Climate change forms a one of the most important sustainability challenges, both with respect to avoiding dangerous climate change (mitigation) as well as adapting to (remaining) climate change. The greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are driving climate change and continue to rise. Without new policies, the world’s average surface temperature could easily surpass 3 degrees Celsius this century—with some areas of the world expected to warm even more. This could lead to sea level rise, more extreme weather events, heat stress, floods, and droughts affecting agriculture and loss of biodiversity.
Climate change is clearly a multi-scale problem that does not respect national borders. Emissions anywhere affect people everywhere and successful policies need coordination at the international level. At the same time, mitigation and adaptation policies need to be implemented at the national, regional and local scales. We not only investigate the potential effectiveness of mitigation and adaptation measures, but also to what extent the policy field of climate mitigation and adaptation requires new, alternative modes of governance, and how the responsibilities are then divided between public and private actors. This research line analyses various normative questions as well, especially concerning social justice and democratic legitimacy.
Research on climate change mitigation at the Copernicus Institute focusses on different scales, from local clean energy initiatives to global politics, but also on the basis of different disciplines, from technical analysis to a focus on governance. By working together with several external stakeholders such as the IPCC, energy companies and NGO’s we want to create the largest possible impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, preserving nature as it is and transforming the energy system.
Research on climate change adaptation at the Copernicus Institute focusses on anticipating the impacts of climate change in three ways: moderating potential damage, coping with the consequences or taking advantage of opportunities. From that perspective, a major task lies ahead to make certain parts of the world climate proof. Most research relates to the integration of adaptation measures into urban planning, water management and biodiversity conservation.