Turn off the lights, turn down the heating, get on your bike - How are you contributing to climate protection?
Dialogue Forum on 26 April 2022, 19:00
Online and at Munich Re
To protect the climate, the first thing you should do is save energy and use renewable energies. But as the experts made clear at the fourth Dialogue Forum of the series "Smart solutions for climate protection", there are a number of other levers for a more climate-friendly life. These levers require a suitable political framework and a system of incentives and prohibitions.
Julian Bischof, a researcher at the Institute for Housing and Environment (IWU) in Darmstadt, showed that each of us can reduce his CO2 footprint with just a few simple measures. For example, a water saving shower head reduces emissions by 0.3 tons of CO2 per year, not flying saves 0.5 tons, and conscious consumption even saves 2.2 tons per year. "This is not the solution to our problems, but it is a step in the right direction," Bischof admitted. For him, the path to climate neutrality leads through the "trinity" of efficiency, sufficiency (the voluntary reduction of consumption, for example, by foregoing a holiday trip) and substitution (for example, replacing natural gas with biogas or purchasing green electricity). "Each single strategy on its own will not lead to the goal, a combination of all three approaches is essential," he made clear.
Just a few simple measures can help each of us to reduce our CO2 footprint. A saving shower head reduces emissions by 0.3 tons of CO2 per year, not flying saves 0.5 tons and conscious consumption even 2.2 tons per year.
Politics must determine the course
"Cycling is good, getting politically engaged is even better" said Heike Holdinghausen, editor for economy and environment at the taz newspaper. Everyone can make a contribution. But in order to transform the transport system, we need the right political framework as well as enough people to support and help bring about the change. It is important not to be an obstacle to change, she said, pointing out the problem. In addition to political commitment, people can vote for parties that offer effective concepts for climate protection. Politicians must create incentives through government investments, but also introduce restrictions, such as speed limits.
Cycling is good, getting politically engaged is even better.
Prof. Dr. Meike Jipp, Head of the Institute of Transport Research at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), made clear that the topic of mobility has become increasingly important for many people. "While each person in Germany on average travelled 33 kilometers a day in 2002, this number had risen to 39 kilometers by 2017. Simultaneously, time spent travelling increased from 72 to 80 minutes a day, which corresponds to solid 480 hours a year. "Mobility is a basic need that enables social participation. However, we have to reduce our CO2 emissions by around 60 per cent to achieve the climate targets." This is difficult on one hand since there is no technical solution, but on the other hand it is easy because we can actively decide on leaving our own comfort zone," says the expert.
Incentives instead of punishments
According to Kai Horn, Head of Sales and Marketing at the mobility platform highQ, the principle of "rewarding instead of punishing" leads to a future mobility that is in line with public welfare. His company wants to push forward the mobility transition and works together with municipalities, public transport providers and companies to connect different mobility offers in a region. According to him, there are many ways to create positive incentives: through special company parking lots for carpools, better data on traffic jams and road works, or by making people aware of the benefits of public transport. "If you provide information on how much CO2 can be saved by certain transport alternatives and show how these alternatives perform in terms of time, you can persuade people to switch their mode of transportation." To achieve this, Horn relies on platforms that provide non-discriminatory networking for all forms of mobility. "This includes bicycles, scooters and car-sharing services as well as sufficient parking spaces to improve mobility overall." Instead of providing employees with a company car, companies could think about a mobility budget that applies to all means of transport.
If you provide information on how much CO2 can be saved by certain transport alternatives and show how these alternatives perform in terms of time, you can persuade people to switch their mode of transportation.
Besides the transport sector, the building sector is also far from reaching climate neutrality. "In the housing sector, however, the individual tenant has little opportunity to influence CO2 emissions, apart from the room temperature," taz editor Holdinghausen pointed out. In view of the high costs for insulation or heat pumps, it is also difficult for owners to heat in a climate-neutral way without getting into enormous debt. "When deciding between renovation or new construction, one must also consider the entire life cycle of a building as well as their "grey" emissions, which are produced during the manufacture of building materials," added IWU expert Bischof. In addition, building owners and society still know too little about low-emission building with wood or straw. People therefore restrict themselves to old habits and prefer to build with concrete.
Rethinking consumer behavior
Private consumption, which, according to Bischof, accounts for one third of per capita emissions, offers effective levers for CO2 reduction. "Everyone can think about this: What do I really need and is there a more sustainable alternative? " The leverage is not very big when it comes to nutrition, he said. "A very meat-heavy diet accounts for about one ton of CO2 per year and capita, which is easily caught up by a single short-haul flight of 2 to 3 hours, " says the expert. In addition to climate protection, the consumption of meat must also take into account the conditions under which animals are kept and the amount of land they occupy. Taz editor Holdinghausen therefore pleaded for taxation of 19 percent for animal food instead of the current 7 per cent and to not tax plant food at all. "Changing the framework conditions in this way makes more sense rather than each individual considering whether to give up currywurst."
As a psychologist, I would of course prefer it if solely enthusiasm was enough. But if you look at reality, it won't work without punishment.
Meike Jipp is sceptical about whether the principle of "rewarding instead of punishing" is sufficient to change our climate-damaging behavior. "As a psychologist, I would of course prefer it if solely enthusiasm was enough. But if you look at reality, it won't work without punishment." According to her the problem is that you limit individual freedom by coercion, which can lead to mental illness or uproar among the population, as seen with the yellow vests protests in France. "However, we should pay attention to the freedom of all in this debate," Holdinghausen demanded. For example, children who suffer from car traffic, or the freedom of people in the city whose space is restricted by parked cars should also be considered.
Overcoming the “vale of tears”
A major obstacle on the way to more climate protection are habits cultivated for years and the inertia in each of us. At heart, we all know that it will not work without renunciation - voluntarily or the hard way. "The gain that comes from this renunciation needs to be emphasized more strongly," Jipp recommended, even if it is hard because we lose something at first. "We first have to go through a vale of tears, which is difficult to endure from a political point of view," the DLR Institute Director is aware. But: "Our responsibility is so great that we have to change something," was Holdinghausen's conclusion. "And we shouldn't feel great if we bring our lifestyle a little closer to what is quite normal in large parts of the world," she added.
“Turn off the lights, turn down the heating, get on your bike - How are you contributing to climate protection?” was moderated by Andreas Unger, a journalist and facilitator. Approximately 50 listeners attended the event at Munich Re and 80 listeners participated virtually. The next dialogue forum will take place on 24 May on the topic "Not more than 2 degrees global warming - But how? You can find more information on our webpage of the dialogue forums 2022.