Headline: Social Justice

Sustainability Advisory Board

Fostering Sustainable Development as a Democratic Process

The Sustainability Advisory Board of Brandenburg state has developed a set of recommendations titled “Social cohesion in an open society – Democracy as a way of life” and presented them to the state government on 8 January 2024. The recommendations are based on a policy brief in which the authors recommend an all-of-government approach to address various issues of social justice and public participation as well as the goal of safeguarding quality of life while remaining within planetary boundaries.

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Music Sector

Values and Traditions Slow Transition to Sustainability in Classical Concert Industry

There is a growing interest in sustainability among orchestras, ensembles and concert halls in Germany –in terms of reducing their environmental impacts, and in relation to programming, such as creating concert formats that engage with sustainability on a thematic level. Is the classical concert industry contributing to the broader transformation of society towards sustainability? RIFS researchers see room for improvement, finding that many institutions and orchestral musicians are not sufficiently self-critical in their approach to sustainability issues.

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Heat-Ozone Extremes Affect Mortality

Cities in the Global South are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of global warming. Rising temperatures are worsening the effects of ozone pollution, for example. Like many other cities in the Global South, Santiago de Chile is highly segregated along socio-economic lines. RIFS scientist Tabish Ansari and a team of researchers have examined and compared the effects of heatwaves and ozone episodes in different areas of the city.

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Support for Climate Action Greater Than Often Assumed

Hot on the heels of the pandemic came the energy crisis – has this experience led to a shift in public opinion on climate action in Germany? Broadly speaking, support for ambitious climate policy remains strong, however many citizens are concerned that policymakers lack the political will and that the burdens of the transformation are not being shared equitably. But it seems that many people underestimate the willingness of their fellow citizens to embrace change. This is the conclusion of the 2023 Social Sustainability Barometer, an annual representative survey of over 6,500 people across Germany on the energy and transport transitions, conducted as part of the Ariadne project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

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Indigenous Leaders in Berlin: Together for the Rainforest

In the struggle for their land and way of life, the indigenous Amazon peoples have already achieved a lot. But they need support in protecting their territories, which are so important for the global climate and biodiversity. During a European tour, a delegation of indigenous chiefs visited Berlin, met with the President of Germany and subsequently discussed their concerns at a public event.

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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.

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Climate Litigation Plays Important Role in Struggle for Intergenerational Justice

Young people have long been marginalized in national, regional, and United Nations political fora. Now they are actively demanding their rights as representatives of present and future generations. They do so through public protests, but also by taking legal action to assert their claims. Scientists at the Research Institute for Sustainability (RIFS) have studied the potential impacts of climate litigation in the Anthropocene.

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Mark Lawrence Appointed to German Council for Sustainable Development

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has convened the new German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE). RIFS Scientific Director Mark Lawrence will serve a three-year term on the council. At the inaugural meeting held at the Federal Chancellery on 15 February 2023, the members unanimously elected Reiner Hoffmann, the former president of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB), to chair the council.

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Social Sustainability Barometer

How Is the Energy Crisis Affecting Public Opinion on the Energy and Transport Transitions in Germany?

Is the current energy crisis putting the brakes on climate action? Undaunted by the growing financial burden, support for the energy transition remains strong in Germany. Despite the spectre of skyrocketing energy prices, a broad section of the public wants to see the government double down on its efforts to achieve climate neutrality. This is the conclusion of the annual “Social Sustainability Barometer 2022”.

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Young People and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future

The climate crisis continues to be a major concern for many young people, who must also grapple with new and emerging crises such as the war in Ukraine. This has serious implications for mental health and lends urgency to the issue of intergenerational justice. In recent years, young people have sought to bring the responsibilities of older generations toward younger people more sharply into focus in environmental and climate debates. In a new paper, IASS researchers show how sustainable futures have become an important issue in climate policy discourse.

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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.

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“Transdisciplinary research” – what does that mean?

