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.
Are genes, capitalism, power politics or a lack of education to blame if the transformation to a sustainable society does not succeed as desired? Or if once again my plan fails to eat less meat and sweets? What drives people and societies, what makes change possible, and what blocks it? These are questions that form the core of thinking about politics, the future and the individual. The crisis of the EU or the mere talk of sustainability - the educated are the biggest polluters of the environment - sometimes remain a mystery if one stops alone at brain research or criticism of capitalism. If one understands human feelings and the unconscious and at the same time changeable notions of normality better, social and individual change can be understood and even made possible constructively. Another important finding is that such motivational factors transport both biological and cultural elements - and that collective states as well as individual developments can be considered using those factors.
Since the late 1990s, the Research Unit and Felix Ekardt in particular have devoted themselves to the conditions of a transformation to sustainability from a very interdisciplinary perspective, which - unlike in other areas of research - really tries to include the entire field of behavioral research in sociology, economics, psychology, sociobiology, ethnology, cultural studies and much more. Historical examples of successful or failed changes also help to understand transformation. How did growth actually come into the world? And can the emergence of totalitarian regimes in the 20th century really be explained solely by authoritarian cultural traditions, economic crises, use of force and apparently charismatic leaders? Only those who understand this also hold the key to social and personal change in their hands. All these subjects are discussed in Sustainability: Transformation, Governance, Ethics, Law by Felix Ekardt, which can be downloaded for free with Springer Link. See also our article in Journal of Cleaner Production on Barriers and methodology in transitioning to sustainability.