Köhler: Award Winners promote a new industrial revolution encompassing the whole world

President voiced concern about climate and biodiversity on the occasion of the ceremony of the German Environmental Award

Aachen. The German Environmental Award of the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt DBU has been presented for the 15th time. Europe's highest funded environmental award, worth € 500,000, is shared between three winners: the Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Professor Dr. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber (57), the founder of the company Konvekta AG, Carl H. Schmitt (76) along with his long-time product development manager and present-day Director of the Institute for Thermodynamics of the Technical University (TU) Brunswick, Professor Jürgen Köhler (53), as well as the former long-time Lord Mayor of Heidelberg, Beate Weber (63). On the occasion of the award ceremony Federal President Köhler underlined the huge importance for mankind to protect against climate change: "The process of climate change  demonstrates very clearly that the nations of the world depend on one another. Now, I can see that there is a vital opportunity for the international community to also be a place of learning and responsibility.”

Need to protect "our one world's" natural ressources

Köhler, who was to present the award in person, as in previous years, was not able to attend the ceremony in Aachen due to technical reasons concerning the VIP-Flugbereitschaft. He released a statement underlining the need to prevent that climate change will deprive millions of people of their food sources and their homes. He also emphasized the need to protect “our one world’s” natural resources. The in-depth scientific analysis of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed clearly that urgent action was required. Köhler: "As a matter of fact we need to act now. Because the longer we wait, the fewer options we will have and the higher the cost of climate change”.

Köhler demanded a successfull resolution of a Kyoto succession protocol

In his statement the head of state demanded a successful resolution of a Kyoto succession protocol for the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Bali in December. The Kyoto Protocol is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which set binding goals for greenhouse gas emissions between 1997 and 2012. It is clear that in their struggle against global carbon dioxide emissions the industrial nations will have to  make some of the biggest changes they have ever faced. As the main source of anthropogenic climate change they have to explicitly contribute to its combat. However, it is just as important to uncouple economic growth from the emissions in the emerging markets. This is above all a technological challenge. Köhler: "Our affluent societies not only have an obligation, but have also an interest in supporting the poorer countries, so that they do not repeat our mistakes."

"No sensible alternative to a global political cooperation exists"

Like no other topic the threats of climate change illustrate that "no sensible alternative to a global political cooperation exists" in the 21st century. Köhler praised the proposal of Germany's head of government, Angela Merkel, as "a way to success". This proposition favours the levelling in the long-term of carbon dioxide emissions per capita, between the industrialized countries and emerging markets". Köhler: "Every human being has, as a matter of principle, a right to an equal, if restricted, volume of CO2 emissions; and must have the chance of development and the possibility of a life free from misery and poverty." However, the climate debate leads to a raise in societal awareness  that  we live in a world where our daily actions have effects on peoples' lives in quite different regions and that the world community can only solve the given problems by joining forces. 

Köhler: "We bite the hand that feeds us”

The Federal President described the anthropogenic loss of biodiversity as alarming. Since 1970, the number of species has declined by approximately 40 percent world-wide, whole ecosystems are in danger. About two fifths of the tropical rain forest have been destroyed. Every year, it diminishes by an area equal to that of Southern Germany. Köhler: "We bite the hand that feeds us”. To considerably reduce the loss of the biodiversity, greater efforts are clearly necessary. Köhler: "All of us - in the North like in the South, in the West like in the East – have to understand that the wonderful variety of nature is a common heritage that we can only protect through common action.”

Concept to advance the "new industrial revolution”?

The challenges of protecting against climate change and loss of biodiversity are gigantic, but not impossible to resolve. Köhler: "With modern, carbon-light technologies; with a more sustainable lifestyle embodied by a motto of „living well“ rather than “having a lot”; and a sustainable partnership between the rich and the poor countries, we can ensure the world remains habitable for our children and grandchildren.“ The question is whether a courageous and coherent concept to advance the "new industrial revolution” already exists. The winners of the German Environmental Award have provided some encouraging and innovative solutions to this question.

Schellnhuber has shaped the international discussion about the protection against climate change decisively with his high competence and personal commitment

Professor Dr. Martin Faulstich, member of the German Advisory Council on the Environment, emphasized in his video message in praise of Professor Schellnhuber, that he has shaped the international discussion about the protection against climate change decisively with his high competence and personal commitment. There was no longer any doubt about global warming and that it threatened the earth more than previously assumed. Decisive and common political and scientific action is necessary more than ever. A figure who embodies this cooperation very prominently is the director of the PIK. In reference to the award winners Köhler and Schmitt, Faulstich underlined that it was thanks to their pioneering work that an ecological alternative to highly climate-damaging refrigerants in vehicle A/C systems existed. The Konvekta Team was awarded for its long standing, persistent, and innovative work in the field of refrigeration and air-conditioning. They have demonstrated that intensive cooperation between small businesses and scientific research can be successful.

Schellnhuber clearly rejects an "ecodictatorship”

Schellnhuber criticized the fact that until recently the reminders about climate change had always fallen on deaf ears; it was only in 2007 that change was brought about. The situation is in fact critical, and anything but a “luxury problem”. With regards to fossil fuels such as gas, oil and coal, it is necessary to rethink our energy supplies and, above all, to promote renewable energies. Given that a climate change of two degrees will occur, cities will need to be planned in a new way. This means "affluent suburbs” have to be planned on the outskirts of cities to provide the citizens with an efficient bioenergy supply. However, Schellnhuber clearly rejects an "ecodictatorship”. Instead, civil societies have to be even more mobilized in order to force political authorities to adopt solutions to these problems.

Courage of the German car industry

Schmitt and Köhler emphasized that the use of natural CO2 as a refrigerant in vehicle A/C systems, as a substitute for chemicals 1,400-fold more climate-damaging than CO2, caused additional production costs at first - however this was the case with every new technology. Furthermore, it was in the interest of the chemical industry to remain in this profitable market. Because of this the courage of the German car industry to adopt this new technology must be recognized. It awaits to be seen whether this technology will succeed in the US market where the climate change debate is very recent. It is hoped that Nobel peace laureate Al Gore will engage himself in this issue. He has previously promised to investigate vehicle air-conditioning that is less harmful to the environment.

Beate Weber - pioneering activities in local environmental protection

In his video message, Professor Klaus Töpfer, former Director of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), said that global sustainable development could only be achieved if practiced locally. Beate Weber, former Lord Mayor of Heidelberg, is a prime example of such action. She received the German Environmental Award for her pioneering activities in local environmental protection where “she represented and credibly practiced her work on local level and made it known even beyond Germany”. Töpfer: "She received the award to show that action on a local level has wider repercussions and is necessary for a sustainable planet.”

Weber: „It is necessary to act - and possible to do so”

Beate Weber said it had given her a lot of pleasure to deal with this interesting topic at political level. Thanks to her „wonderful colleagues“ from the Heidelberg municipality she succeeded in reorganising structures, and connected global thinking with local action. Waiting for top-down measures to be implemented was not sufficient; action in the community was needed via a bottom-up approach. It was not only due to legislation but also through joint efforts that Heidelberg succeeded in involving the city’s enterprises in environmental and anti-climate change activities and in winning them over as reliable partners for the future. Weber, discussing climate change, asserts: ”It is necessary to act, and possible to do so.”

The Winners of the German Environmental Award 2007 from the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU), (fr.l.): Prof. Dr. Jürgen Köhler, Prof. Dr. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Beater Weber and Carl H. Schmitt.