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 International Symposium 

Global Sustainable Development Goals in a Mediatized World 

April 4 – 5, 2019

Austrian Academy of Sciences

Dr. Ignaz Seipel-Platz 2, 1010 Vienna

 Program [PDF]


DAY OF ARRIVAL      03 April 2019

▼ DAY 1      04 April 2019 

▼ DAY 2      05 April 2019 

04 April 2019



09:00 – 09:45      

Welcoming remarks

Anton Zeilinger, President, Austrian Academy of Sciences
Heinz Fischer, Former Federal President of the Republic of Austria and Co-chair, Ban Ki-moon Centre
Martin Netzer, Secretary General, Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research
Josef Plank, Secretary General, Austrian Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism 


09:45 – 10:15      

Global Sustainable Development Goals and what they mean for the countries of the Global North

Wolfgang Lutz

Member of the Independent Group of Scientists producing the UN Global Sustainable Development Report, Director of the Wittgenstein Center for Demography and Global Human Capital (VID/ÖAW, IIASA, WU), Member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences

10:15 – 10:45      

Coffee Break 

Session 1     

10:45 – 12:30      

Implementing the Agenda 2030 in a Mediatized World

CHAIR: Matthias Karmasin 

Director, Institute for Comparative Media and Communication Studies of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Alpen-Adria-University, Professor for Media and Communication Studies, Alpen-Adria-University Klagenfurt, Member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences


Conveying inconvenient thruths - the relevance of communication for sustainable development
Introductory remarks by Matthias Karmasin


What is “sustainability communication” and why is it relevant in the context of the SDGs? 

Jasmin Godemann

Professor of Communication and Engagement in Agricultural, Nutritional and Environmental Sciences, Justus-Liebig-University of Giessen



Sustainability communication is classified as a ‘soft’ or persuasive instrument and is one of a number of information and advisory instruments that has gained popularity since the 1980s. But simply emphasising the importance of sustainability and the meaningfulness of the SDGs is certainly not enough to mobilise change towards a sustainable future. Sustainability communication does more than just convey information – it also conveys values and attitudes with regard to the SDGs. Keeping in mind that humans constructing their reality on the basis of perceptions and experiences and come to their own understanding one can say it is not what we teach it is what they learn. Successful sustainability communication depends on the ability to recognize and reflect on the different perceptions that exist in communication about the SDGs in society. Which messages about the SDG have actually been taken on board by the population and which are given sense in terms of day-to-day actions and are compatible within the population? What opportunities to communicate at the institutional level might be identified? etc. The challenge for sustainability communication is to create information that resonates within society and develop communication strategies that make sustainable actions more likely.

Transition or Transformation? The Meanings of Sustainability in a Mediatized World

Roy Bendor

Assistant Professor, Department of Industrial Design, Delft University of Technology



As the risks of climate change become more severe and palpable, so do the challenges faced by society. One such challenge is the need to galvanize and consolidate wide public support for a rapid and just transition to a more sustainable world. However, underlying paths for such a transition are different understandings of what sustainability means in theory and practice: how it relates to questions of scientific knowledge, to notions of political agency and self-efficacy, and how it opens up to a plurality of futures. In this talk I will suggest that the different meanings of sustainability are informed and made concrete – are mediatized – by the digital, interactive technologies used to engage the public with sustainability. I will propose four such meanings, illustrate them with a variety of interactive media, and draw some conclusions in relation to the difference between policy-led transitions and publicly pursued transformations.

SDGs, Media and the Network Society

Alison Anderson

Professor, School of Law, Criminology & Government at the University of Plymouth, UK and Adjunct Professor, School of Social Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia



Media, particularly digital platforms, will play a critical role in achieving the SDGs by 2030. The Network Society is a complex communications environment with rapid, dynamic, over-lapping flows, and an increasingly image driven culture. Typically climate change makes up a minuscule proportion of all news content. The appetite for such stories among news editors has been volatile and shaped by a number of wider socio-political factors. The global recession and cuts in environmental journalism beats have led to new challenges. This is particularly the case for the most vulnerable regions, where there tends to be heavy reliance on Western news agencies and limited resources for journalist training. Web 2.0 and the rise of citizen journalism have provided new opportunities, but there are dangers with approaches that over-emphasize or underplay its potential power to drive change. There are still major divides in media literacy and access to digital platforms around the world. Simply providing people with more and better information does not necessarily lead to behaviour change; an understanding of opportunities and barriers is needed, including an appreciation of intrinsic motivations and infrastructural factors.

