Biodiversity, urban land use change, future energy, water resources, soil, chemicals in the environment – all of these have one thing in common: stakeholders from the public and the private sector as well as civil society determine through their actions and decisions, how the environment will develop. How does this work exactly? On which basis, with which knowledge and with which motivations do different stakeholders make their decisions?
Economists, lawyers, sociologists and political scientists at the UFZ analyse how different stakeholders interact within certain societal basic conditions, rules, standards and values – the so called institutions –, but we must first identify and understand these. We examine negotiation processes between stakeholders (also referred to as governance), through which for example decisions on the use and organization of landscapes might be made. We develop policy instruments such as regulations, charges or tradable permits and attempt to clarify, who must be informed or advised on certain issues, so that knowledge and insights may also be used in decision-making processes.
Since many environmental issues and conflicts are at the interface between ecology and economics, it is important to understand how ecological and economic factors interact. Therefore, social scientists of the UFZ are developing integrated methods of analysis together with natural scientists, to arrive at an overall evaluation of alternative decision possibilities. They combine different methods of analysis such as risk analyses, cost-benefit analyses and conservation analysis. They provide a structure for decision-making processes and consider complexity, uncertainty and knowledge gaps. Models and simulations, that help to describe and project complex processes in the environment more reliably, can therefore be used in the dialogue between scientists and decision-makers from politics and management.
Our goal is to strengthen the practical implementation of environmental research at the UFZ and to put it into a societal setting, in order to improve the conditions and implementation possibilities for environmentally-and socially-compatible life-styles and management practices. Our work follows the general principle of sustainable development.