Green Party politician Michael Schäfer wants to see Berlin reduce its carbon emissions by over 40 percent (compared to 1990 levels) in the next 10 years. Young and charismatic, Schäfer came to politics after working as an ad writer; he has been a member of the Berlin Parliament since 2006.
How do you see Berlin in 2050?
I see a Berlin that’s nearly carbon neutral, where there are bicycles and electric vehicles on the road. There will be more trams and better public transportation. Houses will be retrofitted to keep them warmly insulated in winter and cooler in summer. Almost every window will have shutters – the best way to keep things cool. There will be green spaces with trees to help us cope with extreme weather, and green roofs and streets that take advantage of winter downpours. We will have adopted policies that make us cope better with a 2C to 3C increase in temperature. We will also have become the ‘green tech’ capital of Germany and Europe.
What technologies should the city promote?
To be a front runner in climate issues, Berlin needs to develop techniques and industries that have the best chance in future markets. By ‘green tech’, I mean we can become a leader in geothermal energy, in solar energy, in efficiency technologies, and compete successfully with other cities in these areas.
We will also need intelligent energy usage at home. Appliances should be intelligently connected to the electrical grid. Smart meters that connect to household appliances should tell you when energy
is plentiful and cheap; only then will your dishwasher be programmed to turn on. Deep freezers should only take energy when there’s plenty of wind and sun. Electric cars could actually store energy to give back to the electrical grid when it’s in need.
What do you do about the public perception that warmer winters might not be such a bad thing in this northern climate?
If people think that, they should be told that climate change will create hundreds of millions of refugees. This will be a big issue for every city. We will also have very hot days with adverse effects on children and the elderly.
Climate change is a social issue: the poorest people will suffer – and not just those in the developing world, but also those in richer countries. Think of New Orleans. I think that no one with a social conscious could want this. Everyone will be affected indirectly.
So what can Berliners do to make a difference?
If you are a homeowner, see what you can do to make your home carbon neutral. Make sure your money does not support coal or nuclear energy, but goes to an electrical supplier that uses renewable energy – one like LichtBlick or Greenpeace Energy. You can eat less meat: it’s an industry that produces methane, a greenhouse gas. And you can get involved. Climate policies need public support. Citizens can link together; the Bürgersolaranlage, for example, builds solar panels on public buildings. It’s really up to us all.