Why soils matter …

Water and soils are limited and endangered resources. It is estimated that at least a quarter of the usable earth surface is affected by strong degradation to an extent which is substantially reducing the potential production of biomass for food, feeding as well as for resources for materials and bio-energy. In the context of an ever-growing world population this is a serious threat. While the world population in the past four decades grew from 3 to over 7.4 billion people, the agricultural area increased by only 8%, mainly through the transformation of forest into arable land. Land consumption through urbanization is further reducing the fertile cultivation area. According to climate projections for the coming decades, rainfall patterns and temperature distributions will also change significantly.

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The 22 participants from 19 countries in this short course, which started October 11th,  will deal intensively with the connections between land use and nutrient cycles in the context of water catchment areas as well as at a global level. They will be enabled to develop concepts for soil and water protection as an integral part of sustainable land management.

One of the first stops within the intense 4-weeks programme was the headquarters of the German Environment Agency (UBA) in Dessau. Here experts of the agency introduced the group to topics like land-take, soil protection and monitoring, as well as water reuse in the European Union among other things.

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There are 3 more weeks ahead to discuss the value and importance of soil as a vital and finite resource for everybody: policy makers, development planners, soil scientists, agricultural extension officers, students and other practitioners.

photos by UN Photo & Anna Görner (CIPSEM)

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SC 69: Excursion to Dessau (German Environment Agency and Bauhaus)

By Adedoyin A. Adeleke (Nigeria)

It’s been learning and exciting time at CIPSEM since our course began. The diverse backgrounds of the 21 participants from 19 countries in the course have provided enriching insights on energy profiles (including their cultures) through the country reports. We have also had introductory lectures on renewable energy and energy efficiency which altogether have provided insights on trends, technologies and the policies driving them in Germany.
Then it was time to do some site visits, this time the German Environmental Agency headquarters in Dessau!  The about two and half hours’ journey by train provided opportunity to pass through other cities of Germany as well as villages. We realized that its global leadership in renewable energy, Germany also has fertile and expanse of land for agriculture.
On arrival at the Agency, we were taken on a guided tour round the building. What initially appeared to be a demonstration of architectural and artistic expertise would soon become a blend of arts and architectural design in a “model green building”. Our guide provided detailed explanations on the various designs and parts of the building as it relates to renewable energy and energy efficiency.

From the Agency, we proceeded to the world famous home of harmony of arts and craft, the Bauhaus in Dessau! We had another guided tour of the building and learned of its legacy in architecture since the 20th century. The 90-year old building which was a masterpiece in the 20th century architecture was designed in 1925 by Walter Gropius, a professor and an architect. The building was was unique with its glass wall, flat roofs and the no-main view design of the building which were peculiar at the time. The Bauhaus appears to be more than design but also a philosophy that pushed design on a new course: the Bauhaus provides an interface between User Experience, Sustainability and Innovation in building design.  From the Bauhaus, we retired to the hotel for dinner and night rest, courtesy of CIPSEM.
Next day, we had five insightful presentations at the German Environmental Agency (UBA). First was an introduction to the operation of the Agency.  It was exciting to learn of the reason for the location of the headquarter office of the UBA in Dessau instead of Berlin, the capital. We learned that all second place government institutions were asked to move to the interior to facilitate infrastructural development in 2004. Among other responsibilities, the agency supports Federal ministry for the environment, Nature conservation Building, and Nuclear safety (BMUB) and the Federal Ministry of Economy and Energy (BMWi)  “by providing scientific knowledge on energy questions and issues such as renewable energy”, collecting data, educating the public, implementing statutory provisions, among others. Thanks to Dr. Benno Hain for his presentation.
In his second presentation, Dr. Hain discussed policy and the institutional framework for Climate mitigation strategies and scenarios in Germany. He introduced the three levels of policy drivers for climate change in Germany: national (Energy Concept of Germany), regional (Climate and Energy Package of the EU28) and the global (International Climate Policy, UNFCCC). Very insightful!
Next was a presentation on the various bioenergy applications and their roles in sustainable development.  Jan Seven emphasized that though the use of bioenergy (traditional) is an ancient practice, their inefficient use results in resource depletion, air pollution and labour shortage.  He also itemized the risks and opportunities associated with modern bioenergy. According to him, averting the risks while taking advantage of the opportunities requires changes in current practices and strategies. Further, he discussed UBA’s activities for sustainable bioenergy development and support for the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP).
Max Werlein also made a presentation on the “Energy Transition in Germany”.  He discussed the concept “Energiewende”, targets and the three policy goals driving it: economic efficiency, security of supply, and environmental compatibility.  After the lunch break, we had the last presentation by Jens Schuberth: “Policies for energy saving”.  Jens discussed the prospects and challenges of sustainable use of energy and energy efficient products. His lecture also provided insights on policies and strategies for promoting the construction of energy efficient buildings in Germany.
Overall, the excursion provided insights on the German energy system, targets and the policies drivers. Thanks to CIPSEM for facilitating the visit and special thanks for Andre for leading us on the trip!

Visit at the Federal Environment Agency and the Bauhaus College in Dessau

Early morning the group entrained and traveled to Dessau, a city in the regional state of Saxony-Anhalt. With numerous parks in its surroundings, Dessau is one of the greenest cities in Germany. Thus, it is no surprise that the Umweltbundesamt (UBA) has its headquarters here. The UBA, which was our host for two days, is Germany’s central environmental authority and is mainly responsible for the scientific support of the Federal Government, the enforcement of environmental laws, and the information of the public about environmental protection. Besides a tour through the office buildings (awarded with the 2009 German gold medal for sustainable construction), a number of experts gave insights in different topics, such as green economy, strategic and environmental impact assessment, adaptation to climate change, environmental risk management, and water resources management.

At the end of the visit, the group went to see the famous Bauhaus. Designed by Walter Gropius, one of the pioneers of modern architecture, the Bauhaus was build in 1926 as a school for architecture and design, and is since 1996 included in the UNESCO World Culture and Nature Heritage List.

(Photos: A. Lindner)