© 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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