Top 10Publicationsof 2021

This selection of the ten most important peer-reviewed scientific publications of the Wuppertal Institute in 2021 provides an insight into the current internationally recognised research activities in the context of sustainability transformations.

Climate-, Energy- and Resources Transition

Henning Wilts, Marina Fecke, Christine Zeher (2021). Economics of waste prevention: second-hand products in Germany

In: Economies 9, 74

Reuse is still seen as a "niche phenomenon" and consumers seem to waste economic opportunities linked to buying and selling second-hand products. For this reason, this paper focuses on incentives and barriers to sell and buy second-hand products, as indicated in the literature, and applies a theoretical framework of transaction costs to explain the existing consumption patterns. For this paper, a representative online survey was conducted in which 1023 consumers in Germany participated, age 16 and older. The data was analysed for statistically significant deviations between different groups of economic actors selling or buying second-hand products. Results show that valuable unused products exist in households, but barriers such as uncertainties about the reliability of the buyer or the quality of the product hinder the transition into sustainable consumption. Different forms of transaction costs are important explanatory variables to explain why consumers predominantly buy new products, although they are aware that buying second-hand merchandise would save money and make an individual contribution to climate protection.

Nicolas Kreibich, Lukas Hermwille (2021). Caught in between: credibility and feasibility of the voluntary carbon market post-2020

In: Climate Policy 21, S. 939-957

On the one hand, a large number of companies have committed to achieve net zero emissions and many of them foresee to offset some remaining emissions with carbon credits, suggesting a surge of future demand. Yet, the supply side of the voluntary carbon market is struggling to align its business model with the new legal architecture of the Paris Agreement. This article juxtaposes these two perspectives. It provides an overview of the plans of 482 major companies with some form of neutrality/net zero pledge and traces the struggle on the supply side of the voluntary carbon market to come up with a viable business model that ensures environmental integrity and contributes to achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement. Our analysis finds that if carbon credits are used to offset remaining emissions against neutrality objectives, these credits must be counted towards the host countries' Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to ensure environmental integrity. Yet, operationalising this approach is challenging and will require innovative solutions and political support.

Lisa Graaf, Stefan Werland, Oliver Lah, Emilie Martin, Alvin Mejia, Maria Rosa Munoz Barriga, Hien Thi Thu Nguyen, Edmund Teko, Shritu Shrestha (2021). The other side of the (policy) coin: analyzing exnovation policies for the urban mobility transition in eight cities around the globe

In: Sustainability 13, 9045

Many cities all over the world highlight the need to transform their urban mobility systems into more sustainable ones to confront pressing issues such as air and noise pollution and to deliver on climate change mitigation action. While the support of innovations is high on the agenda of both national and local authorities, consciously phasing-out unsustainable technologies and practices is often neglected. However, this other side of the policy coin, "exnovation", is a crucial element for the mobility transition. The authors developed a framework to facilitate a more comprehensive assessment of urban mobility transition policies, systematically integrating exnovation policies. It links exnovation functions as identified in transition studies with insights from urban mobility studies and empirical findings from eight city case studies around the world. The findings suggest that most cities use some kinds of exnovation policies to address selective urban mobility issues, e.g. phasing-out diesel buses, restricting the use of polluting motor vehicles in some parts of the city, etc. Still, the scientists found no evidence for a systematic exnovation approach alongside the innovation policies. The framework specifies exnovation functions for the urban mobility transition by lining out policy levers and concrete measure examples. The authors hope that the framework inspires future in-depth research, but also political action to advance the urban mobility transition.

Miriam Müller, Oscar Reutter (2021). Course change: navigating urban passenger transport toward sustainability through modal shift

In: International Journal of Sustainable Transportation 2021, AHEAD-OF-PRINT, 1-25

Staying within the 2 degrees celcius (preferably 1.5 degrees celcius) limit requires fast and fundamental system changes, also in urban passenger transport. Shifting car traffic to environmentally friendly transport modes is one central strategy to make urban transport more sustainable and climate friendly. However, in most cities car use remains high. Therefore, this paper analyses what course change is needed regarding direction, scale and speed of change for urban sustainability and climate protection reasons. The paper analyses the role of modal shift as a strategy in itself and in relation to land-use (avoid) and efficiency (improve) measures. The paper draws on insights from European frontrunning cities and explorative forecasting scenarios calculated with the sophisticated integrated land-use transport model "Ruhr Region 2050". The paper suggests that a significant reduction of urban car use is needed (direction) that roughly equals a fast halving of car use (scale), which has proven feasible under the current socio-political conditions by annual reduction rates of 0.5 to 1.5 percentage points of the trip-based modal share of car use (speed). Significantly reducing car use requires comprehensive and high-intensive measures that go far beyond usual practices. Modal shift measures need to play a crucial role in integrated approaches with land-use (avoid) and efficiency (improve) measures because they have the potential to significantly reduce car use and CO2 emissions and because they can produce comparatively fast effects – which makes modal shift measures first aid approaches to achieve a fast "bending of the curve" of excessive car use and growing CO2 emissions.

