Richard von Weizsäcker Forum 2022

This year’s Richard von Weizsäcker Forum took former, current, and future Robert Bosch Academy fellows to the Bavarian Alps for a study tour about the global climate crisis and Germany’s energy transition.  

RvW Forum 2022 Titelbild
Fotos: Robert Bosch Academy / David Ausserhofer

Russias invasion of Ukraine has instigated a global crisis. Europe is confronted with security challenges, many parts of Africa are experiencing famine, and Germany is not alone grappling with a dire energy crisis as winter approaches. Even though renewable energies are being embraced at turbo speed, the fight against climate change has taken a back seat, despite the destructive toll of global warming in 2022. This years Richard von Weizsäcker Forum therefore examined the issues of climate change and protection from various perspectives. From 10 14 October, 45 former, current, and future fellows of the Robert Bosch Academy participated in a study trip to Bavaria and Berlin.

The trip headed to the Alps in southern Germany, where the impact of climate change and global warming are plainly evident. The fellows exchanged ideas with scientists, activists, and policy makers on topics related to the climate crisis and its impact and management in Germany. On the final day, the group participated in a discussion with Berlin's mayor Franziska Giffey, as well as Germany’s Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection Steffi Lemke.

The Alps: where you can see climate breakdown

The Bavarian Alps are one of the regions in Europe most affected by climate change. Meteorological data show that the average temperature there has risen by 2° Celsius since the 19th century – almost twice the global average. The Alps are becoming greener, vegetation is flourishing earlier in the year, and trees are growing in places once covered in snow. In the first meeting of the day, Michael Rapp, Deputy District Administrator of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, emphasized the changes in Bavarians’ livelihood due to extreme weather conditions, higher living costs, and changes in the tourism industry – the main source of local income. The region has its own goals for climate neutrality and advocates for climate-efficient housing and mobility management.

RvW Forum 2022 Michael Rapp rund grau

Michael Rapp:  “Every part of Germany has different energy needs as well as access to different sources of raw materials they can use for a viable energy transition. We need more support from the federal government to build up infrastructure in line with the local availability of resources, making the energy transition more affordable for the public.

Melting glaciers and the changing landscape hit the tourism industry hard, underscored the Bavarian politicians. The regional government in Munich is well aware of this challenge and fosters healthy and sustainable forms of tourism to protect nature, but also the livelihoods of the inhabitants. Ulrike Wolf, Undersecretary of the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy, explained that the government has been investing in digital innovations to limit mass tourism, as well as e-mobility and the renovation of cable cars.

RvW Forum 2022 Ulrike Wolf rund grau

Ulrike Wolf:  “The tourism industry as well as any other industry needs to adapt to a more climate friendly mode of operation, especially given the fact that tourism is highly dependent on intact ecosystems and that many touristic attractions are located in environmentally sensitive areas. The industry needs to address the complicated challenge of providing cost effective solutions while ensuring that these areas remain intact.”

RvW Forum 2022 Gruppenbild Garmisch-Partenkirchen

After a short visit to the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak, the group entered the field of science. What role does science play in international climate policy? Is science a voice unheard? Hans Peter Schmid is the Director of the Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, one of Germany’s top research institutions. In his presentation, he described the dilemma of long-term developments and short-term interests. The fellows asked questions about the role of scientists and journalists in the climate crisis, economic interests, civil society, and global cooperation in climate research.

RvW Forum 2022 Hans-Peter Schmid

Hans Peter Schmid:  Knowledge transfer from our research to all levels of the public is part of our mission. In many cases, our science-based recommendations for climate change mitigation and adaptation are received with great interest. However, this is usually as far as it goes. It remains difficult to convince policymakers and civil society of the urgency of mitigation measures, even in the face of dramatic evidence of climate warming impacts now and in future.

The third day took the group to a solar park between Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Munich. The park consists of 13,000 solar panels and supplies more than 3,500 people in the area with renewable energy. Stephan Jocher, its architect, talked to the group about the obstacles to get the permission of the Bavarian state and the park’s construction.

RvW Forum 2022 Stephan Jocher

Stephan Jocher: “It was a long and tiring process to finally construct this solar park and convince the people and the politicians of its advantages. In the future, we need to find different ways of energy production like solar, hydrogen, and plant carbon, rather than relying on a single source to ensure energy security. The sooner the governmental agencies understand this and make the process easier, the better it will be.

The next stop was the Bavarian capital of Munich, where the group had the opportunity to talk with Filiz Albrecht, Member of the Board of Management and Director of Industrial Relations of Robert Bosch GmbH, about the contribution of German companies to climate neutrality. The Robert Bosch GmbH wants to keep its environmental impact of its operations to a minimum. The focus is on consistent climate action, using water sparingly, and establishing a reliable circular economy.

