Research Unit Sustainability and Climate Policy
Prof. Dr. Dr. Felix Ekardt, LL.M., M.A.
The CBD as well as (national and transnational) human rights contain an obligation to halt biodiversity loss since 1993 at the latest, which has been continuously violated ever since. Governments can also be sued on this basis. We show this in a new international paper: here.
Even with zero fossil fuels and greatly reduced animal husbandry, residual emissions remain that must be compensated - even if sufficiency can make this amount of emissions smaller than the IPCC assumes. This requires above all the regulation of forests and peatlands (which are also central to biodiversity protection). Here, economic instruments and regulatory law relate to each other differently than they often do. Three international articles explore this - on forests, on peatlands and on the very problematic large-scale BECCSand other kinds of geoengineering.
German and EU climate policy is contrary to international law and constitutional human rights. Even the unambitious targets themselves are illegal. More on this in our new legal analysis, including critical perspectives on IPCC AR6 here. In April 2021, we won a groundbreaking lawsuit at the German Constitutional Court. See on this in Nature Climate Change, in The Environment and Sustainability.
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.
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. Many of these topics are also discussed in Sustainability: Transformation, Governance, Ethics, Law by Felix Ekardt.
Further downloadable texts in English: