German Advisory Council on Global Change

German Advisory Council on Global Change
(1992; Berlin; 12 secretariat staff;

Formally the Wissenschaftlicher Beirat der Bundesregierung: Global Umweltverandereungen, the WBGU is an independent, scientific advisory body set up by the German government in the run-up to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit (UNCED). Its principal tasks are to analyze global environment and development problems, evaluate national and international research in the field of global change, provide early warning of new issue areas, identify gaps in research and to initiate new research, monitor and assess national and international policies for achievement of sustainable development, make recommendations for action and research, and raise public awareness and heighten the media profile of global change issues.



  • Flagship Reports that provide in-depth scientific explorations of the overarching themes of global change and make recommendations for action and research. They comprise 200–600 pages. The federal government generally responds to these reports, and distributes them as official papers to the members of the German federal parliament (Bundestag) and council (Bundesrat). All are available in English and German, some in Chinese and Spanish
  • FR 2021 Rethinking Land in the Anthropocene: from Separation to Integration – “Proposes five multiple-benefit strategies illustrating ways of overcoming competition between rival claims to the use of land. These should be promoted by five governance strategies, especially by setting suitable framework conditions, reorienting EU policy and establishing alliances of like-minded states. “
  • FR 2019 Towards our Common Digital Future – “Sustainability strategies and concepts need to be fundamentally further developed in the age of digitalization. Only if digital change and the Transformation towards Sustainability are synchronized can we succeed in advancing climate and Earth-system protection and in making social progress in human development.”
  • FR 2016 Humanity on the move: Unlocking the transformative power of cities (2016, 544p., summary 41 p.) – The success or failure of the Great Transformation will be decided in the cities. In view of the existing cognitive, technical, economic and institutional path dependencies, a policy of business as usual – i.e. an unstructured, quasi-automatic urbanization – would lead to a non-sustainable ‘world cities society’.  Only if cities and urban societies are sufficiently empowered can they make use of the opportunities for sustainability.
  • FR 2013 World in Transition: Governing the Marine Heritage (2013, 362p., summary 28p.) The report shows that sustainable stewardship of the oceans is urgently necessary, that the seas can be incorporated into a transformation towards a low-carbon, sustainable society, and that such a transformation can achieve substantial benefits worldwide both for a sustainable energy supply and for food security.
  • FR 2011 World in Transition – A Social Contract for Sustainability – (2011, 400p., summary 34 p.) – Explains the reasons for the desperate need for a post-fossil economic strategy, yet it also concludes that the transition to sustainability is achievable, and presents ten concrete packages of measures to accelerate the imperative restructuring. If the transformation really is to succeed, we have to enter into a social contract for innovation, in the form of a new kind of discourse between governments and citizens, both within and beyond the boundaries of the nation state.
  • FR 2008 World in Transition: Future Bioenergy and Sustainable Land Use – (2008, 365p., 18p.) – Shows that a sustainable use of bioenergy is possible and outlines how opportunities can be exploited while at the same time minimizing risks. The report thus offers policy-makers valuable guidance for a sustainable bioenergy policy.
  • FR 2007 World in Transition: Climate Change as a Security Risk (2007, 248p., 14p.) – Without resolute counteraction, climate change will overstretch many societies’ adaptive capacities within the coming decades. This could result in destabilization and violence, jeopardizing national and international security to a new degree. The report is based on the findings of research into environmental conflicts, the causes of war, and of climate impact research. It appraises past experience but also ventures to cast a glance far into the future in order to assess the likely impacts of climate change on societies, nation-states, regions and the international system.

Leadership: Prof. Dr. Maja Göpel (Secretary-General)

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