12:30 – 14:00     

Lunch Break 

Session 2     

14:00 – 15:30       

Meeting the challenges of SDG 15: Life on land

CHAIR: Albert van Jaarsveld 

Director General and Chief Executive Officer, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

The Sustainable Agriculture Matrix

Eric A. Davidson

Director and Professor at the Appalachian Laboratory of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science



As a major driver of land-use change, agriculture links the SDGs for ending hunger and supporting life on land. However, acknowledgment and communication of what constitutes sustainable agriculture and how it can be implemented remain challenging, in part because the biophysical and socioeconomic components are poorly integrated. We developed a Sustainable Agriculture Matrix (SAM) of quantitative indicators at national scales from environmental, economic, and social dimensions to: (1) provide a consistent and transparent measurement of each nation’s performance; (2) investigate socioeconomic and ecological drivers and their synergies and tradeoffs for sustainability; and (3) quantify and visualize the impacts of current agricultural production on future sustainability. Metrics reported by country and year track each country’s progress. SAM aims to serve as a platform to engage conversations among stakeholders involved in agriculture and to forge positive changes towards sustainability.

Educating and raising awareness by practicing sciences to achieve SDG 15 in a mediatized world

Laura Bertha Reyes Sánchez

Chair for Soil Sciences at the Agricultural Engineering Department, National and Autonomous University of Mexico & President-elect of the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS)



Not having a fertile soil that allows us to have enough food and water is already a serious problem, but more serious are the social situations that its deficit engenders: loss of food safety and public health, poverty, displacement, inequality, violence and injustice as a result of famine. The loss and degradation of the soil resource means the loss of all terrestrial flora, and with it that of the fauna that it feeds. It also means a terrible loss of planetary biodiversity, a serious destruction of the food chain of which we are a part, as well as the reduction of its capacities of available water reserve and C capture to lessen climate change in the long term but in real terms. In this context the protection of the soil resource and an interdisciplinary and innovative education and practice of sciences to raise citizens' awareness on the importance of its preservation -working all the sciences as a team in a mediatized world-, are key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

15:30 – 16:00     

Coffee Break 

Session 3     

16:00 – 17:30      

The SDGs as a technological challenge particularly in the field of energy and smart grids 

CHAIR: Georg Brasseur

Professor for Electrical Measurement and Measurement Signal Processing, Technical University Graz and President of the Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Austrian Academy of Sciences

Boosting Wind and Solar Energy (SDG 7): Opportunities and Technological Challenges

Lucy Y. Pao 

Professor for Dynamics & Controls, Electrical, Computer & Energy Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder



Wind and solar energy are recognized as environmentally friendly sources of electrical energy. As they are becoming more cost effective, worldwide installations of wind and solar power have been increasing. However, science and engineering challenges still exist, in particular with regard to maintaining a reliable power grid.  In this talk, we will first provide an overview of the growth of wind and solar energy worldwide and briefly review wind and solar energy technologies. We will point out several challenges to reaching the goal of having renewable energy provide 100% of the world’s energy needs. We will then outline a few novel ideas that are being explored to address some of the challenges, and we shall close by pointing to further research avenues to enable much higher wind and solar energy penetrations while simultaneously maintaining and possibly increasing the reliability of the power grid.


Carbon dioxide recycling to useful chemical products and synthetic fuels

Niyazi Serdar Sarıçiftçi 

Professor for Physical Chemistry, Institute of Physical Chemistry and Linz Institute of Organic Solar Cells, Johannes Kepler University Linz and Member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences



CO2 and climate change
Already in 1896, Svante Arrhenius discussed in his work the impact of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) on the greenhouse effect. According to his calculations, Arrhenius stated even back then the correlation of CO2 content in the atmosphere and increase of Earth’s temperature.  Nowadays concerns regarding greenhouse gases, particularly CO2, and global warming affect politics, economy and society. In comparison to other greenhouse gases such as methane (CH4) and water vapor, CO2 has the highest impact on global warming, as the atmospheric residence time is the highest and the content in the atmosphere is moreover on second place after water vapor. ,  
CO2 is generated from the combustion of fossil carbon (oil, gas, coal) and biomass in which energy is released. Due to the finite reserve of fossil-C, another issue is now rising: the convenience to recycle carbon, more than to release it to the atmosphere or dispose it underground. Based on these facts primarily utilization of CO2 and substitution of fossil fuels as energy carriers have become some of the most discussed topics and have especially drawn attention in scientific community.  

