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.
Only a small part of the revenues of world trade benefits people in developing countries. At the same time, the global competition for production costs jeopardizes social systems in industrialized countries. Equally, we are on the verge of a global race to the bottom on environmental standards, in which apparently the most entrepreneur-friendly rule wins. It would serve both global north and global south if international social standards were established within the framework of the WTO. According to mainstream economic teaching, unlimited trade leads to maximal wealth. Therefore regulations would disturb the efficiency of the global economy. Yet this theory ignores some important aspects, it overlooks for example unequal distribution of income: Only few profit from alleged economic efficiency. The overall economic production would even increase, if a part of the money that developing countries earn by exports were used to improve the social security of the working people. This ought to have a positive impact on their motivation and educational opportunities. Moreover, environmental problems and the mental consequences of an unrestricted world-wide competition for longer working times and increased pressure to perform are hardly found in the traditional theory of free trade. This leads to the proposal to secure ecologic and social minimal standards in the legal framework of the WTO. On one hand, such a legal framework would contribute to the fight against poverty and environmental protection on one hand. On the other, it would protect the Western social state and environmental from an international competition. The WTO could – partly following the example of the EU – become a common market with uniform minimal requirements for social and environmental policy. As a model serves the eco-social conception for a new global climate protection.
The Research Unit has repeatedly worked on the human right to food and participation on the level of international law to secure social and ecologic standards. Another issue has been developing ways to establish real leadership of European environmental politics without fostering ecological shifting effects and creating problems for competitiveness. Border Adjustments is one of the key words. Furthermore, in 2016 an anthology on TTIP will be published.