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.
For a couple of years, the Research Unit Sustainability and Climate Policy is working on questions of land use, e.g. with regard to climate change, bioenergy, resource scarcity, and phosphorus. We show that environmental policy will have to switch to a new strategy: “Technical solutions”, “efficiency” and “command and control” alone will not solve resource problems or quantity problems if at the same time (global) production increases or remains at a constant high level. There are issues of rebound effects and sectoral and regional shifting effects, weak targets and/ or execution etc. Instead, concepts for quantity governance need to be developed. Since 2015, several projects on land-use and phosphorus started. Some articles on that can be found below - on livestock governance, plastics, food waste, CAP 2020, etc. A separate section on phosphorus can be found on this website as well. All of this may contribute to the ongoing process of developing a Farm to Fork Strategy on EU level.
Recently, climate policy is strongly connected to an extended use of biomass for producing electricity, heat, and fuel. Since 2007, the Research Unit is concerned with energetic use of biomass. There are both a number of socio-economic advantages and disadvantages, which are frequently not sufficiently addressed by European and German regulation. Lists of sustainability criteria are by structure only partially closing the regulation gap. Furthermore, the Research Unit has published two broad analyses on economic evaluation and economic instruments with regard to biodiversity protection. They offer new perspectives on these issues that should be distinguished, although they are typically combined in economic literature. The basis of the first study is a project for the German Federal Parliament. Another project for the German government displays a kind of summary of our works on that in English: here.
Since 2010, we published also a number of texts on land-use, agriculture and climate governance. The example of land use as the second crucial aspect for climate change, displays clearly the limits of climate policy and cap-and-trade approaches regarding fossil fuels and livestock farming in particular, addressing core challenges of human motivation and also central sustainability governance problems such as shifting effects and rebound effects. Some texts on that can be found below.