Lili Fuhr – climate protection through human rights

Lili Fuhr, Deputy Director of the Climate and Energy Program at CIEL.

“This role was made for me,” says Lili Fuhr about her new position at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). The organization focuses on global oil and gas phase-out and supports other projects when it comes to legal issues. The 42-year-old has been Deputy Director of the Climate and Energy Program since June. Her goal: CIEL should become more involved at the EU level.

Fuhr is the only CIEL employee working from Berlin. Her mornings are quiet since many of her colleagues are located in Washington. It is challenging to even discuss a phase-out of oil and gas in Europe due to the war in Ukraine. “We need to wake up and realize that dependence on fossil fuels makes us insecure,” Fuhr says. For CIEL, this is also always a matter of human rights.

Shameful German Africa policy

She calls it “rash reactions” that the German government is now looking for new oil and gas in Africa. Fuhr talks about her exchanges with environmental and human rights organizations on the ground. There is an impression that Germany wants to engage in neocolonialist exploitation. “Explaining to people from Namibia or Senegal that we now want to use their countries as new sources of oil and gas – that is shameful,” says Fuhr.

Oil and gas not only provide us with energy, but they are also used to make plastics or fertilizers for agriculture. That is why Fuhr wants to extend the debate about a phase-out to petrochemicals and agricultural policy as well.

Instead of a phase-out, the industry wants to continue to use fossil fuels and capture and store carbon, with technologies such as carbon capture storage (CCS). “We have to be careful that we don’t get caught up in false solutions and wrong tracks,” Fuhr says on the subject.

Keeping a finger on the pulse

The graduate geographer has 16 years of experience working for the Heinrich Böll Foundation, where she began as a staff member in the Africa department, later worked as an international policy officer, and became an international environmental policy officer in 2008. As such, she spent a lot of time “scanning the horizon”. Fuhr closely monitors what new technologies the industry develops and wants to keep her finger on the pulse.

This is important to her because CIEL is up against a powerful industry lobby. “We have to anticipate what’s going to happen next,” Fuhr says. Only then, can CIEL provide its partner organizations with the relevant legal information. If that succeeds, Fuhr says, “then the program has served its function.” Jana Hemmersmeier


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