related issues: climate governance, climate geoengineering, air quality, mitigation of climate-forcing pollutants, the international energy transition, the coal phase-out, and structural transformation. Which measures can slow global warm-ing and help us to achieve the 1.5°C target?
September 13, 2018
Climate Geoengineering Cannot Save the Paris Agreement
But climate goals can still be reached if CO2 emissions are cut drastically
In order to avert the worst consequences of climate change, the Paris Climate Agreement aims to limit global warming to well below 2°C and, if possible, to 1.5°C. But this goal will only be achieved if the signatory states reduce their emissions considerably more than they have pledged so far under the agreement. Could climate geoengineering be a Plan B if they fail to deliver? A team of authors led by IASS Scientific Director Mark Lawrence argue in an article just published in Nature Communications that the proposed technologies cannot be relied on to rescue the Paris Agreement and the 2°C goal.
February 12, 2018
How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition
The Kopernikus projects present their research findings on the German Energiewende at the world’s largest academic conference in Austin
Germany’s Energiewende seeks to transform the country’s largely fossil-based energy system into one based on renewable energy sources and ap-proaching carbon neutrality. Researchers from the Kopernikus projects “Energy Transition Navigation System | ENavi” and “Synchronized and energy adaptive production technology for flexible alignment of industrial processes towards a fluctuating energy supply | SynErgie” will describe how such a broad societal transformation of the energy system can succeed at the world’s largest academic conference, the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Austin, Texas.
December 1, 2017
Crisis and Futures of Democracy
A discussion with Charles Taylor and Patrizia Nanz on 11 December
Modern Western democracy is undergoing a significant crisis. Public spheres and political communities are highly fractured. Right-wing populism is on the rise. Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor and German political scientist Patrizia Nanz will discuss the past, present, and future of the democratic subject, the 'Homo Politicus', and the shivering normative foundations of modern democracies. What institutional and social scenarios can be envisioned for the future?
November 29, 2017
In his latest book, risk expert Ortwin Renn examines what drives people to populism
How powerful is fear and what effect does it have on our society? These questions are at the heart of a recently published book by the environmental and technical sociologist Ortwin Renn. In "Zeit der Verunsicherung" (Anxious Times), the Scientific Director at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) probes the causes and effects, as well as the perception and handling of fears in our society.
November 8, 2017
IASS Website Relaunch
The new institute website boasts a modern, user-friendly design
The Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam has completely overhauled and relaunched its website. Thanks to its new user-friendly and responsive design, the website is now optimised for mobile use. It makes greater use of images than the former website and is targeted not only at researchers but also at policymakers, the media, the business community, and civil society as well as interested members of the general public.
November 3, 2017
The IASS at the World Climate Conference in Bonn
Experts from the institute to provide information about climate protection, marine conservation, and the energy transition
From 6 to 17 November, delegates at the 23rd United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) will be working on the rulebook for the implementation of the Paris climate goals. A team of experts from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) is at the conference to encourage discussion on the following central questions: What role does ocean conservation play on the way to achieving the Paris goals? How do climate protection and sustainable development go hand in hand? What risks and potential benefits would climate engineering bring? And can a broad societal dialogue advance the energy transition?
October 27, 2017
The Coal Rush and Beyond
A Workshop on Coal Contestation and Advocacy for Energy Transition
At a two-day workshop at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, international experts will explore issues relating to the energy transition on November 13-14. Researchers from Sydney, Australia, will present “The Coal Rush and Beyond”, an international research project focusing on opposition to the expansion of coal mining in India, Germany, and Australia. The research makes connections between local struggles against coal mining on the Liverpool Plains (Australia), in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, and the Lausitz (Germany) and the global politics of climate change. Talks on the second day will examine the prospects for a decisive shift in energy policy, away from reliance on coal to various forms of renewable energy, and the social and political dynamics surrounding such a shift.
October 10, 2017
Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin
The CEC17 provides a forum for debate on the study, risks, and governance of targeted interventions in the climate system
On Monday evening the Climate Engineering Conference (CEC17) was opened in Berlin by Mark Lawrence, Scientific Director at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS). The international conference explores the potentials and risks of possible measures to intervene in the climate system. Over four days, experts from academia, political institutions, and civil society are engaging in intensive debates about the study, risks, and governance of geoengineering.
September 7, 2017
Climate Engineering: A Tool for Climate Protection?
International experts will debate controversial interventions in the Earth System at the Climate Engineering Conference 2017 in October
Is climate engineering necessary in order to protect the climate and successfully implement the Paris Agreement? What are the potential risks and side effects of climate engineering, and who would govern its use? International experts from the fields of science, policymaking, and civil society will meet in Berlin on 9 – 12 October at the world’s largest conference on this topic – Climate Engineering Conference 2017 (CEC17) – to explore the complex ethical, political and scientific issues raised by climate engineering approaches.
August 30, 2017
New UNIDO report explores potential of Industry 4.0 to accelerate transition towards sustainable energies
A new report launched today by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) looks into the opportunities and challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, also referred to as Industry 4.0, to accelerate the transition towards sustainable energy. The report, which was produced in collaboration with the German Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) and the Indonesian think tank Sustainability & Resilience.Co (su-re.co), also provides key recommendations for future policies.
Press Release (PDF)
August 28, 2017
Potsdam Summer School Explores the Future of Cities
International exchange on the sustainability of human environments
The rapid pace of change around the world is presenting humankind and human environments with tremendous challenges. What solutions and strategies can we employ to future-proof our cities in the age of climate change? Experts from 30 countries will meet to discuss these issues with leading sustainability researchers at the 2017 Potsdam Summer School on 4 – 13 September. Their findings will be presented to the public in a memorandum on 13 September.
June 27, 2017
How the G20 Can Advance the Global Energy Transition
IASS Researchers Call for a Halt to Investment in Fossil Infrastructure and an Ambitious Expansion of Renewables
Hosted by Germany, this year’s G20 Summit will take place in Hamburg on 7 and 8 July. Alongside the prevention of financial crises, climate and energy policy will also be on the agenda of the world’s twenty leading industrialised and emerging economies. The first steps the G20 has taken towards a sustainable energy supply fall far short of the fundamental transformation of infrastructure that is required. But what would a sustainable energy agenda actually entail? In cooperation with the Think 20 (T20) Network, researchers at the IASS have developed recommendations for the future energy policy of the G20 in several policy briefs.
June 7, 2017
Regional Alliances for the Sustainable Use of the Oceans
Sustainability Researchers Present Marine Conservation Report at UN Ocean Conference and Table Recommendations for UN Negotiations
On June 6, researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) and their colleagues from partner institutes presented a new report at the first ever United Nations’ Ocean Conference in New York. The report examines the role of regional marine conservation in the implementation of the global sustainable development goals for oceans. With reference to case studies, it shows how coastal states can protect marine ecosystems more effectively and use them sustainably by forming regional alliances. Together with international decision-makers and marine conservation experts, the researchers also submitted recommendations for the sustainable use of the oceans, which will feed into the UN negotiations.
May 24, 2017
IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York
Marine conservation takes centre stage at conference on 5-9 June
On 5–9 June, experts on ocean governance and sustainability from around the world will meet at the United Nations’ Ocean Conference in New York. The conference’s aim of advancing the implementation of the global sustainable development goal for the oceans dovetails with a major focus of research at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam. Researchers from the Ocean Governance project at the IASS will attend the conference, where they will host three events on ocean sustainability in cooperation with partners from policymaking, academia, and civil society.
May 11, 2017
Reducing black carbon to protect health and the climate
IASS Director Mark Lawrence presents the current state of knowledge
At the preparatory meeting for the UN Climate Conference in Bonn on May 15, IASS Director and climate scientist Mark Lawrence will give a short talk on the latest research on black carbon and discuss its effects on health, the climate, and development. The fine carbon particles in the air threaten not only human health but also the climate. Conversely, by tackling black carbon, we can kill two birds with one stone and protect both health and the climate. This is why the negative effects of black carbon are increasingly in the spotlight. How can policymakers and researchers make progress towards reducing it?
May 10, 2017
The IASS has a New German Name
Potsdam institute emphasises the transformative quality of its studies
Researchers at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) investigate pathways to sustainable development. The institute works on important global and regional future issues and has established strong ties with both national and international partners. With its new German name, the institute aims to connect with its German and regional audience more directly.
