Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Ressourcenökonomie


A just transition to a post fossil society

Berlin University Alliance - Liste der im Rahmen des Pre-Calls geförderten Projekte 2019

Start: 2019
End: 2020

The world we live in is changing at an unprecedented speed in the 21st century. Various megatrends, i.a. digitalisation, democratisation, demographic change and decarbonisation cause major social, political, and technical changes that influence societies irreversibly. At the same time, increasing global warming limits the remaining time to prevent further irreversible changes. Consequently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as well as the leaders of over 100 developed and developing countries1 call for a rapid shift from the usage of fossil resources (coal, gas, and oil) towards renewable resources.

Such a global transformation until the middle of this century will be needed for all sectors in order to enable a sufficient reduction of carbon emissions to limit global warming at a tolerable level. The ongoing transition, however, must not only meet climate concerns but needs to incorporate also social and political factors to guarantee the fulfilment of all sustainable development goals (SDGs) and not to endanger social cohesion. Such considerations have to include the risk of potentially stranded assets and jobs from sectoral transformations and political economy constraints on transformational policymaking and can therefore learn from experiences of the past.

Mostly quantitative research of the last decades has analysed climate change, its causes and impacts, trying to find solutions to mitigate or at least to adapt to the situation. The focus of most studies hereby lies on technical and economic solutions providing a first necessary step. The second step, however, needs to be developing strategies of implementation that includes the identification and dissolution of hurdles and barriers. This step, therefore, needs to build on previous – mostly quantitative – findings and link them to – often qualitative – aspects of social and political transformation theory. Combining such interdisciplinary research with interactions with various non-academic stakeholders can enable new transdisciplinary research streams. Such transdisciplinary mediators can help to enable the development of new joint integrated concepts to examine pathways for a just transition to a post fossil society. Creating a new integrated research agenda of transformation to a post fossil society therefore needs to incorporate various disciplinary perspectives on the multiple challenges that such a transformation includes. All our project partners can build on existing experience of mostly bilateral cooperation between the different transdisciplinary partners which we would like to foster further throughout this project. In addition, allowing more innovative thinking to challenge the existing literature, incorporating i.a. aspects of gender equality, exnovation, climate justice or degrowth concepts, might result in new and more appropriate solutions for these complex problems.

Within this six-month preparatory project PostFossil from December 2019 – May 2020 we will conduct a number of complementary activities to reach all these goals. We are planning several inter- and transdisciplinary workshops to identify research gaps and find potential linkages between workgroups. The aim of these workshops differs (depending on its participants; i.a. during the Open Modeling Platform in January or the Sustainability Summer School in April) from deeper discussions on overlapping research topics (e.g. improvement of open science approaches, gender and fossil phase out, political economy of fossil fuel phase-out), networking activities (e.g. informal roundtables), or research proposal writing. We, in addition, want to organize a PhD retreat in spring 2020 to enable existing PhD students in the Berlin area to examine possible synergies between their ongoing research agendas. These measures will help us to enrich our disciplinary perspectives, to consolidate our interdisciplinary cooperation, and to integrate important transdisciplinary knowledge for the preparation of an excellent proposal.

To integrate these various disciplinary and transdisciplinary perspectives on the transformation towards a post-fossil society and its interdependencies with current and future social cohesion, we believe that the project PostFossil can in a structured manner help to:

  1. Connect research groups from different disciplines from universities (TU Berlin, HU Berlin, FU Berlin) and research institutes (DIW Berlin, Reiner Lemoine Institut, Öko-Institut) in Berlin working on a transformation to a post fossil society
  2. Enable transdisciplinary exchange with other stakeholders and practitioners from Berlin and Brandenburg
  3. Evaluate options and perspectives for, and prepare writing of a joint a proposal for the calls „Exploration Projects“ and „Research Units“ within the Berlin University Alliance in 2020.


1 (At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 21st Conference of the Parties, in 2015.)

Gretchen Bakke, HU Berlin,
Aron Buzogany, FU Berlin,
Michael Jakob, MCC Berlin (An-Institut der TU Berlin),
Jan Steckel, MCC Berlin (An-Institut der TU Berlin)


Lead Subproject: Dr. Achim Hagen


Lead Overall Project: Dr. Pao-Yu Oei, TU Berlin


Funding: Berlin University Alliance