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Climate protection requires fast action

Georg Kell, the founding director of the U.N. Global Compact, and Michael Sommer, the former head of the German Trade Union Confederation, call for a stronger commitment to climate protection. Both men are members of Volkswagen’s independent Sustainability Council.  

Georg Kell, the founding director of the U.N. Global Compact, is calling for a dramatic change of direction in climate policies. Scientific findings are showing more and more clearly that global warming will trigger dramatic changes. In the very near future, “interventions of nature” will be so powerful that governments and people will simply be forced to change their behavior, Kell warns.

Michael Sommer, the former head of the German Trade Union Confederation, has also issued an appeal for forceful action. In the wake of the catastrophe at Fukushima and Germany’s decision to abandon nuclear power, much had been possible, Sommer says. Unfortunately, he adds, work to expand the power grid and use of wind energy has gotten bogged down. Both Sommer and Kell advise the Volkswagen Group as members of the company’s independent Sustainability Council on such issues as environmental protection, social responsibility and integrity.

“The longer we wait, the higher the costs”

Effective climate protection requires environmentally conscious mobility, increased use of renewable energy and a phase-out of coal, Kell says. He adds that this process can be done in a socially responsible way – but the work cannot be delayed. “The longer we put off structural change, the higher the adaption costs will be,” Kell says.

In the transport section, he says that electromobility can play a key role in climate protection. For this reason, the electric offensive announced by the Volkswagen Group is good news, he adds. “This is a signal for the future,” Kell says. “It means one thing: We are ready to shape the future.” The company recently committed itself to a clear plan for meeting the Paris climate protection targets and announced investments of more than €30 billion in e-mobility.  

The CO₂ neutral car

The new electric models include the compact Volkswagen ID.* that will begin to be built in Zwickau, Germany, in 2019 and will be CO2 neutral when it is handed to customers. This will be made possible by high energy efficiency and the use of green power during the production phase, including the supply chain. Unavoidable emissions will be offset by investments in forest protection or afforestation. Even during the use phase, the car can be driven with zero impact on CO2 emissions if customers opt to use green power.

Sommer notes that the new commitment to electromobility will lead to a change in jobs or even the elimination of them. This will be the case both in automaking and in service centers that have focused on internal combustion engines up to now, he adds. The former head of the union confederation says companies must react to this change at an early stage by offering training to their workforces.

Every individual can protect the climate

Kell stresses that every individual can contribute to climate protection through the consumer decisions he or she makes. One example is meat production, which produces huge amounts of gases that harm the climate, he says. Altogether, agriculture and industry are each responsible for about 25 percent of global emissions of greenhouse gases. “You see the potential here,” Kell says. About one-fifth of emissions result from the electrical generation of heat, and 14 percent is attributed to transport.

During the climate conference held in Kattowitz, Poland, countries agreed on a set of joint rules governing the implementation of the Paris climate protection agreement. The agreement reached in the French capital three years ago is designed to limit global warming to an increase of less than 2 degrees Celsius over levels in the preindustrial age. Every country can decide for itself how to hit this target. However, the plans developed thus far by individual countries will not limit global warming to the agree-upon limit.

Fuel consumption

*Concept car

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