German Environmental Prize 2023 awarded

The timber construction pioneer Dagmar Fritz-Kramer and the climate researcher Friederike Otto receive the German Environmental Prize 2023.

The timber construction pioneer Dagmar Fritz-Kramer (left) and the climate researcher Friederike Otto will receive the DBU German Environmental Prize in 2023. © Baufritz / guy@strikingfaces

This year, the German Environmental Prize goes to two pioneers in climate and environmental protection. The German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU) honors the climate scientist Friederike Otto and the timber construction entrepreneur Dagmar Fritz-Kramer with the award, which is one of the most richly endowed environmental prizes in Europe. The two women share the prize money totaling 500,000 euros. The work of Friederike Otto and Dagmar Fritz-Kramer is a “real inspiration and motivation to learn from the already obvious consequences of global warming” and to implement even more environmental protection, said DBU General Secretary Alexander Bonde.

The DBU awards the German Environmental Prize annually to people from science who have made outstanding contributions to sustainability and the environment, as well as to entrepreneurs who are dedicated to the practical implementation of environmental goals. The prize will be presented by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, this year on October 29th in Lübeck.

Friederike Otto: Connection between climate change and weather

The 41-year-old Friederike Otto has made a name for herself as an “excellent climate scientist with groundbreaking research work in the so-called attribution science,” said Bonde. The discipline, also known as attribution research, examines what role climate change plays in the weather - for example, whether there are connections between climate changes and extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts, floods and heavy rain. Otto played a key role in developing the process of attributing extreme weather events to man-made climate change. In 2015, the native of Kiel founded the World Weather Attribution (WWA) initiative together with her now deceased Dutch colleague Geert Jan van Oldenborgh. During extreme weather events, the organization evaluates existing climate models from international data centers and combines the data with current on-site observation data. The public will be informed shortly afterwards.

According to Bonde, the climate researcher's work is characterized by three factors: the rapid publication of scientific findings on the connections between global climate change and regional extreme weather, the presentation of local consequences of the global climate crisis and suggestions for effective adaptation measures. “The presentation of sound research in real time is not only groundbreaking for a balanced discourse on climate change, impacts and countermeasures, but also removes the ground from false news,” said the DBU Secretary General. All of this makes global warming real and understandable. An example of this is the WWA study published in July, according to which this year's heat waves in North America and southern Europe would not have been possible without man-made climate change. “There are now heat action plans in many communities and cities,” said Otto, referring to the study. Given aging societies and growing inequality, there is “an enormous need to further roll out these heat action plans.”

Friederike Otto is also a central author in the latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The physicist and doctor of philosophy has held a professorship at Imperial College London since 2021. She is listed as one of the most influential people in the world on the prestigious Time100 list. In addition, the specialist magazine “Nature” named her one of the top ten most important scientists in the world in 2021.

Dagmar Fritz-Kramer: “Initiator of ideas for new paths in the construction sector”

The second winner of the German Environmental Prize 2023 is the 52-year-old graduate engineer Dagmar Fritz-Kramer. As managing director of the Allgäu family business Bau-Fritz GmbH & Co.KG, Baufritz for short, she is breaking new ground in the construction sector, said DBU General Secretary Bonde. For new construction, renovations and extensions, the company relies almost exclusively on the climate-friendly building material wood, which stores large amounts of carbon. Baufritz primarily processes local spruce wood and, according to its own information, achieves CO2 savings of around 12,000 tons every year through its construction projects. Renovation, recycling and resource conservation are “essential”, also because sand has become a rare commodity, said building contractor Fritz-Kramer.

In Germany, the building sector causes around 40 percent of all emissions of climate-damaging greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), according to statistics from the Federal Environment Agency. According to Bonde, it is therefore “one of the key factors if Germany wants to become climate neutral by 2045 as planned”. Old buildings therefore urgently need to be renovated - almost two thirds of all properties in Germany fall into this category. “We need people like Ms. Fritz-Kramer who (…) put sustainability, environmental and resource protection into practice. This is the only way we can achieve the climate goals,” said DBU General Secretary Bonde.

Source: German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU)

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