Climate Protection Requires Research, Teaching, Practical Action, and Commitment

The four pillars of climate protection

Technische Universität Berlin´s goal is to conduct research for the benefit of society. Researching climate protection and sustainability has a key role to play in this. But the University´s efforts go beyond conducting research: Technische Universität Berlin also integrates the topics of sustainability and climate protection into its teaching in modules and degree programs, makes practical use of its research findings to help create a climate-neutral campus and supports its staff and students in their own efforts to protect the climate.

The findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are very clear: Current climate change is largely the result of human behavior. Experts are equally of one opinion, however, that we are far from having found the answers to all the scientific questions involved. Further scientific research is of central importance, both to society and Technische Universität Berlin.

Green research

Hundreds of scientists at TU Berlin teach and research climate protection and sustainability across a wide range of subjects, including environmental protection, chemistry, and process engineering. Currently there are 400 research projects alone focusing on these topics. Science has a great opportunity as well as a responsibility to contribute its expertise to the process of change required by society and to increase awareness in politics.

TU Berlin and partner institutions in Berlin and Potsdam are exploiting the unique opportunities provided by the close links between science, society and politics in the region to set up a new transdisciplinary research center. Scientists from a wide range of disciplines will be working in the center on research into climate neutrality together with representatives from society.

Green teaching

Green teaching aims to set a stronger focus on climate protection and other sustainability topics in all engineering and natural science degree programs. The University also offers a number of specialized degree programs such as Environmental Science and Technology, Ecology and Environmental Planning, Renewable Energy Systems, and Water Engineering which more specifically address the issues of climate protection. There is a rapid growth of interest in these topics. The University is continually developing new degree programs to enable more and more students to become actively involved in influencing climate change.

A lecture series entitled “TU Berlin for Future” examines climate protection from the perspective of a wide range of areas such as energy storage technology, green chemistry, digitalization, and architecture. Students at all Berlin universities can attend the lectures as an elective subject. TU Berlin´s Sustainability Certificate (established 2017) allows students studying in all subject areas to integrate a focus on sustainability into their regular degree programs to help them develop the skills required for sustainable development. The program also aims to provide a networking platform for TU Berlin students as well as an opportunity for them to discuss the issue of sustainability beyond their studies.

The MINTgrün pre-study orientation program was established in 2012 and is the largest of its type in Germany. It provides students an opportunity to find out about degree programs at TU Berlin with a clear focus on sustainability. Currently some 600 students enroll in this program each winter semester.

Student projects also play a big role TU Berlin. Special project laboratories, known as tu projects, enable students to develop their own teaching formats and tutorials focusing on sustainability and climate protection. Participating students can acquire credit points for these projects.

Green campus

TU Berlin has already switched to using only green electricity and will be focusing its attention in the future on how it heats its premises. The University also makes use of its researchers´ expertise to introduce practical measures for creating a climate-neutral campus. As part of a major research project, a team of scientists has examined all 49 buildings on the Charlottenburg campus and used a newly developed software to identify which renovation work would achieve the greatest benefits in terms of energy use at the least costs. These findings are now being incorporated into the campus development plans. TU Berlin and the Berlin Senate are negotiating a climate protection agreement which will commit the University to taking ambitious measures to meet the challenges of climate protection, thus supporting the efforts of the state of Berlin. More than 50 individual measures are planned for the next 11 years to reduce the University´s carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent.

As early as 1997, TU Berlin devised a series of environmental guidelines which included a clear commitment to an environmentally conscious development of the University. TU Berlin´s Council for Sustainable Development advises the Executive Board and the Academic Senate on all issues relating to sustainability in education, research, university operations, and knowledge transfer. In this context, the annual environmental report was developed into an extensive and detailed sustainability report.

Commitment to green issues

TU Berlin´s responsibilities regarding climate protection lie in both the contribution it makes through its research and teaching and playing a stronger role in society. The Executive Board joined many of the University´s researchers and staff in the Fridays for Future demonstrations and has committed TU Berlin to the movement’s demands, making it one of the first universities in Germany to do so. TU president Professor Christian Thomsen provided a clear demonstration of this commitment when he took to the stage with Greta Thunberg to address a crowd of demonstrators.

This commitment is strengthened by the Fridays for Future student initiative at TU Berlin. Students are engaged in an ongoing dialogue with the Executive Board to help make their university sustainable and climate friendly.

Many researchers at TU Berlin are becoming involved on their own initiative by, for example, joining the Scientists for Future movement. A total of 440 researchers have also already voluntarily pledged not to use air travel for journeys of less than 1000 kilometers. In September 2019, TU Berlin took part in the “Covering Climate Now” week, during which several hundred media organizations and institutions signed up to report intensively on climate-related themes. At the end of the week, members of the public were invited to attend TU Berlin´s Climate Lecture. This annual event takes the form of a podium discussion, where leading climate researchers and representatives from society come together to discuss climate policies before an audience of around 1200 guests.