Carbon Dioxide as Chemical Feedstock
To reduce atmospheric CO2 generally two approaches comprising different techniques are considered. In the Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) approach CO2 is stored in deep rock cavities under sea and land.  
Differently, in the Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU) approach CO2 is regarded as a carbon feedstock and starting material for artificial fuels and chemicals. With this strategy both issues, depletion of fossil fuels and reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere, are taken into account. CCU has the potential to create a cyclic carbon economy.

From the chemical point of view carbon dioxide is a highly stable molecule with the carbon atom. To produce energy rich chemicals from CO2, energy and hydrogen are necessary. Both of them must be generated from renewable energies such as sun, wind, hydropower, geothermal energy. This is a must to achieve CO2 neutrality of such synthetic fuel cycles.

Carbon neutral cycle as industrial model process
If we use synthetic fuels for our transport and industry, than these vehicles emit exactly the same amount of CO2 into the atmosphere, as we have recycled for their creation. In addition, if the whole energy input into this CO2 to synthetic fuel transformation process is coming from renewable energies like solar and wind, than this whole process is indeed CO2 neutral. This industrial process is surely a neutral cyclic use of carbon.
As such, this cyclic use of carbon will be important for future industrial processes as a whole. Many industrial production methods rely on the fact that CO2 emissions are with no significant consequences. However, in future, the carbon dioxide emissions will most probably be quite expensive, if not prohibited. In that moment, such technologies for using carbon neutral cycles will be important to the industrial production processes in general.

17:30 – 18:00     

Community Resonance

18:00 – 18:30     


18:30 – 19:30     

The World in 2050 and the Six Grand Transformations

Nebojsa Nakicenovic 

Deputy Director General, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)



Industrial revolution brought great progress to humanity. Population increased sevenfold, life expectancy doubled, economic output increased hundredfold and there are as many telephone connections as people in the world. At the same time, many were left behind. Some three billion do not have access to modern cooking and sanitation. Billion people go home hungry and do not have access to electricity yet many of them have to charge their phones. Those left behind are the most vulnerable to negative consequences of the industrial revolution that range from climate change to biodiversity loss. The humanity is at crossroads. Unbounded growth is endangering planetary support systems and increasing inequalities, rich are getting richer and poor even poorer. The transformation toward sustainable future is an alternative possibility for people and the planet – a just and equitable world for all.

This is exactly what the United Nations 2030 Agenda (adopted on 27 September 2015) offers and is thus a great gift to humanity; it offers a new “social contract” with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is an aspirational and ambitious vision of the desired future for human development within planetary boundaries – a world free from hunger, injustice and poverty, leading to universal education, health and employment with inclusive economic growth, based on transparency, dignity and equity.

The objective of The World In 2050 (TWI2050) initiative is to develop transformational pathways toward achieving all 17 SDGs by 2050 using an integrated and systems approach. TWI2050 was established by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) to provide scientific foundations for the 2030 Agenda and policy advise for achieving SDGs so as to avoid potential conflicts among the 17 goals and reap the benefits of potential synergies of achieving them in unison. It is based on the voluntary and collaborative effort of more than 60 authors from about 20 institutions, and some 100 independent experts from academia, business, government, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations from all the regions of the world.

Central is TWI2050 framework that includes the integrated pathways which harness the synergies and multiple benefits across SDGs, and approaches to governing this sustainability transformation. TWI2050 identifies six transformations which will allow achieving the SDGs and long-term sustainability to 2050 and beyond: i) Human capacity and demography; ii) Consumption and production; iii) Decarbonization and energy, iv) Food, biosphere and water; v) Smart cities and vi) Digital revolution.



Verena Winiwarter

Professor for Environmental History, Institute of Social Ecology, University of Natural Resources & Life Sciences, Vienna and Member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences



Simone Gingrich

Senior Scientist, Institute of Social Ecology, University of Natural Resources & Life Sciences, Vienna and Member of the Young Academy of the OeAW


Human Nature: The Art of Sustainability

Exhibition curated by: Anna Artaker, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and Member of the Young Academy of the OeAW&Uwe Sleytr, University of Natural Resources & Life Sciences, Vienna and Member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences

Evening Reception

DAY OF ARRIVAL      03 April 2019

▲ DAY 1      04 April 2019 

▼ DAY 2      05 April 2019 

05 April 2019


Session 4     

09:00 – 10:30      

Good Health and Well-Being

CHAIR: Wolfgang Lutz 

Member of the Independent Group of Scientists producing the UN Global Sustainable Development Report, Director of the Wittgenstein Center for Demography and Global Human Capital (VID/ÖAW, IIASA, WU), Member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences  

Dementia in an Ageing World

Gabriele Doblhammer 

Professor of Empirical Methods in Social Science and Demography, University of Rostock, Group Leader at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), Bonn and Member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences



Dementia is one of the most common, yet incurable, diseases at old age. In 2010, an estimated number of 36.6 million people worldwide suffered from dementia. The number is expected to double every 20 years, resulting in 65.7 million individuals with dementia in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050. In Europe, dementia is the top third disease that contributes to death and patients suffer from long years with low quality of life resulting in premature mortality. In addition, it is one of the most costly diseases at old age, primarily due to the high demand for care. Whether the aging of the babyboomers in the western world together with the worldwide increase in life expectancy will result in a dementia epidemic depends on the trends in the incidence and prevalence of dementia. Results from recent studies point towards a decline in dementia /severe cognitive impairment in developed countries. While at present, no cure of dementia is available, positive developments with respect to life-style and risk factors of dementia at young and middle ages might have positive long-term effects on the risk of dementia at old age. Whether this trend will also extend to the emerging nations, where risk factors of dementia are rising in younger generations is still open. Adequate medical treatment of hypertension and diabetes at middle and old age as well as the prevention of falls and extremity injuries among the old might help to postpone dementia into higher ages.


25 years after Cairo. How can the Sustainable Development Goals agenda help to close the gaps in reproductive health and reproductive rights?

Nyovani Janet Madise 

Director of Research and Development Policy and Head of the Malawi Office of the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP)



In 1994, the world made commitments in Cairo at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) to implement a Programme of Action (PoA) which would ensure universal access to reproductive health and reproductive rights if implemented fully. 25 years after Cairo, there has been tremendous progress in many aspects of reproductive health, but there remain challenges and limited access to sexual and reproductive healthcare for some. The Sustainable Development Goals (3.7 and 5.6) re-emphasised the Cairo message by promoting universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights, but increasingly, there are political, social, economic and geographical challenges that undermine progress in this area. Focusing on selected countries in sub-Saharan Africa, we examine the challenges to progress of the ICPD Plan of Action.  We will draw on data from the Demographic and Health Surveys, literature review, and policy reviews.  We conclude with some suggestions on how the SDGs framework might advance the ICPD PoA.

10:30 – 11:00     

Coffee/Tea Break   

Session 5     

11:00 – 12:30      

Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals on a global basis

CHAIR: Verena Winiwarter 

Professor for Environmental History, Institute of Social Ecology, University of Natural Resources & Life Sciences, Vienna and Member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences

Calling for a nexus approach to achieve Sustainable Development Goals   

Linxiu Zhang

Director, United Nations Environment Programme – International Ecosystem Management Partnership (UNEP-IEMP)   



The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) launched at the end of 2016 a decade-long (2016-2025) flagship programme on Climate, Ecosystems and Livelihoods (CEL), with the aim to assist developing countries in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate targets while protecting their ecosystems and improving the livelihoods of their people. The CEL programme is a major initiative to promote long-term South-South cooperation between China and other developing countries, led by the United Nations Environment Programme International Ecosystem Management Partnership (UNEP-IEMP). This presentation will start by a brief discussion on the role of nexus approach in SDGs implementation efforts at global level. Then, the conceptual framework and implementation strategy of the CEL programme will be introduced. Some elaboration of project implementation on the ground will be also provided.

Interdisciplinary science based policies for SDGs

Vladimír Šucha

Director-General, Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission's science and knowledge service



Following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda in September 2015, the European Union (EU) has worked on mainstreaming the 17 SDGs across its policies and projects. While offering a solid and internationally agreed framework for shaping agendas at the global, the EU and national levels, the SDGs also represent the quintessential example of a 'wicked' policy challenge requiring knowledge-based and science-informed solutions. 

In a world of scientific controversies, post-fact politics, information overload and growing uncertainty, there is a risk to fall short of our global ambition to reconcile economic efficiency, social solidarity and environmental responsibility. In this challenging landscape, strengthened cross-fertilization between policy and science and meaningful engagement with citizens are a key prerequisite to identify fact based and comprehensive sustainability policies. 