The wicked problems of the Anthropocene present major challenges to traditional scientific methods. Transdisciplinary research is a way to overcome these challenges as it involves both non-academic societal actors and academics from various disciplines. Despite its increasing popularity, the transdisciplinary approach still has not quite caught on everywhere – and it is often misunderstood. A publication from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) summarises definitions and characteristics of transdisciplinary research and outlines an exemplary three-phase model that transdisciplinary teams can use to carry out their research successfully.

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A New Approach for International Environmental Law: Louis Kotzé is Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow for 2022

The current geological epoch is defined by impacts of human activities on the environment. The problems related to these effects are not adequately addressed by international environmental law. As Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow for 2022 at the IASS, Louis Kotzé, South African scholar of international environmental law, will develop innovative concepts that can underpin new legal norms to protect the entire Earth system.

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Blog Posts

Braskem’s Salt Mines, Maceió’s Ground Subsidence, and the Pitfalls of Corporate Sustainability Discourse

Marginalised populations are asymmetrically affected at all stages of the plastics production cycle – especially the extraction of raw materials. Such environmental impacts reproduce and reinforce pre-existing racial and socioeconomic inequalities. This is clearly illustrated in Maceió, the capital of Brazil’s north-eastern state of Alagoas: Since 2019, around 60,000 people have been forced to leave their communities after earth tremors and ground subsidence started to endanger the structures of houses and other buildings surrounding Mundaú Lagoon. Entire neighbourhoods have subsequently been abandoned.

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Organizing Local Citizens’ Councils: Handbook Shows How It’s Done

The new handbook "Organizing municipal citizens' councils" was recently published. RIFS is co-editor of the work, together with Mehr Demokratie e.V. and the Institute for Democracy and Participation Research (IDPF) in Wuppertal. The handbook is aimed at practitioners in the field of public participation and offers valuable insights and advice on the initiation, planning and successful implementation of citizens' assemblies at the municipal level.

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Justice in Sustainability

Climate Mobility Justice: Reparations, Kinopolitics and Mobile Commoning

What do reactive border closures and the de-nationalization of undocumented populations around the world have to do with the climate crisis-mobility nexus? As part of the RIFS public lecture series `Justice in Sustainability’, Dr Mimi Sheller recently examined the interconnections of the climate crisis, unsustainable mobilities, and migration through the lens of the politics of movement, also known as kinopolitics.

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Justice & Sustainability

Exploring the Complexities of Justice in Sustainability

The team behind the IASS Focal Topic “Justice in Sustainability” has released a short film that explores issues of justice in the context of climate crises and the decarbonisation of energy systems. The film presents prominent voices in the field from scientists, activists and practitioners who have participated in events and lectures hosted as part of the IASS Focal Topic in 2022.

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Justice in Sustainability

African Judicial Environmentalism, Community Mobilization and the Quest for Sustainability

Africa is a continent rich in cultures, natural resources and biodiversity. However, the continent faces diverse environmental challenges, including pollution, deforestation, and species extinction. In a recent lecture Dr. Caiphas Brewsters Soyapi argued that traditional knowledge offers a moral compass that Africans can use to find their own response to ecological problems, a view that many judiciaries are coming to share.

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Is there a Future for the Climate Strike Movement?

Four years ago, the student-led climate strike movement took the world by storm. Ever since, the strikes have played an important role in the strategic repertoire of the global climate movement. Yet as emissions keep rising, even mass protests with millions of participants have proved unable to build sufficient political pressure to secure meaningful political concessions. This presents a strategic dilemma to the movement: How does one even strike amidst an escalating climate crisis?

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IASS Focal Topic 2022

Turning debt into climate action: A Global South approach to the climate struggle

This year has made it abundantly clear that we are edging closer to climate catastrophe much faster than previously thought. Floods, heatwaves and wildfires across the globe have cost thousands of lives and destroyed the livelihoods of millions more. At the same time, global cooperation on climate change remains lacking. To the contrary, confronted with a steep rise in energy prices, as a result of an unexpected worldwide squeeze on energy supplies over the past year, Global North governments are undermining their own carbon emission reduction targets.

