Top 10 Publications of 2015

This selection of the ten most important scientific publications of the Wuppertal Institute in 2015 provides an insight into the current international recognised research activities in the context of sustainability transformations.

Modelling and Transdisciplinary Methods

Holtz, Georg; Alkemade, Floortje; Haan, Fjalar de; Köhler, Jonathan; Trutnevyte, Evelina; Luthe, Tobias; Halbe, Johannes; Papachristos, George; Chappin, Emile; Kwakkel, Jan & Ruutu, Sampsa
Prospects of modelling societal transitions: Position paper of an emerging community

In: Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions (2015), Volume 17, pp. 41-58

Given the complexity of societal transitions, the paper "Prospects of modelling scoietal transition: Position paper of an emerging community" advocates that societal transition research would benefit from the further maturation and broader uptake of modelling approaches. The authors show how modelling can enhance the understanding of and support stakeholders to steer societal transition. Furthermore, they present two model applications and discuss limitations of modelling societal transition. Georg Holtz and Emile Chappin (Wuppertal Institute) belong to the team of authors.

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Lukas, Melanie; Rohn; Holger; Lettenmeier, Michael; Liedtke; Christa & Wiesen, Klaus
The nutritional footprint - integrated methodology using environmental and health indicators to indicate potential for absolute reduction of natural resource use in the field of food and nutrition

In: Journal of Cleaner Production (2015), DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.02.070

Our nutrition patterns are highly resource intensive and are part of the climate killers. A team of the Wuppertal Institute worked on a newly designed tool integrating four indicators in each of the two nutrition-related fields of health and environment, which limits its results to one effect level and makes them easily communicable. This concept of the so-called Nutritional Footprint is now presented in a paper published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. The methodology has been applied to eight lunch meals, and its calculations procedures are presented in detail. The results underline the general scientific view of food products; animal-protein based meals are more relevant considering their health and environmental effects. The concept seems useful for consumers to evaluate their own choices, and for companies to expand their internal data, their benchmarking processes, or their external communication performance.

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Energy- and Climate Transition

Augenstein, Karoline
Analysing the potential for sustainable e-mobility - The case of Germany

In: Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions (2015), Volume 14, pp. 101-115

The current momentum in the electrification of the car fuels hope for a transition in mobility. However, electric vehicles have failed before and it is thus asked: What is the potential of e-mobility developing as a sustainable system innovation? In order to deal with this challenge analytically, in her paper Karoline Augenstein developed a theoretical framework: the concepts of transformative capacity of a new technology (do electric vehicles trigger "social" innovations, e.g. new business models or use patterns?) and system adaptability (how stable is the mobility regime?) are introduced and the issue of sustainability is discussed. This framework will be explored for the German innovation system for e-mobility. It can be shown that electric cars will only be successful when part of a system innovation and that the German innovation system is dominated by regime actors and thus potentially used as a way to fend off more substantial change.

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Hermwille, Lukas; Obergassel, Wolfgang; Ott, Hermann E. & Beuermann, Christiane
UNFCCC before and after Paris - what's necessary for an effective climate regime?

In: Climate Policy, DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2015.1115231

What can reasonably be expected from the UNFCCC process and the climate conference in Paris 2015? To achieve transformative change, prevailing unsustainable routines embedded in socio-economic systems have to be translated into new and sustainable ones. This article conceptualizes the UNFCCC and the associated policy processes as a catalyst for this translation by applying a structurational regime model. This model provides an analytical distinction of rules (norms and shared meaning) and resources (economic resources as well as authoritative and allocative power) and allows us to conceptualize agency on various levels, including beyond nation states. The analysis concludes that the UNFCCC's narrow focus on emission targets, which essentially is a focus on resources, has proven ineffective. In addition, the static division of industrialized and developing countries in the Convention's annexes and the consensus-based decision-making rules have impeded ambitious climate protection. The article concludes that the UNFCCC is much better equipped to provide rules for climate protection activities and should consciously expand this feature to improve its impact.

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Kiyar, Dagmar & Wittneben, Bettina B. F.
Carbon as Investment Risk - The Influence of Fossil Fuel Divestment on Decision Making at Germany's Main Power Providers

In: Energies (2015), Volume 8, pp. 9620-9639

German electricity giants have recently taken high-level decisions to remove selected fossil fuel operations from their company portfolio. This new corporate strategy could be seen as a direct response to the growing global influence of the fossil fuel divestment campaign. Dagmar Kiyar (Wuppertal Institute) and Bettina B. F. Wittneben (University of Oxford) examine in their paper whether the divestment movement currently exerts significant influence on decision-making at the top four German energy giants - E.ON, RWE, Vattenfall and EnBW. They come to the conclusion that this is not yet the case, but that rather four alternative influences on corporate strategy have currently a greater impact than the divestment movement in Germany's power sector. In time, however, clear political decisions, like a phasing out of global fossil fuels subsidies and strong civil support may increase the significance of climate change concerns in the strategic management of the German electricity giants.