May 9, 2017
“Science Platform Sustainability 2030” Launched in Germany
New science platform to support the Sustainable Development Goals of the German Federal Government and the 2030 Agenda
Research is crucial to sustainable development: a new science platform will support efforts to implement the German Sustainable Development Strategy and the Sustainable Development Goals of the global 2030 Agenda. The Science Platform Sustainability 2030 was presented to the public at the 13th Forum for Sustainability (FONA) on 9 May. Hosted by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the conference was opened by the Federal Minister of Education and Research, Johanna Wanka, and the Head of the Federal Chancellery, Federal Minister Peter Altmaier. The platform’s operations will be jointly organised by the research networks Sustainable Development Solutions Network Germany (SDSN Germany) and the German Committee Future Earth (DKN Future Earth), together with the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam.
March 8, 2017
Broad Public Support for Climate Protection and Renewables in the UK, Germany, France and Norway
Four-country comparative study on climate and energy policy in Europe in the run-up to important elections
A clear majority of citizens is in favour of renewables, most agree that “climate change is already with us”, and public confidence in political actors is highest in Germany – these are the main findings of a survey of citizens on energy and climate policy in Germany, France, the UK and Norway.
February 22, 2017
Press Invitation - How do citizens in Europe view climate change? What energy policies do they want?
Presentation in Berlin of key results of a survey carried out in Germany and three other countries
How worried are people in Germany, the UK, France and Norway about climate change? What level of trust do the architects of the energy transition such as the federal government, the EU Commission and energy concerns enjoy? To what extent is the climate research consensus on anthropogenic climate change being called into question? What energy sources do Europeans prefer: coal, nuclear or renewables? Do they support the energy transition?
December 1, 2016
Scientists take ‘blue-action’ to help society cope with the impacts of dramatic Arctic climate changes
While the Arctic faces rapid warming and less sea ice currently covers the Arctic Ocean than ever before at this time of the year, an international partnership launches a major project to improve our detailed understanding of the processes and impacts of this changing climate and to construct better long-term forecast systems for the increasingly extreme weather of the Arctic and the wider northern hemisphere.
November 11, 2016
IASS Sees Climate and Sustainability Goals at Risk
In a joint statement, the Scientific Directors of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, Mark Lawrence, Patrizia Nanz and Ortwin Renn expressed their concern that the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States will seriously endanger both international efforts to protect the climate and the implementation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
October 25, 2016
IASS Presents Research Programme for 2017–2021 The energy transition, climate policy, and the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals form the focus of future research
Scientific directors Mark Lawrence, Patrizia Nanz, and Ortwin Renn presented the research programme covering the funding period from 1.1.2017 through to 30.6.2021 at the General Assembly of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) held yesterday in Potsdam.
Dealing with Climate Change Impacts – the Potsdam Summer School starts with young talents from all over the world
From global sea level rise to extreme events like floods or droughts – even with ambitious climate mitigation, some impacts of climate change will be felt within this century. How to avoid the unmanageable and manage the unavoidable will be the focus of the Potsdam Summer School from September 5-14, bringing together more than 40 early-career scientists and young professionals from all around the globe.
April 14, 2016
Media invitation to the conference: Jump-starting the SDGs in Germany
March 31, 2016
Patrizia Nanz Joins IASS as Scientific Director – New Leadership Team Takes the Helm
November 16, 2015
"Crack it! Energy from a Fossil Fuel without carbon dioxide" - IASS and KIT develop a technology to produce hydrogen from methane without carbon dioxide emissions
September 14, 2015
"Facing Natural Hazards" - the Second International Potsdam Summer School Will Start on 14 September 2015
July 15, 2015
Climate Engineering not an Option for Near-term Climate Policy
April 23, 2015
We Need Fertile Soils for Sustainable Development and the Mitigation of Climate Change
April 20, 2015
How Can We Avoid the Risk of Unsustainable Sustainable Development Goals?
April 15, 2015
Are the Sustainable Development Goals Sustainable?
March 12, 2015
Third Global Soil Week 2015: Soil. The Substance of Transformation
January 8, 2015
The Soil Atlas 2015, with facts and figures on agriculture, land and soils has been published
March 11, 2014
Long-distance transport of green power: First successful testing of a 20 kA superconducting cable
March 22, 2013
Towards better protection of the High Seas