Katja Witte (2021). Social Acceptance of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) from Industrial Applications

In: Sustainability 13, 12278

To limit global warming, the use of carbon capture and storage technologies (CCS) is considered to be of major importance. In addition to the technical-economic, ecological and political aspects, the question of social acceptance is a decisive factor for the implementation of such low-carbon technologies. This study is the first literature review addressing the acceptance of industrial CCS (iCCS). In contrast to electricity generation, the technical options for large-scale reduction of CO2 emissions in the energy-intensive industry sector are not sufficient to achieve the targeted GHG neutrality in the industrial sector without the use of CCS. Therefore, it will be crucial to determine which factors influence the acceptance of iCCS and how these findings can be used for policy and industry decision-making processes. The results show that there has been limited research on the acceptance of iCCS. In addition, the study highlights some important differences between the acceptance of iCCS and CCS. Due to the technical diversity of future iCCS applications, future acceptance research must be able to better address the complexity of the research subject.

Lars J. Nilsson, Frederic Bauer, Max Ahman, Fredrik N. G. Andersson, Chris Bataille, Stephan de la Rue du can, Karin Ericsson, Teis Hansen, Bengt Johansson, Stefan Lechtenböhmer, Mariesse van Sluisveld, Valentin Vogl (2021). An industrial policy framework for transforming energy and emissions intensive industries towards zero emissions

In: Climate Policy 21, S. 1053-1065

The target of zero emissions sets a new standard for industry and industrial policy. Industrial policy in the twenty-first century must aim to achieve zero emissions in the energy and emissions intensive industries. Sectors such as steel, cement, and chemicals have so far largely been sheltered from the effects of climate policy. A major shift is needed, from contemporary industrial policy that mainly protects industry to policy strategies that transform the industry. For this purpose, the authors draw on a wide range of literature including engineering, economics, policy, governance, and innovation studies to propose a comprehensive industrial policy framework. The policy framework relies on six pillars: directionality, knowledge creation and innovation, creating and reshaping markets, building capacity for governance and change, international coherence, and sensitivity to socio-economic implications of phase-outs. Complementary solutions relying on technological, organisational, and behavioural change must be pursued in parallel and throughout whole value chains. Current policy is limited to supporting mainly some options, e.g. energy efficiency and recycling, with some regions also adopting carbon pricing, although most often exempting the energy and emissions intensive industries. An extended range of options, such as demand management, materials efficiency, and electrification, must also be pursued to reach zero emissions. New policy research and evaluation approaches are needed to support and assess progress as these industries have hitherto largely been overlooked in domestic climate policy as well as international negotiations.

Modeling and transdisciplinary methods

Konrad Schoch, Christa Liedtke, Katrin Bienge (2021). Designing on the basis of recycling-metallurgy possibilities: material-specific rules and standards for "anti-dissipative" Products

In: Resources 10, 5

The demand for metals from the entire periodic table is currently increasing due to the ongoing digitalisation. However, their use within electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) poses problems as they cannot be recovered sufficiently in the end-of-life (EoL) phase. In this paper, the authors address the unleashed dissipation of metals caused by the design of EEE for which no globally established recycling technology exists. They describe the European Union's (EU) plan to strive for a circular economy (CE) as a political response to tackle this challenge. However, there is a lack of feedback from a design perspective. It is still unknown what the implications for products would be if politics were to take the path of a CE at the level of metals. To provide clarification in this respect, a case study for indium is presented and linked to its corresponding recycling-metallurgy of zinc and lead. As a result, a first material-specific rule on the design of so-called "anti-dissipative" products is derived, which actually supports designing EEE with recycling in mind and represents an already achieved CE on the material level. In addition, the design of electrotechnical standardisation is being introduced. As a promising tool, it addresses the multi-dimensional problems of recovering metals from urban ores and assists in the challenge of enhancing recycling rates. Extending the focus to other recycling-metallurgy besides zinc and lead in further research would enable the scope for material-specific rules to be widened.

