Research Unit Sustainability and Climate Policy
Prof. Dr. Dr. Felix Ekardt, LL.M., M.A.
Missing German and EU climate targets is not embarrassing - it is contrary to international and human rights. Even the unambitious targets themselves are illegal; all the more so their misconduct. More on this in our new legal opinion on the Paris Agreement here. In April 2021, we won a groundbreaking lawsuit at the German Constitutional Court. See on this here and here.
The existing legal framework on P is strongly characterized by detailed command-and-control provisions and thus suffers from governance problems such as enforcement deficits, rebound and shifting effects. Our new paper focuses on how these challenges could be addressed by economic instruments. The article highlights not only the impact of the instruments on P management, but also on adjacent environmental areas. We pay particular attention to the governance effects on reaching international binding climate and biodiv goals: here.
The production of animal food products is (besides fossil fuels) one of the most important noxae with regard to many of the environmental problems, such as climate change, biodiversity loss or globally disrupted nutrient cycles. This paper provides a qualitative governance analysis of which regulatory options there are to align livestock farming with the legally binding environmental objectives, in particular the Paris Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity: here.
Paris targets imply that not only emissions from degraded peatlands have to be avoided, but conservation and rewetting of peatlands are also necessary to figure as sinks to compensate for unavoidable residual emissions. In the absence of an easily comprehensible control variable (such as fossil fuels), economic instruments reach their limits. This is remarkable in so far as economic instruments can otherwise handle governance problems and react to various behavioral motivational factors very well. Still, peatlands can be subject to certain regulations and prohibitions under command-and-control law even without precise knowledge of the emissions from peatland use: here.
From spring 2019 Felix Ekardt is the editor of Springer Nature's new book series "Environmental Humanities: Transformation, Governance, Ethics, Law". It is open to the entire social sciences, i.e. economics, philosophy, sociology, political science, ethnology, etc. Volume 1 "Sustainability: Transformation, Governance, Ethics, Law" by Felix Ekardt has been published now and provides an overview of the work of the FNK with completely new perspectives in sustainability research - and can be read with Springer Link: 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. Furthermore, we brought a climate action to the German Federal Constitutional Court in 2018.
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. Consequently, it is also a basis of our climate litigation against the German government and parliament. The fundaments for that can be found in Sustainability: Transformation, Governance, Ethics, Law with Springer Nature by Felix Ekardt.
Some further downloadable texts: