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Stuttgart. The German Environmental Award of the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU) has been presented for the 19th time. The associate, co-founder and board spokesman of memo AG (Greussenheim), Jürgen Schmidt (48), and the managing directors of the company WS Wärmeprozesstechnik (Renningen), Dr Joachim Alfred Wünning (81) and Dr Joachim Georg Wünning (48), received the prize today in the Liederhalle in Stuttgart. The 500,000-euro award, the most lucrative environmental prize in Europe, was presented by German President Christian Wulff. Wulff praised the prizewinners as classic examples of how prosperity and well-being could be created and good money made using the least amount of finite resources and producing the least possible amount of pollution. Wulff: “With your innovations, you have not simply improved details, but have set new standards as well.”
“Both important for making our methods of trade and industry environment-friendly and thus sustainable into the future”
Wulff told the 1,100 guests – who included German Environment Minister Dr Norbert Röttgen and Baden-Württemberg’s prime minister, Winfried Kretschmann – that the father-and-son team of the Wünnings had expedited a big and fundamental technological innovation with their new combustion method. The other prizewinner, Schmidt, he said, had initiated many small innovations that were, however, just as important. Wulff: “Both are extremely important for making our methods of trade and industry environment-friendly and thus sustainable into the future.” Wulff said the example of memo AG showed that more sustainability “often doesn’t mean more costs, but always more caution, particularly with regard to using all kinds of resources.” And, he said, the company WS Wärmeprozesstechnik proved how much potential there was in innovative technical solutions. Wulff: “Even – or should I say, especially? – in industrial sectors that use extremely large amounts of energy and produce particularly large quantities of pollutants. These sectors are the ones that will be crucial, because Germany’s change in energy policy cannot work without them.”
Including environmental damage in honest calculations of prosperity
Wulff stressed that we had to succeed in gaining the maximum benefit from a unit of raw material, energy or water. He pointed out that with seven billion people now living on the earth, there had never been as many emissions of greenhouses gases caused by human activities as there were today. He said last year’s increase had been the highest since measurements began and was now at a level that should not have been reached until 2020 if global warming was to be restricted to two degrees. And, he said, half of the eco-systems worldwide had already suffered long-term damage. He warned that with a possible world population of eight or nine billion in the near future, the exploitation of nature had to sink drastically to make prosperity sustainable in the long term and available to those who do not yet profit from it. Wulff: “An honest calculation of prosperity – this is becoming increasingly clear – has to include the consequences of environmental damage caused by over-exploitation.”
Industrial nations face climate-protection challenge
But, Wulff continued, legal norms and economic incentives were indispensable if market dynamics were to be guided in an ecological direction. He said that trade and industry needed reliable frameworks that made investment in measures to protect the climate and the environment economically worthwhile in the long term. This was why international agreements with comparable obligations for all competitors were important, he said. Wulff said, however, that he had observed “with great concern” that the path to a follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol was beset by obstacles. He said responsibility lay first and foremost with industrial nations that had produced large amounts of climate-damaging emissions in the past. Wulff: “Europe must be a driving force here. And the USA must also face up to this responsibility much more than previously. But it is also clear that we will fall far short of climate-protection goals without the contribution of all nations.”
Water, soil, biodiversity, finite resources – this capital cannot be increased at will
Wulff said that despite the current financial-market and debt crisis, we should not forget that “our futures are at stake here”. He said the financial crisis in fact went to show “that our growth models do not prove sustainable in the end”. He warned that shortages had to be honestly recognised and that we at long last had to stop “living on credit and above our material means while trusting that future growth would see things right.” He said it was necessary to have a systematic framework that promoted a kind of growth that was economically and ecologically practical and did not destroy reserves – growth that was in harmony with the available resources and did not simply ignore resulting damage. Wulff: “Water, soil, biodiversity, finite resources – this capital cannot be increased at will. The substance of this capital can only be preserved if we at last make more from less. We should not despair at what is impossible, but at our inability to achieve what is possible.”
Products meeting the highest ecological and social standards
The prizewinner Schmidt stressed that the limits of growth had definitely been reached. He said this was why his company sold only products of top quality that met the highest ecological and social standards. Schmidt said memo AG took both conventional, very strict eco-labels such as “Blauer Engel” and fair-trade certificates as guidelines. He said, however, that such products did not need to be more expensive than conventional products, despite this way of thinking and acting.
Potential for saving the same amount of energy as that produced by nuclear power stations
The Wünnings pointed out that their combustion procedure could save ten to 20 percent of energy compared with the current state of technology. They said their technology could basically be used everywhere that flames played a role in production processes, and that it theoretically had the potential to save the amount of energy that nuclear power plants in Germany produced or produce.
“We need a rescue mechanism for endangered creation”
Germany’s change in energy policy was the focus of a discussion – hosted by Katrin Bauerfeind, as was the entire presentation ceremony – between German Environment Minister Röttgen, Prime Minister Kretschmann, the chairman of the DBU board, Hubert Weinzierl, and DBU Secretary General Dr Fritz Brickwedde. There was a clear consensus that energy efficiency and renewable energy sources are the answer to the phase-out of nuclear energy. All agreed that the whole of society – politicians, trade and industry and every individual – had to be taken along a path that was the only viable one, not just ecologically, but economically as well. Weinzierl put it this way: “We have to reduce. We need a culture of frugality, of modesty. We need a rescue mechanism for endangered creation.”
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