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New Institute for environmental decisions
Exploring environmental decisions

Published: 26.04.2007 06:00
Modified: 25.04.2007 21:10

(fs) On Thursday 12 April 2007 ETH Zurich opened the Institute for Environmental Decisions (IED), the first of its kind in Europe. Researchers from three different ETH Zurich departments; Political Sciences, Psychology and Economics, join forces under the roof of a shared Institute. They explore how individual and collective decisions relating to resources and the environment are taken. The IED also investigates the obstacles that inhibit decision-making. In addition the new Institute prepares proposals that address how the obstacles can be overcome through communication, economic incentives and “rules of play” in politics.

Giving direct advice is the aim

According to Professor Renate Schubert, the IED researchers want to address various interest groups directly, for example through scientific publications, newsletters, conferences and workshops, rather than limiting themselves to a theoretical model-oriented level. The IED aims its activities at companies, international organisations, farming and consumer groups. The IED is also available for direct consultancy assignments. Schubert stresses that “As a result of the broad social sciences orientation and well-developed natural sciences and technology know-how at ETH Zurich, the new Institute can support environmental decisions innovatively and comprehensively.”

Moreover, the IED offers courses in Environmental Science und Agro-ecosystems in the context of two Master’s degree program. The former focus on complex environmental systems such as climate and forest, and on social factors (Sociology, Economics, Politics), while the latter concentrate on the optimum management of natural resources, paying special attention to societal requirements and consumer demands.

A decision-making basis for politicians

Through its research, the IED’s aim is to create important foundations for political processes while at the same time helping decision-makers to reach effective and sustainable decisions. Bruno Oberle, Director of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (BAFU), covered the spectrum from the management of natural resources to various political areas in the paper he presented at the inauguration of the IED. He said that “Industry and society gain the maximum benefits when the bases of life are intact in the long term.”

The IED at the D-UWIS

Formally the IED (Institute for Environmental Decisions) belongs to the Department of Environmental Sciences (D-UWIS). Six professorships from three Departments of ETH Zurich are involved in the IED: Prof. Thomas Bernauer (International Relations), Prof. Stefanie Engel (Environmental Policy and Economics), Prof. Bernard Lehmann (Agrifood and Agrienvironmental Economics), Prof. Roland W. Scholz (Natural and Social Science), Prof. Michael Siegrist (Consumer Behaviour) und Prof. Renate Schubert (Economic Research).

The Director of the new Institute is Professor Renate Schubert. She presented her unit’s programme yesterday. (Photo: P. Rüegg)

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