The Governing Mayor of Berlin and Senator for Higher Education and Research Michael Müller.
How can climate science insights and recommendations be utilized more quickly and effectively in political decision-making processes?
Here in the capital city region, we can draw on a remarkably broad range of scientific expertise that is truly unparalleled in Germany. The Senate takes advantage of this resource in many different ways for its work. That, of course, also applies to our goal of making Berlin a climate-neutral city. The capital city region must recognize its own potential as a real-life laboratory for climate action and as a source of significant momentum and innovation. Achieving that will require even closer connections between science and policymakers. The president of the TU Berlin and I underscored this point in a joint article for a daily newspaper*. I am convinced that the Climate Change Center Berlin Brandenburg can make a substantial contribution to this objective by bringing together various competencies in our region and becoming a key interface for the specific concerns and needs of policymakers – on every level, from the borough town halls to the Senate, for the administration, state-owned enterprises, and many other stakeholders.
What positive examples of climate action can you cite for the Berlin-Brandenburg region? In what areas is there still room for improvement?
Berlin has cut its CO2 emissions by 40% since German reunification, we are pressing ahead with phasing out coal and expanding the use of renewable energy, and we are boosting local public transportation. Our energy and climate protection program – with its specific strategies and more than 100 different measures – will help us to achieve climate neutrality for Berlin by 2050 at the latest. All that, of course, also has an impact on the entire metropolitan region, just as measures taken in Brandenburg impact Berlin. Many areas, such as energy supply and transportation, are tightly interwoven in the two states and, as a result, there’s a high level of coordination between us that has only grown over the years. But there is still great potential to achieve even more for the climate by working together, and we also have to pull together to an even greater degree to deal with the consequences of climate change. These are major themes of the strategic general framework for Berlin-Brandenburg that is currently being drafted and is intended to take our cooperation to a new level. From better harmonization of our regional energy supply and circular economy to expanding public transportation infrastructure to a joint push for timber construction, we already have a lot of specific ideas we want to put into practice in the next few years. That applies to more cooperation in higher education and research, too.
Mr. Müller, what is the most drastic experience that you personally associate with climate change?
The impressions that had the strongest impact on me are probably the same ones that most people in Germany would cite. Pictures of melting polar ice caps, reports of a growing hole in the ozone layer, and, of course, images from space of the magnitude of climate change – all of these influenced how we viewed the world. These may once have seemed far away, but climate change has long since become part of our own lives. That is brought home more and more vividly when we see subway entrances transformed into waterfalls in heavy rains, tropical temperatures leave us unable to sleep at night, and animals and vegetation struggle to survive drought and sinking groundwater levels. Combating climate change is one of the most pressing issues our society faces, and that’s why we’re making it a central theme of Berlin’s Science Year in 2021. Together with our universities and research institutes, we want to strengthen public discourse and raise the visibility of science’s contributions to climate action. It is vital that the Climate Change Center Berlin Brandenburg be actively involved in this effort, both in 2021 and beyond.
The interview was hold in January 2021.