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© SWR | from left to right: Hermann Scheer – Klaus Töpfer – Franz Alt (1996)

Klaus Töpfer – Germany’s green conscience

For over 40 years, Klaus Töpfer was not only the green conscience of the CDU, but of Germany as a whole. Hardly any other politician had such a reputation and expertise across all parties as the former German Environment Minister.

And hardly any other politician had such a lasting impact on his ministry as he did – at a time when the environment and climate change were still niche topics. Chancellor Scholz rightly says: “Klaus Töpfer has made climate protection an important issue – worldwide and in Germany.”

We were friends for 45 years when it came to environmental protection. When I wanted to leave the CDU in 1986 after the reactor disaster in Chernobyl, Klaus Töpfer said: “Franz, stay in the party – we’ll turn the CDU into an anti-nuclear party.” In 1995, he encouraged me to launch the “Global Ecological Marshall Plan” campaign together with all German environmental organisations.

Our main demands: A solar energy turnaround, an ecological transport turnaround, a sustainable water turnaround, a green forest turnaround and an ecological agricultural turnaround. Töpfer was the driving force behind this campaign. It was thanks to him that 750,000 people signed these demands at the first climate conference in Berlin in 1995.

Together with solar politician Hermann Scheer, the committed Christian Klaus Töpfer was an almost permanent guest on my first environmental programme “Zeitsprung”, which I presented on ARD. (Photo). Often to the displeasure of Chancellor Kohl, Töpfer was already calling for what the Greens would later demand. He was an eco-pioneer.

This was one of the reasons why Kohl urged his uncomfortable party colleague to take over the presidency of the UN environmental organisation, the UN Environment Programme (Unep), in Nairobi. But Klaus Töpfer also repeatedly intervened in German environmental policy from Nairobi. Angela Merkel became Töpfer’s successor in the Federal Environment Ministry in Germany. Klaus Töpfer has spent half his life encouraging me to fight for the global solar revolution.

“It has been scientifically proven that humanity is facing an extremely critical decision point. If we don’t act now, climate change will exceed the two degrees that have been scientifically proven to be the maximum climate increase. Anything beyond that will no longer allow humans to adapt. Especially the poorest of the poor, who have done nothing to cause climate change, will be the victims.” Klaus Töpfer

Many years later, in 2015, the whole world recognised this in Paris and formulated it as a Paris goal. Environmental politician Töpfer was way ahead of his time. His legacy: “It’s not enough to have visions. You also have to realise them.”

Despite his firm convictions, Klaus Töpfer was always tolerant as a person and willing to compromise as a politician. He taught as a professor at several universities. That made him independent.

After Chernobyl, he called – in vain in the CDU at the time – for an energy supply without nuclear power and, in the medium term, for an exit from the fossil fuel industry.

As Minister of Construction, he organised the move from Bonn to Berlin and ensured that, with the exception of the Chancellery, all government buildings were renovated instead of being rebuilt. He made Berlin the first solar capital in the world and all ministries were equipped with solar panels.

Klaus Töpfer was an independent politician, the likes of which are hard to find today. A role model for journalists too. Thank you, dear friend!


FRANZ ALT 2024 | Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator 

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