Manfred Fischedick: the impactful climate researcher

Manfred Fischedick is scientific director at the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy.

When Manfred Fischedick talks about climate protection, he means a transformation toward a sustainable and climate-friendly society. Fischedick has been the scientific director of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy since 2020. He has already been working there since 1993. Unlike the classic research institution, the Wuppertal Institute is impact-oriented. “We want to make a difference with our science,” says Fischedick.

The institute works across disciplines. “That was quite a big deal for me at the beginning, as someone who studied engineering,” Fischedick recalls. Now, he seems made for the transdisciplinary approach. Today, Fischedick is not only an energy and climate researcher but also an adjunct professor of economics at the Schumpeter School in Wuppertal.

Fischedick says that the Wuppertal Institute’s absolute independence is also a key factor. “We do studies for Fridays for Future just as we do for companies in the energy industry or various ministries.” The climate movement regularly refers to the Wuppertal Institute study commissioned by Fridays for Future when criticizing policy makers. They did so as well a few hours after the coalition agreement of the traffic light parties was published, citing a failure to meet the 1.5-degree target even before taking office.

Do not get lost in discussion about goals

Fischedick is one of the authors of the aforementioned study. His assessment of the coalition agreement is tamer. “It is true that Fridays for Future says ‘This is not 1.5-degree compatible’. But before you get lost in a target-setting discussion again, the focus should be on implementation first.” The treaty outlines the right strategies for most sectors, Fischedick said. The addition rates of photovoltaic systems are expected to triple compared to recent years, while wind energy is expected to nearly quadruple.

However, one should not focus too much on one strategy and neglect others. “In the coalition agreement, the word hydrogen appears 28 times and the word energy efficiency only twice.” That already expresses an imbalance, Fischedick says. For climate protection, we need all the resources available.

At the European level, Fischedick sees the EU’s great strength in implementation. With Fit for 55, not only targets but also the corresponding measures have been defined. “However, if you look at what’s happening in China, for example, in terms of increasing efficiency, and what goals are planned in the US, then you have to say: The EU is not alone in this.” Moreover, member states are often not moving in the same direction – arguably the biggest obstacle to European climate policy.

Change in cooperation with politics

Cooperation between politics and the Wuppertal Institute was not always as harmonious as it is today. In the 1990s, the institute often caused trouble with politicians and industry. Critical voices from the institute on opencast lignite mining did not go down well at all with the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of Economics. Fischedick recounts how he had just returned from vacation and read in the Kölner Stadtanzeiger “Minister of Economics condemns Wuppertal Institute pamphlet”.

Meanwhile, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia regularly seeks scientific advice from the Wuppertal Institute. Among other things, the institute moderated the conception of the state’s climate protection plan from 2014 to 2019. And Fischedick, who used to go on anti-nuclear protests in his student days, is now considered a renowned climate expert nationwide.

The rapprochement between politics, the Wuppertal Institute, and its scientific director are characterized by the growing social awareness of climate change. Or, in other words: by the beginning of a societal transformation. David Zauner


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