Young researchers and entrepreneurs for climate protection
Dialogue forum special – Klimaherbst 2016
What role do innovations play in climate protection? This was the question we dealt with at the "Young researchers and entrepreneurs for climate protection" Dialogue forum special on 20 October 2016. The Forum was held as part of the 10th Münchner Klimaherbst series of events.
All sectors of society will need to be involved if climate change is to be stopped. Politicians may set the framework conditions, but it falls to business and civil society to bring about the energy turnaround with their behaviour. The electricity and gas supplier Polarstern provides an innovative example. "In 2011, we were the first ones to market gas that was 100% green", recalls founder and Managing Director Jakob Assmann. It was not enough for Polarstern to focus solely on green electricity. After all, around 80% of household energy goes on heating and hot water.
Good life instead of profit maximisation
The Munich University of Applied Sciences' Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship (SCE) has championed the cause of supporting entrepreneurs with innovative ideas. For many students today are no longer necessarily aspiring to a traditional career, but are wondering how they can help shape the future. The focus is therefore more on personal fulfilment and meaningful work than on earning lots of money. "I think that we, as a University, must encourage these young people to create an impact", said CEO Sailer. He added that the energy sector in particular offered many possibilities, as big groups were, by their nature, slow at bringing new ideas into the world.
Support bears fruit
As a globally operating reinsurer, Munich Re has been dealing strategically with climate change for years. This is because, for one thing, higher and higher losses threaten insurers' business models. And for another, insurance companies are seen as part of the solution when it comes to raising risk awareness and identifying possible new solutions. "In the case of renewables, the insurance industry is able to support developments in technology by assuming risks", Thomas Bischof explained. Thus, for example, the owner of a photovoltaic system can take out insurance not only against hail but also against the risk of of the system not providing the promised output.
Innovations through climate risk insurance
"Innovation is an elementary component for us. Where we reach limits within the company, we focus on partnerships with universities or start-ups." For example, Munich Re supported the Franco-German initiative POC21 (proof of concept), in which creative minds from all around the world, together with representatives from NGOs, research and business, developed innovative solutions for a climate-neutral and resource-efficient future. Another point of contact is the Impact Hub in Munich, where new ideas also emerge. "Munich Re is currently supporting four initiatives within this framework, and we hope that these will result in four companies that make the world a better place", Bischof emphasised.
Eight out of ten fall by the wayside
Every year, altogether 1,200 to 1,500 students do an SCE entrepreneurship course. "We could do with even more support from politicians", says the CEO. A lot more money could also be spent on sustainable education, not only in universities but also in schools or nurseries. These would be wisely invested funds for implanting greater awareness of sustainability in people's minds.
One thing is clear: the challenges posed by climate change are so great that it would be foolhardy to believe that one person could solve the problems on their own. Policies will not stop climate change. Ultimately, it will be the many small and good ideas that provide the necessary impetus for a future worth living.