Circular Economy in the EU: Measures and a new Monitoring Framework

The EU has recently published a “Circular Economy Package”, introducing various measures designed to advance the transition to a circular economy. Among these is a monitoring system that can assess progress towards a circular economy. The foundations for this monitoring framework were developed by the Institute of Social Ecology in Vienna in collaboration with the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission in Ispra.

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Human impacts on forests and grasslands much larger and older than previously assumed

Human biomass utilization reduces global carbon stocks in vegetation by 50%, implying that massive emissions of CO2 to the atmosphere have occurred over the past centuries and millennia. The contribution of forest management and livestock grazing on natural grasslands to global carbon losses is of similar magnitude as that of deforestation. Currently, these effects are underappreciated in existing global carbon models and assessments of the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from land-based production. Without full consideration of land management effects, global climate forecasts and calculations of the GHG effects of future bioenergy policies are error prone, seriously jeopardizing the robust evaluation of measures that would help achieving the 1,5°C target of the Paris Agreement. These are some of the result of a study headed by Karl-Heinz Erb from the Institute of Social Ecology, published in the scientific journal “Nature” on 20.12.2017.

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The river, a legal entity

In November 2016, the Constitutional Court of Colombia decided to grant the Río Atrato personality rights. The judgement was published in May 2017. As part of his doctoral thesis, the geographer Moremi Zeil is investigating the framework conditions, causes and – above all – the consequences of this judgement. 

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New research shows: Organic farming can make an important contribution to world nutrition

A global conversion to organic farming can contribute to a profoundly sustainable food system, provided that it is combined with further measures, specifically with a one-third reduction of animal-based products in the human diet, less concentrated feed and less food waste. At the same time, this type of food system has extremely positive ecological effects, i.e. considerable reduction of fertilizers and pesticides, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions – and does not lead to increased land use, despite lower agricultural yields. These are the findings of a new study, which included the Vienna-based Department of Social Ecology among its contributors. Results have recently been published in “Nature Communications”.   

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Current insights into social ecology: special issue of the journal ‚Sustainability‘ published

In the last decades social ecology has made important contributions to sustainability research. As the science of societal relationship to nature it evolved in the late 1980s. Today, the approach that understands complex environmental problems to be rooted in the critical relationship between society and nature is regarded to be fundamental for research dealing with sustainable development. Now, with a special issue of the renowned international journal ‘Sustainability’ a comprehensive insight is given to the state of the art of social-ecological research.

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Advanced ERC Grant for Helmut Haberl

Grants awarded by the European Research Council are among the most prestigious research prizes European researchers can hope to attract. Human Ecologist Helmut Haberl (Institute of Social Ecology) is the most recent recipient of an Advanced ERC Grant, valued at almost 2.5 million EURO over a period of five years. Together with his collaborators in the Institute of Social Ecology and at Humboldt University, Helmut Haberl will investigate the role of material stocks for the development towards a sustainable society.

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Durstige Landwirtschaft: Übermäßige Grundwassernutzung bedroht Lebensmittelversorgung weltweit

Der Anbau international gehandelter Lebensmittel zapft immer größere Mengen an nicht-erneuerbarem Grundwasser an. Dies führt dazu, dass die Grundwasservorräte schrumpfen – die zukünftige Verfügbarkeit von Lebensmitteln und Wasser gerät damit weltweit in Gefahr, warnt ein internationales Forscherteam im Fachblatt „Nature”. Laut den Expertinnen und Experten des University College of London, des Senckenberg, der Alpen-Adria-Universität, der NASA and des International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, ist die Menge an nicht-erneuerbarem Grundwasser, das zur Bewässerung genutzt wird, von 2000 bis 2010 um knapp ein Viertel angestiegen.

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“Today’s profiteers have to stop making profits”

Michael Gizicki-Neundlinger has carried out a case study exploring agriculture around Castle Grafenegg in Lower Austria during the 1830s. The social ecologist is convinced that the insights gained from the study could be used to better understand the state of current global agriculture.

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Grasslands hold potential for increased food production

Managing grazing on grasslands in a more efficient way could significantly increase global milk and meat production or free up land for other uses.

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China: CO₂ footprint of wealthy households reaches European level

Between 2007 and 2012 the overall CO2 footprint of Chinese households increased by 19 per cent. 75 per cent of this gain can be attributed to increased levels of consumption by the middle classes and the wealthy. The top income groups have now reached the level of the average European, while two thirds of the population remain on the very lowest level. As a result of the changing Chinese lifestyles, there is now a need for political interventions, in order to manage the impact on climate change. A recent publication in Nature Climate Change explores these developments.

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