© Photo | KD Busch

“We cannot live at the expense of our children”

Horst Köhler, former Federal President of Germany, speaks about his commitment to climate protection, the greatest challenges and positive examples.


What does sustainable growth mean for you?

In short, that our children and grandchildren enjoy the same level of freedom that we do. That is why we cannot live at their expense. This applies just as much to government finances as it does to greenhouse gas emissions.

Why is the issue of sustainability so important to you personally?

I myself have grandchildren and I want them to grow up in a world that gives them freedom and opportunity. I also know that this is only possible if this freedom and opportunity is also available to the grandchildren of a farmer in Malawi. The question of sustainability is a social question as much as an environmental one.

You were recently asked by Ban Ki-moon to cooperate in a UN working group. What was your task there?

I worked with 26 other figures from all over the world in the “High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda”. We asked ourselves, which goals global society should aim to achieve by the year 2030. At the centre of this were the two huge challenges of ending extreme poverty and preserving the planet’s natural ability to support life. We agreed that this required far-reaching changes in the way companies do business and consumers behave. Developed nations must lead the way here with technical innovation and political ambition.

Where do you see the greatest challenges on the road to sustainably growth?

Our economy is far too dependent on cheap fossil fuels. If we cannot break this addiction, massive global warming with dangerous consequences for all of humanity will become inevitable. I am worried that the sudden falls in the price of oil risks setting our efforts back. This is why I believe the time is right for a global tax on greenhouse gas emissions.

Has progress been made here?

People are much more aware of global connections now. The internet has certainly played a role here. More and more businesses are realising that sustainability is not a “nice to have”, but is of key importance to their own interests. The road from realisation to practice is a rocky one, of course, but there are plenty of inspiring examples – just look at the innovations of ebm-papst.

Are there things that individuals can do?

Our everyday lives are full of decisions that have an influence on global development. Car or train? Meat or vegetables? Lightbulb or LED? Every person can educate themselves more about how our consumer behaviour can help create a life where there is dignity for all and where the planet is healthy. 

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