What is the importance of technological progress in preventing climate change and what role could individual and collective abstention play? Who bears the main burdens of the necessary changes? How can jobs be secured, how can mobility be guaranteed? How can participation and acceptance be ensured? These questions were addressed by around 60 participants and speakers from October 01-03, 2021, at a joint conference of the Evangelische Akademie Tutzing and ZEW Mannheim on the shores of Lake Starnberg.
The aim of the conference, which took place within the framework of the BMBF Dialogue on the Economics of Climate Change, was to address and discuss central controversies surrounding climate protection without falling into the usual patterns and battles. A common thread running through the event was the dialogue between four scientific approaches: environmental economics, ecological economics, post-growth and feminist economics. Marc Frick from ZEW and Katharina Hirschbrunn, Director of Studies for Economics and the World of Labor, Sustainable Development at the Evangelische Akademie Tutzing, together with eleven speakers from the fields of science, politics, civil society and political consulting, led through the three-day program.
In his introduction to the event, Marc Frick emphasized that the challenges to be mastered are based on scientific findings about the consequences of human greenhouse gas emissions, but that they are often social science problems at their core. In particular, the coordination and moderation of comprehensive societal changes towards an ecologically sustainable form of economic activity and social life is at stake. Scientific approaches and political instruments that are to successfully initiate these changes must therefore take a variety of specific conditions into account: Different areas of economic production and social life follow different logics of action, and the implementation of change depends on certain inherent times, such as the duration of democratic majority formation, legislative procedures, administrative acts, or individual behavioral adaptation.
Four schools of economic thought as thematic guard rails
Following the elaboration of this problem, four speakers presented the theoretical approaches based on which they themselves worked in their research on the implementation of effective climate protection. Lilian Pungas, research associate at the University of Jena, introduced the basics of the post-growth approach, and Bettina Chlond, research associate at ZEW Mannheim, presented the theoretical framework of environmental economics. The quartet of schools of thought was completed by Prof. Dr. Mi-Yong Becker, Professor of Sustainability at the University of Bochum, who presented the basics of Ecological Economics, and Dr. Corinna Dengler, research associate at the University of Kassel, who spoke on behalf of the Feminist Economics approach.
Together with the participants, who in turn brought with them very different levels of knowledge and experience, the four speakers worked out climate policy levers and instruments that would have to work quickly, be ecologically effective and socially just at the same time. Extensive workshop sessions included controversial debates about who has the power and responsibility to implement the necessary changes, how radical they should be, and what conditions must be met to create democratic majorities.
The program was framed by presentations that contributed further perspectives on the topic. Dr. Jochen Dallmer presented his approach of "living well instead of having a lot", Dr. Boniface Mabanza Bambu developed conditions for a globally just climate policy and Antje Majewski presented different artistic forms of engagement with nature.
Controversies and open dialogue as an important step toward understanding
Over the entire duration of the conference, the program was characterized by the great need for discussion between the different groups. Not only between the scientific approaches but also among the very heterogeneous participants, there were controversial discussions about how and at what speed climate protection could and should be implemented. Not only between the generations but also between different professional groups, between city and rural areas, between science and practice, the best approaches and instruments were fought over. Economist Prof. Dr. Mi-Yong Becker summed up experience at the end of the conference with the following words:
"It is good when many people from very different areas of society come together and have the opportunity to deal intensively over a longer period of time with the question of how we stay below the formulated limits of global heating. Being able to have the necessary discussions in a structured way was one of the core achievements of the conference."
Grand closing panel with representatives from science, politics, civil society and policy advising
The debates that were initiated during the conference were finally brought together in a final panel discussion, in which Daniel Al-Kayal, climate activist and book author, Henrike Hahn, MEP for the Green Party, Prof. Dr. Karen Pittel, Co-Chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change, and Carolin Schenuit, Executive Director of the Forum for an Ecological-Social Market Economy (FÖS) discussed with each other. The debate centered on who could initiate the necessary changes – politics, business or civil society; how blockades can be dissolved and how a way can be found to deal with the discrepancy between the urgency of the climate crisis and society's limited will to change.