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.
For its analysis of governance structures and instruments, the Research Unit is strongly aware of findings in economic. Demanding broad substantial and geographical quantity and price regulating instruments to solve problems of sustainability in energy/ climate, resources, land use and many more is a result of a discourse with economic ideas, despite the many differences. We wrote a number of books in German on these topics.
In many publications and projects, the debate on degrowth plays a crucial role. The Research Unit takes neither the position of economic mainstream which maintains that growth is easily compatible with sustainability and without limits possible in a finite world. Nor is it against economic growth per se on grounds of it necessarily being socially unjust and fostering unhappiness. Defenders of the latter position reject technical (and growth compatible!) solutions in environmental politics too easily. However, thinking long-term shows that improved technologies, like renewable resources and more resource efficiency will – probably – not (alone!) suffice to establish a global and durable sustainable livelihood. If however effective environmental protection implies behavior change (sufficiency) and thus a non- or degrowth economy, it is necessary to develop (1) a “final” scenario and (2) a roadmap for the difficult transition. Because so far, modern societies heavily depend on growth regarding employment, state budget, banking system and in enterprises (maybe even for financing of technical innovation). These questions are currently wantonly neglected.
For a long time, the critique of central background assumptions of environmental economics and approaches of environmental sociology and political science has been on the agenda of the Research Unit. Climate change serves as an example. We aim at showing that cost-benefit analysis, which economists use to ‘calculate’ the optimum climate policy (as they do it in other policy areas), are structurally insufficient. Hence, they are often unable to fulfil their promises regarding scientific insights. Climate economics gives the impression of being rational. Yet, it cannot meet this demand because it inserts inaccurate or substantially incomplete normative and descriptive assumptions into their efficiency calculations, among others:
Despite all criticism, it remains the importance of complementary use of economic fact findings in order to help legal-political decision making. Felix Ekardt is currently finalizing his second dissertation in philosophy on criticism of economic evaluation as a method.
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