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Lechtenböhmer, Stefan; Schneider, Clemens; Roche, María Yetano & Höller, Samuel
Re-Industrialisation and Low-Carbon Economy - Can They Go Together? Results from Stakeholder-Based Scenarios for Energy-Intensive Industries in the German State of North Rhine Westphalia

In: Energies (2015), Volume 8, pp. 11404-11429

The German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) is the first to have adopted its own Climate Protection Law. This paper "Re-Industrialisation and Low-Carbon Economy - Can They Go Together? Results from Stakeholder-Based Scenarios for Energy-Intensive Industries in the German State of North Rhine Westphalia" by Stefan Lechtenböhmer, Clemens Schneider, Maria Yetano Roche (Wuppertal Institute) and Samuel Höller (UBA) describes the long-term mitigation scenarios for NRW's main energy-intensive industrial sub-sectors which served to support the implementation of the CPL. Furthermore, the process of scenario development through stakeholder participation is described, considering three different pathways: best-available technologies, break-through technologies, and CO2 capture and storage. The authors come to the conclusion that a policy of "re-industrialisation" for NRW based on the current industrial structures would pose a significant challenge for the achievement of overall energy demand and German greenhouse gas emission targets. The results indicate the importance of successful development and implementation of a decarbonised electricity supply and breakthrough technologies in industry if significant growth is to be achieved in combination with climate mitigation. Technological solutions alone, together with unmitigated growth in consumption of material goods, could be insufficient to meet GHG reduction targets in industry.

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Sterk, Wolfgang; Bolscher, Hans; Van der Laan, Jeroen & Hoogzaad, Jos Sijm
Developing a sectoral new market mechanism: insights from theoretical analysis and country showcases

In: Climate Policy (2015), Volume 15, pp. 417-437

Our nutrition patterns are highly resource intensive and are part of the climate killers. A team of the Wuppertal Institute worked on a newly designed tool integrating four indicators in each of the two nutrition-related fields of health and environment, which limits its results to one effect level and makes them easily communicable. This concept of the so-called Nutritional Footprint is now presented in a paper published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. The methodology has been applied to eight lunch meals, and its calculations procedures are presented in detail. The results underline the general scientific view of food products; animal-protein based meals are more relevant considering their health and environmental effects. The concept seems useful for consumers to evaluate their own choices, and for companies to expand their internal data, their benchmarking processes, or their external communication performance.

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Viebahn, Peter; Soukup, Ole; Samadi, Sascha; Teubler, Jens; Wiesen, Klaus & Ritthoff, Michael
Assessing the need for critical minerals to shift the German energy system towards a high proportion of renewables

In: Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews (2015), Volume 49, pp. 655-671

The large-scale deployment of renewable energies is expected to cause increased demand for critical mineral resources. The aim of the article "Assessing the need for critical minerals to shift the German energy system towards a high proportion of renewables" is therefore to determine whether the transformation of the German energy system by 2050 ("Energiewende") may possibly be restricted by a lack of critical minerals, focusing primarily on the power sector (generating, transporting and storing electricity from renewable sources). For the relevant technologies, the team of the project KRESSE created roadmaps describing a number of conceivable quantitative market developments in Germany. They identified certain sub-technologies as being critical with regard to potential supply risks, owing to dependencies on a small number of supplier countries and competing uses.

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Resources Transition

Bringezu, Stefan
On the mechanism and effects of innovation: Search for safety and independence of resource constraints expands the safe operating range

In: Ecological Economics (2015), Volume 116, pp. 387-400

The technological and institutional innovations that extend the safe operating range (SOR) of the Humans-Technologies-Institutions (HTI) system (such as companies, cities, regions and countries) will survive. In Stefan Bringezu's paper "On the mechanism and effects of innovation: Search for safety and independence of resource constraints expands the safe operating range" a "mechanism of progress" is described involving the search for higher safety and independence of constraints. This mechanism leads to a relative decoupling of resource use and economic value added and a growing share of knowledge generation in the economy. Data already shows that net resource importing countries have developed higher material productivity and increased their independence from resource supply, and as a result gained higher innovation capacity.

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Buhl, Johannes & Acosta, José
Work less, do less? Working time reductions and rebound effects

In: Sustainability Science (2015); DOI: 10.1007/s11625-015-0322-8

A reduction in working hours is being considered to tackle issues associated with ecological sustainability, social equity and enhanced life satisfaction - a so-called triple dividend. With respect to an environmental dividend, Wuppertal Institute's Johannes Buhl and José Acosta analyse the time use rebound effects of reducing working time. They explore how an increase in leisure time triggers a rearrangement of time and expenditure budgets, and thus the use of resources in private households. This study on environmental issues is complemented by introducing voluntary social engagement and individual life satisfaction as potential co-benefits of rebound effects. The results show that time savings due to a reduction in working time trigger relevant rebound effects in terms of resource use. However, the findings put the rebound effects following a reduction in working time into perspective. Time use rebound effects potentially lead to increased voluntary social engagement and greater life satisfaction, the second and third dividends.

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