The course introduces students to the politics, governance and ethics of sustainability. The key challenges of our time are global by nature. However, the current system of global governance based on sovereign states (often in competition with each other) is ill equipped to face global challenges such as poverty, climate change, environmental degradation and availability of resources. While states struggle to provide a sustainable future for their citizens, they are increasingly forced into a logic of sustainability for all people and responsibility for the global commons. This new logic is based on the concept of interconnectedness and the impact of our actions on the generations to come.
The course examines major current global challenges divided into economic, political and environmental issues. Climate change is only one of many environmental issues facing our planet, but due to its importance and overwhelming impact, it will be given the main focus of this course. We will not only look at the science behind and consequences of global warming, but will also study the two pillars of the global climate governance: the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). The analysis of the UNFCCC process will further lead us to review the Paris Agreement from 2015. We will discuss how effective it can be in dealing with one of the biggest threats of the 21st century and whether it can still achieve its goal of limiting global warming to “well below 2°C/1.5°C”.
A special session will be devoted to technological, political, social and economic solutions to environmental issues. Do we – as purported by some – need to replace capitalism and stop economic growth in order to prevent further environmental destruction? Or is there a way to move towards a “green growth”, and utilize the benefits of the free market to increase environmental protection? This will lead us to the question of what the future will look like. Will we continue to cross planetary boundaries and endanger the capability of different ecosystems? Or will the 21st century witness a major shift away from fossil fuels and environmental destruction to a more sustainable economy?
The discussions in the class will be complemented by at least two field trips and possibly a visit of a guest speaker.
The course is designed for students with different academic backgrounds and a general interest in sustainability and sustainable development. There are no special prerequisites for the course.
1.) Attendance and class participation
A course reader will be provided.