Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy
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The Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy is a German research institution that explores and develops models, strategies and instruments to support sustainable development at local, national and international level. Sustainability research at the Wuppertal Institute focuses on ecology and its relation to economy and society. Special emphasis is put on analysing and supporting technological and social innovations that decouple prosperity of economic growth from the use of natural resources.
Prof. Uwe Schneidewind
Prof. Manfred Fischedick
Number of employees
Organisation and networksEdit
The Wuppertal Institute collaborates with universities and institutes in Germany and abroad. It has for instance formal cooperation agreements with the Center for Environment and Energy Research and Studies (CEERS) in Teheran, the Department of Environmental Science and Engineering of the Tsinghua University Beijing, the University of Osnabrück and the University of Wuppertal. A cooperation agreement was also reached with the University of Kassel. Furthermore, the Wuppertal Institute and the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Research (iENTIRE) agreed upon corporate research. Joint research projects with the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) in Japan and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in India are regularly conducted.
The Wuppertal Institute understands itself as an intermediary between science, economy and politics; therefore, its sustainability research design is application-oriented. It has the legal status of a non-profit limited company (gemeinnützige Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung, according to German law), based in Wuppertal and receives basic funding from the Federal State North Rhine-Westphalia, the sole owner of the Wuppertal Institute. The major part of its funding derives from third-party research projects. Wuppertal Institute’s clients cover governmental organisations ranging from local authorities to ministries at both state and national levels; business and industry ranging from medium-sized companies to corporate groups and industrial associations; civil society ranging from environmental associations to churches, trade unions and foundations.
The Wuppertal Institute employs approximately 220 workers. Two-thirds are research staff and come from a wide variety of background disciplines: natural and environmental sciences, geography, systems sciences, engineering, planning, law, economics, and political and social science. The staff consists of roughly as many men as women.
An International Advisory Board stands for the independence and the Institute’s scientific quality and provides advice with regard to strategic basic research issues
The Wuppertal Institute started its research work in 1991 headed by Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker. The Institute's mission – formulated in its partnership agreement – was first of all to "promote measures and initiatives to secure the climate situation, to improve the environment and to save energy, as an interface between the scientific pursuit of knowledge and its practical application”. Founding President Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker advocated a resource strategy founded on reducing resource use by means of what he called an "efficiency revolution" pointing the way towards new models of prosperity. Efficiency is the cornerstone of the book Factor Four - Doubling Wealth, Halving Resource Use by Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Amory and Hunter Lovins (Rocky Mountain Institute, USA). They assembled fifty examples of successful products using half the usual amount of natural resources, including hypercars, "Passivhaus", superwindows, long-lasting furniture and a summer holiday in the Austrian Alps. The book was accepted as a report to the Club of Rome and was on the best-seller lists for several months. It has been translated into more than ten languages.
Peter Hennicke had studied and worked on using efficiency potentials in the field of energy use before he came to the Wuppertal Institute. Here, he intensified research in this area as head of the Energy Division; later on he succeeded Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker as president. Friedrich Schmidt-Bleek, the vice-president at that time, found a large audience proposing his MIPS concept for gauging material input per service unit and identifying "ecological rucksacks" that "carry" products and services when they arrive at the consumer. He was aware of the fact that the then prevailing environmental policy was not paying enough attention to the great material flows; he advocated that besides already existing successful legal measures for pollutant emissions limitation it would be necessary to reduce the material flows in order to conserve the finite material, energy and nature resources. With his concept of the “Ecological rucksack” he introduced his ideas into the scientific and political debates.
In 2001, the Tokyo-based Takeda Foundation awarded Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker and Friedrich Schmidt-Bleek a price worth one hundred million yen for their concepts "Factor Four", "MIPS" and "ecological rucksack", an expression of the Institute's international recognition.
