“Digitisation can provide a new impetus” - an interview with Svenja Schulze, Federal Minister for the Environment

Svenja Schulze

The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, a main partner of #rp19, is working on a progress agenda for digitisation that puts people and the environment at the centre. The central theses and guiding questions, essential cornerstones and selected instruments will be presented at #rp19 for the first time. In the session "The New DNA: Digitisation, Sustainability and Action", Svenja Schulze, Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Markus Beckedahl and Tilman Santarius discuss the chances and risks of digitisation for sustainable development. 

The round table discussion will kick off an intensive exchange with social, economic and scientific players - first on site with the re:publica participants and then with the general public. In the run-up to #rp19 we had the opportunity to ask Svenja Schulze some questions about her understanding of digitisation and sustainability, the Fridays for Future movement and "tl;dr" in environmental protection.

The re:publica is a community conference that deals with different aspects of digitisation. How are digitisation and sustainability related? Can digitisation contribute to sustainable development?
Digitisation can provide a new impetus that combines innovation, good work and sustainability. This brings progress: economically and ecologically! We want to shape digitisation. In the service of people, in the service of justice, in the service of our environment. It is important that players from the sustainability and technology scene get in touch with each other and that we work together to find good solutions. re:publica offers the right framework for this.
The motto of re:publica 19 is "tl;dr", Internet slang for "too long; didn't read".  The topics of environmental protection and climate change are complex, with sometimes contradictory statements and false reports circulating. Which topic that is close to your heart suffers most from simplification and abridgment?
A current example is the discussion about the EU limit values for nitrogen dioxide. Recently, some lung doctors have questioned the health benefits of the annual limits and their claims have sparked a broad debate. In large parts, this was very unobjective. Facts were distorted, people were unsettled. The fact of the matter is: The current limit values are based on a broad scientific consensus that is supported by numerous studies.
The topic of environmental protection is increasingly affecting the younger generation, from the "Fridays for Future" to the protests surrounding the Hambach forest. How can the young activists be supported in a way that their demands lead to tangible changes? Where do you think society needs to act and politics should do?
It's great that such a broad social movement has formed in the young generation. Because the activists are right: we cannot live at the expense of others or future generations. We need a new generation contract that guarantees climate protection over the coming decades. I therefore take this protest very seriously. Politicians must set the legal framework in such a way that it is easier to behave in an environmentally friendly manner than to harm the environment.

When it comes to climate protection, we often focus on individual measures such as saving electricity. However, in the case of structural problems such as mobility and industry necessary progress happens slowly. With the Climate Protection Act (Klimaschutzgesetz), you want to hold the different ministries accountable. In addition to the Climate Protection Act, what other measures do you think are needed to slow down climate change?

The Climate Protection Act provides a reliable framework for us to achieve our climate protection goals in the future. However, it is true that there must also be measures in all areas - including transport, buildings, industry and agriculture. In my view, a concrete instrument should be a CO2 price for heating and fuels that encourages us to choose climate-friendly technologies. However, it is important that we do not place an excessive burden on commuters and tenants. I will present such a socially balanced concept shortly.