Freie Universität Declares State of Climate Emergency

The university stresses its responsibility for sustainability and climate protection and announces ambitious goals.

No 398/2019 from Dec 19, 2019

Freie Universität Berlin declared a state of climate emergency. The Executive Board of the university passed a resolution acknowledging the university’s responsibility for climate protection and formulating far-reaching goals. Among other things, the university aims to become climate neutral by 2025 and to anchor the topic of climate protection in the curricula of all subjects.

Scientific findings regarding the causes of climate change and approaches to the related risks are fundamental to developing political counterstrategies, the statement says. The contribution of science to this global challenge has to be better integrated in politics and society. "We as universities have a special responsibility," stresses university president Professor Günter M. Ziegler. "Our task is not only to improve scientific knowledge and communicate this to society, but to also act in an exemplary way within our areas of responsibility."

In conjunction with the declaration, Freie Universität has set seven goals. The university has committed itself to considering the possible consequences for the climate in all its decisions and plans and to supporting the personal dedication to climate protection of all members of the university through a special "ideas and innovation management." Sustainability and climate protection will be core themes in all curricula and international networks of the university. In addition, Freie Universität wants to be climate neutral by 2025 and to continue its efforts to promote sustainability and climate protection in its administration and on campus.

To meet these goals, a new steering committee, which will include students, professors, and other members of the university, will officially begin its work in January. "The first step will be to develop a climate protection strategy with the goal of climate neutrality by 2025," says Andreas Wanke, director of the Unit for Sustainability and Energy Management at Freie Universität Berlin. "This includes targeted measures for increasing energy efficiency, the realization of future-oriented mobility, and sustainable procurement as well as the expansion of renewable energies on campus."

Over the past few years, Freie Universität Berlin has worked successfully toward climate protection. Through a combination of measures, the university was able to reduce power and heat consumption on campus by 25% between 2001 and 2018. Without the university’s spatial growth, the reduction would have been 28%. In addition, the university operates four combined heat and power plants with a total output of 715 kilowatt and nine photo-voltaic plants with a total output of 657 kilowatt. Based on the GEMIS (Global Emission Model for Integrated Systems) and the CO2 factors published by the German Federal Environmental Agency, CO2 emissions were reduced by 40% between 2001 and 2018. Considering that Freie Universität has been using CO2-free power since 2010, carbon dioxide emissions were actually reduced by 72% between 2001 and 2018.

Despite these successes, the university wants to further increase its efforts in light of the urgency of the climate crisis. "By declaring a state of emergency for the climate, we are not only focusing on our campus, but the whole university. Besides addressing this topic in our teaching, we find it especially important to enlist all the members of the university to support this important issue for the future," Günter M. Ziegler says.


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