Dirk Messner ‘the right man at the right time’

On 1 January 2020, Dirk Messner, a Co-Director at the Centre from its beginning in 2012, has taken up his new appointment as the President of the German Environment Agency (“Umweltbundesamt”, UBA).

The internationally renowned sustainability scientist was the Director of the Institute for Environment and Human Security at the United Nations University in Bonn (UNU-EHS) and Co-Chairman of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU). For Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, Dirk Messner is ‘the right man at the right time’. The Minister outlined that expertise and judgement on a transnational level is a key national policy asset today. ‘The solutions to the greatest challenges of our age – climate change and the extinction of species – must be developed and networked at global level.' Schulze stressed the need to build consensus and gather support from society for environmental issues, and expects an active role of the UBA in 'the great transformation'.

Dirk Messner says, ‘all the issues that the German Environment Agency works on are now at the very top of the political agenda …. We are embarking on a decade to set the course for these issues. We must put the Agency in the best possible position for the upcoming years because time is running out in many areas, not least of all with regard to climate action.’

The Centre wishes its Co-Director the very best for his new position, that he may have opportunities for fruitful cooperation with partners who might be different and demanding. For this he is equipped with excellent knowledge about international cross-dependencies and urgencies like only a few. And perhaps things will remind him from time to time of a hexagon he once developed with colleagues at our Centre to frame the conditions for cooperation under whatever circumstances:

In the same paper, he concluded that scientific creativity and social fantasy are both necessary to chart the spaces of future cooperation. This way, the projective potential of scientific knowledge may also contribute to legitimation processes that will have to emanate from current public discussions. Hannah Frey said recently, math and tech specialists would need their own version of a Hippocratic oath, which brings the quest for legitimation on the table in a new way. Even more so, since artificial intelligence is invoked by many scientists, including Dirk Messner, as a promising tool that can help building a more flexible and targeted regulatory environment that raises normative questions at the same time. The Janus-headed face of science, again. But with an academic and policy expert on environmental issues in a position to make some concrete political impact, some optimism seems justified.



Maths and tech specialists need Hippocratic oath, says academic, The Guardian, 16.8.2019