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Justice in Sustainability Lecture

What transformative sustainability studies should learn from environmental justice movements

In April’s session of the IASS focal topic “Justice in Sustainability” lecture series, Dr Leah Temper shed light on “just transformations towards sustainability” from the perspectives of those fighting on the ground to achieve them. Her discussion of environmental justice activism took us back to the roots of thinking justice and environmental politics together. Find out in this summary what transformative sustainability studies should learn from environmental justice movements a summary of her lecture. You can also rewatch the lecture and the following Q&A session on the IASS YouTube channel.

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How can ambitious and just climate action be ensured through the participation of civil society?

Tasneem Essop, Executive Director of the Climate Action Network (CAN), held an inspiring lecture on the vital but often downplayed role that civil society can play in ensuring ambitious and just climate action. CAN is a global network of over 1,800 civil society organisations from over 120 countries that are fighting the climate crisis. The lecture took place as part of the monthly IASS Focal Topic Year on “Justice in Sustainability” public lecture series on May 19th, 2022.

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The promise of African clean hydrogen exports: potentials and pitfalls

Abundant energy resources in many parts of Africa position the continent as a potential location for the production and export of climate-friendly hydrogen, either based on renewable electricity (green hydrogen) or natural gas in combination with carbon capture and storage technologies (blue hydrogen). Green hydrogen is produced via electrolysis by splitting water molecules into their component parts using renewable electricity, while blue hydrogen is produced by splitting natural gas into hydrogen and CO2 – after which the CO2 needs to be captured and stored.

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Historical responsibilities of colonialism: Gender justice as a path to climate justice

The notion of development, or what we understand as prosperity, whether of a country, group, or individual, has been shaped throughout history by social constructs that stem from colonialism as an ideology. Colonialism is entrenched in our society as a monocultural form of domination and understanding and shaping the world. Its influence extends to the ways in which we interact with each other and with nature.

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“Struggle for Agrarian and Environmental Justice: The Farmers Movement in Northwest India”

The struggle for agrarian and environmental justice by the farmers movement in Northwest India was the second lecture in this year’s IASS Focal Topic series “Justice in Sustainability.” Our guest, Navdeep Boora, is a graduate student at the Indian Institute of Science Education & Research (IISER) Mohali. In his presentation, Navdeep gave us insights into the farmers’ protest against the Indian government’s attempt to further liberalize the country’s agricultural sector in 2021.

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Coal-phase out in Lusatia

Inspiring a just transition or just buying time?

The long-running dispute before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) between Poland and the Czech Republic over the Turów open-pit coal mine on the Polish side of the border came to an end two weeks ago. Under the agreement reached by the two countries, the Czech Republic is to be compensated for environmental harms caused by the mine’s operation. In response, the Czech government withdrew its complaint to the CJEU on 3 February.

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Climate litigation and planetary justice – the kick-off of the lecture series “Justice and Sustainability”

The April 2021 decision of the German Federal Constitutional Court in the case Neubauer et al. vs Germany has drawn a lot of attention worldwide. Louis Kotzé, Research Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law, North-West University, South Africa and currently Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow at the IASS, and Jannis Krüßmann, a young climate activist, spoke on the ruling and its wider consequences for climate litigation on January 27, 2022 as part of the focal topic "Justice and Sustainability".

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German Election

The Desire for Continuity in Change

The SPD's success in the Bundestag elections is surprising, even though the polls predicted this outcome in the days and weeks leading up to the election. In July, polls by infratest-dimap and the Elections Research Group suggested that the SPD could win as little as 15-16 percent of the vote and a neck-and-neck race between the CDU/CSU and the Greens seemed likely. But things turned out differently, and now the Social Democrats are the victors, even though the SPD's 25 percent win is a far cry from the results returned by previous SPD chancellors.

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New Technology, Equity and the Law of the Sea

Advancements in new technologies open up new ocean industries and possibilities to explore the ocean. Some of these new technologies, such as swarms of underwater mini robots to map the seafloor or sensors on automated underwater vehicles, assist scientists in their work and produce growing quantities of ocean data.

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