As the European Commission's science and knowledge service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), harnessing its multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and cutting-edge expertise, has engaged in a continuous cooperation with policy makers and scientists, to understand the qualitative and quantitative drivers of sustainability, contributing thereby to the implementation of specific SDGs across the various geographical and policy areas.

As an example, the JRC's Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystem (WEFE) Nexus, by addressing the interdependencies between water security (SDG 6), energy security (SDG 7), food security (SDG 2) and ecosystem (SDG 14, SDG 15) contributes to shaping a cross-sectoral response for ensuring universal prosperity and well-being within our planet's capacity to regenerate. In this context, where increased consumption of critical raw materials may put further strain on the already degrading natural resources, the JRC's Raw Materials Information System (RMIS)has been at the heart of the European Commission's emerging policy response for a better governance of raw materials reserves.

Over time, EU and international policies have recognised the crucial role of sustainable production and consumption (SDG 12) in curbing the negative feedbacks from the economic growth on the environment. Through the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) method, the JRC is providing the European Commission with a framework to measure the overall environmental impact of EU consumption against the "planetary boundaries" and the SDGs.

Within the Covenant of Mayors initiative, the JRC is contributing to engage an ever-growing number of European (i.e. Ghent, Trento, Sevilla) and African (i.e. Kampala, Dakar, Nouakchott) cities and local governments, in the fight against climate change and the implementation of sustainable energy policies within their territories. In the same line, through the #EU4Facts campaign, the JRC is raising awareness on climate change and counteracting the effects of fake news, populism and climate scepticism, which represent a serious challenge for the achievement of the Paris Agreement and the EU decarbonisation objectives.

Sustainable development is a great example to illustrate the complex relationship between evidence, policy and society. We cannot achieve the SDGs without science but how can we achieve the SDGs by having science better integrated in policies and its role better understood and trusted by the citizens?

Reaching a consensus on the "right” or "best" pathway for implementing SDGs may be challenging, especially where a proposed solution will imply short-term trade-offs. In these circumstances, as scientists, we need to work on a new, anticipatory, unbiased decision-making model which can help pointing a direction toward an inclusive and evidence informed consensus.

12:30 – 14:00     

Lunch Break 

Session 6   

14:00 – 15:00      

15:00 – 16:30     


Poster Session

Rethinking the Future, Science, and the SDGs

Moderator: Riel Miller, Head of Futures Literacy, UNESCO


  • Andreas Baumgarten, Head, Department for Soil Health and Plant Nutrition, Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety
  • Sibel Eker, Postdoctoral Research Scholar, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
  • Franz Michael Fehr, Coordinator for Strategic Projects of the Rector's Office, University of Natural Resources & Life Sciences, Vienna
  • Georg Gratzer, Deputy Head, Institute of Forest Ecology, University of Natural Resources & Life Sciences, Vienna
  • Rosanna Kral, Scientific Project Staffmember, Centre for Development Research, University of Natural Resources & Life Sciences, Vienna
  • Andreas Melcher, Head, Centre for Development Research, University of Natural Resources & Life Sciences, Vienna
  • Sofie Mittas, PhD Researcher, Institut for Social and Economic History, Johannes Kepler University Linz
  • Simone Gingrich, Senior Scientist, Institute of Social Ecology, University of Natural Resources & Life Sciences, Vienna and Member of the Young Academy of the OeAW
  • Harald Pauli, Deputy Director, Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences, and Research staff in Strategic Cooperation,Department of Integrative Biology and Biodiversity Research University of Natural Resources & Life Sciences, Vienna
  • Josef Seethaler, Deputy Director, Institute for Comparative Media and Communication Studies of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Alpen-Adria-University, Austrian Academy of Sciences

16:30 – 17:00     

Coffee Break 

Session 7     

17:00 – 18:00      

Lessons learned 

Moderator: Riel Miller, Head of Futures Literacy, UNESCO

  • Research communities 
    Marina Fischer-Kowalski, Professor, University of Natural Resources & Life Sciences, Vienna
  • Science communication
    Martin Bernhofer, Head, Science Department, Austrian Broadcasting Corporation - Programme Radio 1
  • Environment Agency Austria
    Karl Kienzl, Deputy Managing Director
  • Statistics Austria 
    Konrad Pesendorfer, Director General
  • Austrian Academy of Sciences
    Michael Alram, Vice President

DAY OF ARRIVAL      03 April 2019

▲ DAY 1      04 April 2019 

▲ DAY 2      05 April 2019