LIFE Research Area

Social Transformation Towards a Climate-neutral Society

We are among the leading experts and research partners in the field of social transformation towards a climate-neutral society.

    Credit: iStock/anatoliy_gleb

    Our research focuses on issues relating to

    • the participation of all population groups and civil society,
    • the horizontal and vertical integration of policy fields,
    • new structures for bottom-up decision-making and transformation processes, and
    • collective action in energy communities and local initiatives.

    Climate Change and Social Vulnerability 

    The risks of climate change are unequally distributed both socially and spatially. Various features of social stratification affect how strongly certain population groups are affected by climate impacts. For example, some people are less able to cope with the damage of a natural disaster, some people  have only limited access to heat-resistant dwellings, etc. Climate policies may have a regressive effect and disadvantage low-income groups by taxing everyday consumption, thus making it more difficult for them to switch to less CO2-intensive technologies (e-cars, building renovation, etc.). The impact on households with children is likely to be particularly great due to their relatively high rates of consumption.

    In particular, energy poverty has to be considered at the interface of social, family and climate policies. It results from a triad of high energy costs, low income and poor housing conditions. These three characteristics are central factors in policy scenarios on emission reduction.

    Socio-economic Impact Analysis

    In order to overcome the climate crisis, a fundamental decarbonisation of our economy is unavoidable. This requires, on the one hand, technological innovation, i.e. rapid market implementation of low-carbon technologies to replace fossil fuels, and, on the other hand, the accompanying climate policy measures, such as carbon pricing or emission limits. Climate policy measures and technological innovations vary considerably in terms of their impact and a suitable balance thus needs to be established between effective emission reduction, economic affordability and social equity. A major focus of socio-economic analysis is therefore the evaluation of policy in terms of the relevant criteria.

    In such analysis we use statistical, econometric and macroeconomic models to determine and quantify socio-economic effects, such as those relating to employment, gross domestic product, poverty, welfare, competitiveness, equity, and various capabilities and needs. This is the only way to identify the trade-offs and synergies associated with various measures and innovations, and to ascertain whether the related side effects are welcome or unwelcome.

    Risk Perception and Stakeholder Participation in Climate Risk Management

    The increased risk of flooding as a result of climate change, for example, can lead to considerable economic and social damage. Conflicts then arise concerning the respective priorities of prevention, emergency response and reconstruction activities, as well as between the need for greater protection by the state and the need for greater private self-provision.

    Integrated risk management takes account of all stakeholders, be they in politics, the administration, civil society, or companies, etc. When ascertaining  which risks and options are available, various  interests, assessments and capabilities must be considered.

    Sustainability Aspects of the Tax and Transfer System

    So-called tax and transfer accounts are based on the detailed aggregation of data relating to income taxes, social security contributions and family and socio-political transfer payments at the household level. Researchers  make use of such accounts in order to analyse the nature  and impact of sustainable socio-economic transformation.

    Analysis of Global Value Chains

    Credit: JOANNEUM RESEARCH/Kulmer, Source of data: WIOD 2012, JOANNEUM RESEARCH

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    Precise information on emissions in the global value chain 


    • Babcicky, P., Seebauer, S. (2020). People, not just places: Expanding physical and social vulnerability indices by psychological indicators. JustFair Working Paper No. 1; accepted at 4th European Conference on Flood Risk Management; under review at Journal of Flood Risk Management.
    • Babcicky, P., Seebauer, S., Thaler, T. (2020). Make it personal: Introducing intangible outcomes and psychological sources to flood vulnerability and flood policy. JustFair Working Paper No. 2; submitted to International Conference on Environmental Psychology 2021; under review at Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction.
    • Steiner, C., Seebauer, S. (2013): Energiearmut in der Grazer Bevölkerung. Situationsanalyse und politische Handlungsempfehlungen.