Matthias Wanner, Boris Bachmann, Timo von Wirth (2021). Contextualising urban experimentation: Analysing the Utopiastadt Campus with the theory of strategic action fields

In: Urban Planning 6, p. 235-248

Practices of urban experimentation are currently seen as a promising approach to making planning processes more collaborative and adaptive. The practices develop not only in the context of ideal-type concepts of urban experiments and urban labs but also organically in specific governance contexts. The authors present such an organic case in the city of Wuppertal, Germany, centred around a so-called change-maker initiative, "Utopiastadt." This initiative joined forces with the city administration and collaborated with a private property owner and the local economic development agency in an unusual planning process for the development of a central brownfield site. Ultimately, the consortium jointly published a framework concept that picked up the vision of the "Utopiastadt Campus" as an open-ended catalyst area for pilot projects and experiments on sustainability and city development. The concept was adopted by the city council and Utopiastadt purchased more than 50% of the land. In order to analyse the wider governance context and power struggles, the scientists apply the social-constructivist theory of Strategic Action Fields (SAFs). They focused on the phases of contention and settlement, the shift in interaction forms, the role of an area development board as an internal governance unit and the influences of proximate fields, strategic action, and state facilitation on the development. The aim was to demonstrate the potential of the theory of SAFs to understand a long-term urban development process and how an episode of experimentation evolved within this process. The authors discuss the theory's shortcomings and reflect critically on whether the process contributed to strengthening collaborative and experimental approaches in the governance of city development.

Michael Grubb, Paul Drummond, Alexandra Poncia, Will McDowall, David Popp, Sascha Samadi, Cristina Penasco, Kenneth Gillingham, Sjak Smulders, Matthieu Glachant, Gavin Hassall, Emi Mizuno, Edward S. Rubin, Antoine Dechezlepretre, Giulia Pavan (2021). Induced innovation in energy technologies and systems: a review of evidence and potential implications for CO2 mitigation

In: Environmental Research Letters 16, 043007

The authors conduct a systematic, interdisciplinary review of empirical literature assessing evidence on induced innovation in energy and related technologies. We explore links between demand-drivers (both market-wide and targeted); indicators of innovation (principally, patents); and outcomes (cost reduction, efficiency, and multi-sector/macro consequences). They build on existing reviews in different fields and assess over 200 papers containing original data analysis. Papers linking drivers to patents, and indicators of cumulative capacity to cost reductions (experience curves), dominate the literature. The former does not directly link patents to outcomes; the latter does not directly test for the causal impact of cost reductions. Diverse other literatures provide additional evidence concerning the links between deployment, innovation activities, and outcomes. The authors derive three main conclusions. (1) Demand-pull forces enhance patenting; econometric studies find positive impacts in industry, electricity and transport sectors in all but a few specific cases. This applies to all drivers – general energy prices, carbon prices, and targeted interventions that build markets. (2) Technology costs decline with cumulative investment for almost every technology studied across all time periods when controlled for other factors. Numerous lines of evidence point to dominant causality from at-scale deployment (prior to self-sustaining diffusion) to cost reduction in this relationship. (3) Overall Innovation is cumulative, multi-faceted, and self-reinforcing in its direction (path-dependent). The scientists conclude with brief observations on implications for modelling and policy. In interpreting these results, they suggest distinguishing the economics of active deployment, from more passive diffusion processes, and draw the following implications. There is a role for policy diversity and experimentation, with evaluation of potential gains from innovation in the broadest sense. Consequently, endogenising innovation in large-scale models is important for deriving policy-relevant conclusions. Finally, seeking to relate quantitative economic evaluation to the qualitative socio-technical transitions literature could be a fruitful area for future research.

Lena Tholen, Anna Leipprand, Dagmar Kiyar, Sarah Maier, Male Küper, Thomas Adisorn, Andreas Fischer (2021). The green hydrogen puzzle: towards a German policy framework for industry

In: Sustainability 13, 12626

Green hydrogen will play a key role in building a climate-neutral energy-intensive industry, as key technologies for defossilising the production of steel and basic chemicals depend on it. Thus, policy-making needs to support the creation of a market for green hydrogen and its use in industry. However, it is unclear how appropriate policies should be designed and a number of challenges need to be addressed. Based on an analysis of the ongoing German debate on hydrogen policies, this paper analyses how policy-making for green hydrogen development may support industry defossilisation. For the assessment of policy instruments, a simplified multi-criteria analysis (MCA) is used with an innovative approach that derives criteria from specific challenges. Four challenges and seven relevant policy instruments are identified. The results of the MCA reveal the potential of each of the selected instruments to address the challenges. The paper furthermore outlines how instruments might be combined in a policy package that supports industry defossilisation, creates synergies and avoids trade-offs. The paper's impact may reach beyond the German case, as the challenges are not specific to the country. The results are relevant for policy-makers in other countries with energy-intensive industries aiming to set the course towards a hydrogen future.

Further Top Ten

The annual selection of important scientific publications is available here for the following years:

Cookie Settings

Cookies help us to constantly improve the website for you. By clicking on the "Allow cookies" button, you agree to the use of cookies. For further information on the use of cookies or to change your settings, please click on More about the use and rejection of cookies.