RvW Forum 2022 Filiz Albrecht

Filiz Albrecht:  “We as a company have been carbon neutral worldwide since 2020 – the first global industrial enterprise to achieve this. As pleased as we were to achieve this goal, we do not see it as the end of the road for our efforts. Climate protection is only one facet of sustainability. Under the term sustainability, we at Bosch also consider saving of resources such as energy and water at our locations and the research in new technology equally important. Sustainability is not a "nice to have" topic but it has become the core mission of everything we do and we want others to follow our path as well.”

In addition to the private sector and the state, the civil society plays an important role in climate action. The panel entitled "Engaging Civil Society in Climate Change Mitigation" included Klara Bosch (Spokesperson, Fridays for Future, Munich), Helena Geissler (Spokesperson, Munich Sustainability Initiative), and CSU (Christian Social Union) politician Manuel Pretzl from the Munich City Council.

RvW Forum 2022 Helena Geissler rund grau

Helena Geissler: "It is often difficult to unite different civil society actors behind specific political demands regarding climate change and sustainability. It’s an achievement that we have received such strong support for the Munich Sustainability Initiative and that so many civil society actors actively engage in our initiative. This support also shows local politicians that these issues are very important to civil society and urges politicians to bring about change.”

RvW Forum 2022 Klara Bosch

Klara Bosch:  “Im aware that I am not a politician or a democratically elected representative and don’t have a right to decide or change things quickly. However, through my work with Fridays for Future, I do want to show that as a member of the civil society, one can still participate in the decision-making process and bring about a change.”

Germany’s political action in the climate emergency

Back in Berlin, the fellows were welcomed by Berlin’s mayor, Franziska Giffey. The city is part of the C40 initiative, a global network of cities collaborating to curb the climate crisis. Ms. Giffey explained the city's current plans for climate neutrality, such as the 70% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 and investment in renewable energies. To reach these targets, civil society is involved in many ways, including in the city-funded Citizens Climate Council.  

RvW Forum 2022 Franziska Giffey

Franziska Giffey: “When talking about climate action, we must see the discussion in the framework of social cohesion and economic development. We need to provide good infrastructure and alternatives, such as affordable public transportation and charging stations for electric cars.”

The fellows then visited the new Humboldt Forum. The museum’s experts explained the location’s political importance and how the Humboldt Forum is dealing with its past – namely the legacy of colonialism in Africa.

After lunch, the group engaged in a discussion about a just energy transition with inputs from experts within the fellow community. On the panel, Samantha Gross, Director of the Energy Security and Climate Initiative at Brookings, Michał Kurtyka, former Minister of Climate and Environment of Poland, and Kumi Naidoo, human rights and environmental activist shared their perspectives. What conclusion did they draw after hearing from German politicians, scientists, and civil society?

RvW Forum 2022 Michal Kurtyka

Michał Kurtyka:“We are fooling ourselves if we believe that COPs are going to solve the problem of climate change. The sooner we understand this and consider approaching this in a different way, with industry, banks, civil society at the table, the better it is.”

RvW Forum 2022 Samantha Gross rund grau


Samantha Gross: “The world is not going to solve the problem of climate change by assuming that less energy consumption is the way ahead. This approach will only lead to an unjust, inequitable transformation process. We must find ways to make the energy transition a just one.”

RvW Forum 2022 Kumi Naidoo


Kumi Naidoo:  “The climate crisis is a consequence of drastic failure of our democratic financial and governance systems that have supported unhinged overconsumption for so long. Governments and businesses need to undergo a fundamental change for climate change to become bearable and just.”

On the last panel of the day, Federal Minister for Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety, and Consumer Protection Steffi Lemke spoke about the importance of biodiversity conservation in the era of climate change. She also outlined the plans of the German government in handling the climate emergency and emphasized the importance international cooperation.

RvW Forum 2022 Steffi Lemke rund grau

Steffi Lemke: It’s my goal to ensure that in the future we can have a good standard of living  - even under the conditions of the climate crisis. That’s why I’m working on natural climate protection, and to achieve this I’m pursuing comprehensive adaption policies that encompass and link all stakeholders.

The study trip came to an end with a farewell dinner at the Robert Bosch Stiftung in Berlin. Henry Alt-Haaker, Senior Vice President of the Robert Bosch Stiftung, summarized the study trip: “This year’s Forum has shown us where Germany stands when it comes to climate protection. Exchanges with a wide range of actors on the sustainable energy transition and communication of climate emergency led to intense discussions on finding new ways and forging new alliances to fight the global climate crisis. The Forum also showed what the rest of the world expects from Germany. The climate crisis is an urgent global challenge that needs international cooperation, and the Robert Bosch Academy is proud to have contributed to bringing international policy makers and thought leaders together to discuss solutions and strategize ways of implementing them.”

The Richard von Weizsäcker Forum is the most important event of the Robert Bosch Academy and brings together former, current, and future fellows each year. It was established in honor of Richard von Weizsäcker, former German president and long-time member of the Robert Bosch Stiftung Board of Trustees.

We asked four fellows to share their highlights of the Richard von Weizsäcker Forum 2022