Working out how a capital city can be climate neutral by 2050

April 15th, 2013 by Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

Satellite view of Berlin (click image to expand - image)

Satellite view of Berlin taken on 3 November 2006 (click image to expand – image courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

Berlin aims to be climate neutral in the year 2050.

A team of experts from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), on behalf of the Berlin Senate, the executive body governing the city of Berlin, will work to show how this goal can be achieved.

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, PIK director, said “if the German capital is pioneering in climate protection to maintain the 2°Celsius limit with regard to global warming, nations will have to act as well as bold local authorities.”

Michael Müller, Berlin Senator for Urban Development and the Environment, highlighted the significance of this feasibility study.

“Berlin has to be a highly energy-efficient and modern city and make use of its opportunities for innovation and investments. This is not only to contribute to the energy transition in Germany. We want to live up to our responsibility for the future and lead by example,” he said.

Until the end of 2013, researchers are going to map out scenarios for the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions in Berlin, aiming at a reduction of per capita emissions from approximately six tons a year now to the target of less than two tons per year by 2050.

This emissions target, if met by everyone, would meet the goal of limiting global warming to an increase of less than 2°Celsius.

To achieve this, significant improvements in the energy efficiency of buildings are necessary as well as a massive integration of renewable energies and the conversion of the transport sector.  Workshops with various stakeholders begin in April 2013.

“Berlin is a city of renters, with a rather average economic power in relation to the other German states,” PIK sociologist and head of the feasibility study, Fritz Reusswig, said.

“Therefore it is crucial to point out practicable and socially acceptable paths to climate neutrality for Berlin. This is an exciting challenge for our team,” he said.

The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research will co-ordinate the research of the organisations involved in the project, and will be responsible for the fields, private households, and consumption.

“Without the active involvement of citizens, climate-neutrality cannot be achieved,” Fritz Reusswig said.

“We will have in mind a perspective beyond Berlin itself to develop our analysis and recommendations,” Bernd Hirschl from the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW) said, who is deputy head of the project.

“A climate neutral Berlin will cooperate with the state of Brandenburg on different levels. We want to emphasize the economic advantages of climate neutrality,” he said.

Senator Müller also aims at reaching beyond the feasibility study itself.

“We are working on an idea for a Berlin legislation for the energy transformation.”

“We know this is an ambitious plan that needs visioning as well as the whole city’s support. The feasibility study is an important milestone on the way to this legislation,” he said.

PIK director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber stressed the model character of the project.

“Our institute analyses the impacts of climate change for the earth system – and develops solutions for very tangible problems and situations all the same. Two years ago we were advisors in climate mitigation and adaption for Brandenburg’s capital Potsdam as our home. We are glad to contribute our expertise for the German capital as well,” Hans Joachim Schellnhuber said.

Members of the consortium headed by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research are:



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