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.
Substantial environmental law also requires the possibility to bring legal actions to courts. Effective environmental protection in permission procedures, however, has always is still facing strong resistance. Simplification of planning; fast-track administrative procedures and the conservation of economic advantages on a national level on one hand – on the other hand, more openness to civil society through information, participation, and protection of third-party rights on a European and international level. Administrative law is increasingly defined by this contrast. Here, regarding accordance with European law of national dealings with weighing and procedural errors, the biggest legal problem regarding major projects lies – and not with the missing legal standing of environmental organizations.
Partly related to this topic is the problem of the required strength of precaution in environmental law (which is not tantamount to ‘absolutely harmless’!). Precaution and the rules on the assessment of facts in environmental law are a problem of correct balancing and decision-making in general. This becomes particularly apparent with the classic instruments of environmental policy: benchmark values for dangerous substances. This also concerns the underestimated reach of threshold-related human rights protection that should benefit environmental claimants; the problem that benchmark values are neither political value judgements nor assessments of facts; the problem that experts should not balance fundamental rights nor make political decisions; and that balancing in environmental policy-making often leads to lethal results.
The issue of precaution is also related to human rights. Environmental lawsuits can be based on human rights if interpreted correctly. Water is another environmental issue covered by the Research Unit in this context, but also with regard to other questions of policy and rights. In this context, there are many issues of general nature and theory of law which have been addressed by the Research Unit in several publications (most of them in German). These include instruments for environmental protection on procedural level such as participation and legal protection. They are also parameters for justice and democracy. The correct way of dealing with risk – or normative and actual uncertainties to be more precise – has been assessed. The links for download below represent only few among many, for further remarks see the section “publications”.