Research Unit Sustainability and Climate Policy
Prof. Dr. Felix Ekardt, LL.M., M.A.
A contribution in the Global Compact International Yearbook deals with fundamental issues of the sustainability debate: the limits to green growth and technological innovations, the preconditions of societal transformation towards sustainability, the complexity of human motivation, the underrated ambitiousness of the long-term goal in the Paris Climate Agreement. See, among other papers, here.
During the last years, the Research Unit Sustainability and Climate Policy has done a lot of research on questions of phosphorus and scarcity of natural resources, as well as on land-use and climate change - from a transdisciplinary point of view. See, among other papers, Economic Instruments for P, N, Climate, Biodiv.
The Research Unit Sustainability and Climate Policy has done a lot of research on the normative grounds of sustainability - respectively on the theoretical basis of both ethics and law. The most informative is the big German volume "Theorie der Nachhaltigkeit", but there is also a number of English papers. See, among other papers, here.
Issues of land use (see respective section) and resource politics as a whole have been other areas of intensive research, besides energy and climate issues. The most recent publication is the final report of a Bundestag-funded project on economic assessment and instruments for nature conservation (in German). Together with Wuppertal Institute, the Research Unit has proposed a (moderate and realistic) improvement of international resource politics. Special attention was attributed to phosphorus (see section in land use) which is subject of some (long-term) projects since 2015. The overarching interest boils down to developing common governance approaches for different environmental problems which will not lose (at least parts of) their effectiveness to shifting and rebound effects.
Strategies for sustainability raise the question of local and federal starting points despite good reasons for national and European approaches. This has been analyzed by the Research Unit on various occasions. Another question regards the value of combining scattered approaches to sustainability in a coherent legal framework. Codification of environmental law – again rather on European than on national level – makes sense for different reasons. The failed attempt of creating a German Environmental Code (UGB) was first and foremost paper intensive as the requirements are as numerous as divers. Targets include friendliness to investors and civil society; legal certainty; avoiding a race to the bottom concerning environmental standards; and thereby consolidated environmental protection. This would require as many complete rules as possible; as little Länder-deviations as possible; and integration of as many parts of environmental law as possible. This seems not realistic at the moment which is why the question ‘UGB or not UGB’ only had minor environmental relevance. However the debate about the UGB is in some ways typical for the German (and European) debate around environmental law: Much attention is paid to symbolic questions and detail aspects of law interpretation, like the new law on nature protection and water which was passed instead of the UGB. The crucial general question of targets as well as the question of how much of good intention will remain in enforcement fall behind.