Ending the fossil era and keeping climate change well below 2 degrees Celsius – preferably below 1.5 degrees – is possible, but it will require the engagement of many actors at all levels of government and the business community. Equitable, international climate policy and low-carbon lifestyles are fundamental to achieving these goals.
At the 2015 UN climate summit in Paris, the international community agreed to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels and, ideally, even to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Otherwise, we will face uncontrollable Earth system changes. The release of climate gases into the atmosphere must therefore be radically reduced, especially in countries with the highest emissions. There is no time to lose, because every tonne of emissions increases the concentration of the greenhouse gases responsible for climate change.
Furthermore, there is clear evidence that climate change is already taking its toll, and its effects have long since reached devastating proportions in some parts of the world. Germany has not been spared either, with billions of euros in damage already caused by the increase in extreme weather events. The catastrophic flooding in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia in 2021 is just one of many examples. The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) exposes the great disparity between the investments needed to protect against the impacts of climate change and the measures actually implemented to date. So there is urgent need for action on this front, too.
The only way to get climate change under control is through globally coordinated action. How then should an effective, international climate regime be designed? States, regions, and cities need to intensify their own efforts while also supporting the least developed countries and encouraging them to pursue post-carbon development. The Wuppertal Institute conducts research into the mechanisms and instruments that are best suited for this purpose and how the architecture of international climate negotiations should evolve.
For industrialised countries and emerging economies alike, this means setting a course to bring greenhouse gas emissions down to near-zero levels by 2050 at the latest and to largely decarbonise energy systems. By that time – if not earlier – the era of coal, oil and natural gas as the foundation of the economy will need to have come to an end. The energy landscape will be very different by the middle of the century. But although the transition has already begun, it must pick up speed. The Wuppertal Institute has shown how systemic change can be achieved and how greenhouse-gas-neutral energy and industrial systems can be developed.
Ultimately, the necessary transition will only succeed if everyone contributes. Many cities, communities and companies have long since embarked on this journey by setting ambitious climate targets and working hard to achieve them. The Wuppertal Institute supports actors in Germany's federal states, municipalities and economy by developing concepts and strategies that go beyond simply describing ways of reducing emissions. This work ensures that these partners are on the right track and that businesses and the general public are engaged and will benefit from the transformation.
In 2008, Germany's federal government adopted a German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change for the first time, which it has continued to update ever since. More and more adaptation plans and laws have also been drawn up at federal state and municipal level. Nevertheless, the efforts are insufficient given the changes that are already apparent and those that are very likely to occur in the future.
When implementing adaptation measures, it is important to understand them as part of a holistic strategy and to avoid taking an approach that is too narrow. One area in which this is the case is urban development, where many challenges come together in a small space. That is why the Wuppertal Institute brings together different avenues of discussion and various disciplines in its research projects on adaptation to the impacts of climate change. The Institute examines the development of resilient forms of technical infrastructure, taking into account their interfaces and how they are socially embedded in cities. By providing strategic policy advice, the Institute supports public and private institutions and decision makers in developing integrated approaches to climate change adaptation. Furthermore, the Institute is involved in the practical implementation of measures in real-world laboratories. From a concept perspective, this work draws on a wide range of research methods, such as guideline development, participatory procedures and multi-criteria assessments. More detailed information is available in this paper: Methods of Climate Change Adaptation
Ultimately, effective climate protection is about more than new sources of energy and innovative technologies. From what and how much we consume to what the things we use are made of and how they are produced – all of our everyday decisions affect the climate. There are various things we need in order to adopt sustainable lifestyles, including climate-friendly products, transparency and, above all, clear frameworks for consumers and support from policymakers. These come under the Wuppertal Institute's areas of research.
Many of us will benefit from climate protection – because climate protection measures that are based on renewable energies and energy efficiency often come with added values. Examples of this include improved air quality, an easier access to energy, the creation of new jobs and business opportunities as well as less dependency on fuel imports and thus greater energy supply security.
Read more on our research on climate protection:
Here you find up-to-date information about research findings and activities in the field of climate protection.
You find all scientific publications on our publication server:
Climate protection research takes place on a national and international level. In the following you find selected sample projects. A complete list is available here.