Following the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the implementation of Agenda 21 was high on the (environmental) policy agenda in many nations. The first attempts were very timid and showed the lack of experience in implementing the new leading principle called sustainable development. The 1995 report Zukunftsfähiges Deutschland (published as “Greening the North”), commissioned by BUND and Misereor, was to remedy this: The Wuppertal Institute team, headed by Reinhard Loske and Raimund Bleischwitz, pioneered a new methodology. Beginning with an estimate of the Earth's carrying capacity, the "environmental space", this study developed leading principles to help us Germans avoid overusing the environmental space to which we are "entitled". The principles are based on concepts such as efficiency and sufficiency.
Prof. Dr. Wolfang Sachs, one of the best-known scientists of the Wuppertal Institute, member of the Club of Rome and lead author at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), directed the study “Sustainable Germany in a Globalised World”. It was published as a book in October 2008 by Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND), Church Development Service (Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst - EED) and "Friends of the Earth" to stimulate the social discussion on a globally sustainable development.
Agreed in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol took the global nature of the climate problem into account at least to some extent, even if it was ratified only many years later. The Kyoto Protocol was the first international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The Wuppertal Institute's Climate Policy Division was closely involved in setting this milestone in the international climate debate.
At the Earth Summit 2002 in Johannesburg, ten years after the Rio Conference, the international agreements on sustainable development were updated with new timetables and priorities for action. The World Summit also formulated an integrated concept of science and policy in its Plan of Implementation. This plan was implemented both methodologically and in terms of its content in the Wuppertal Institute's research programme in 2003, whose conceptual research agenda was restructured under the keyword “Sustainability Research”.
In August 2005, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Wuppertal Institute jointly founded the Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production (CSCP). As a member of the globally cooperating UNEP Centres, its mission is to develop practically oriented contributions to the ten-year Sustainable Consumption and Production programme that was agreed upon at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002.
Conceiving strategies for sustainable development requires an integrated approach both to policy and to scientific research. The quest to live and work in a way that conserves resources often raises questions that cannot be answered by one area of policy alone or by a single scientific discipline. This is the Wuppertal Institute’s starting point. Its interdisciplinary research teams bring together the expertise of scientists and economists as well as geographers and spatial planners, engineers, philosophers and historians.
The focus of the four Divisions is:
The Divivion Future Energy and Mobility Structures examines questions of technology and infrastructure, taking a systems analysis approach. In the fields of energy and mobility it explores what technical and social innovations will facilitate the transition to sustainable structures, what implications this process has and what chances it offers.
The Division Energy, Transport and Climate Policy focuses on strategies and instruments for effective and integrated energy, transport and climate policies at the local, regional, national and international level. A central theme is the synergy effects of policy strategies that support the sustainable development of energy and transport systems as well as climate protection generally. Policy instruments in the field of energy end-use efficiency are a further focus.
The Division Sustainable Production and Consumption develops instruments, concepts and strategies to promote the transition to more sustainable patterns of production and consumption. The research centres on the development and market launch of products considered sustainable in terms of their entire life cycle as well as production processes optimised right the way along the added value chain.
The Division Circular Economy: Germany and the European Union target a comprehensive transition towards a circular economy, in which waste should be avoided, products and their components should be used as long as possible, and waste is regarded as a potential resource. Related challenges and questions focuses on the design of infrastructures, policy mixes and governance structures, and necessary innovation processes are the starting point for research.
Berlin Office As a branch of the Wuppertal Institute, the Berlin Office promotes cooperation between the Wuppertal Institute and other academic and research institutions in Berlin.
The Institute has always sought to communicate research results to its different target groups, addressing them in their own ‘language’. The research is communicated actively:
- to the scientific world, by means of numerous scientific publications, by organising and participating in lectures, symposia, workshops and conferences and by engaging in networks with research partners in Germany and abroad;
- to decision makers in the realms of policy, business and society, through scientific research and consulting projects, projects that launch innovations (model projects, pilot projects), dialogues with partners from business and industry, and also through publications oriented towards the users' needs;
- to the general public, by means of popular science books, public events as well as articles and reports in the press, on radio and television;
- to young people, through projects carried out with schools and other educational institutions, through supporting young scientists in collaboration with universities, and through teaching and educational materials.