"Our greatest contribution to tackling climate change is our research"

A high-profile panel at the Max Planck Plenary Assembly discusses multidisciplinary approaches to combat climate change

On Wednesday evening near the Brandenburg Gate, the Plenary Assembly at AXICA Eventlocation centred around climate change, acknowledged as one of today's most pressing global issues. Max Planck President Patrick Cramer underlined the critical role of scientific research, interdisciplinary collaboration, and international political action in tackling the increasingly noticeable impacts of the global climate crisis. His address, to an audience of approximately 550 guests, including former Federal President Horst Köhler, set the stage for the themes of the upcoming panel discussion.  

Update from 13 June, 12:00h (This article will be updated continuously)

"What can we do?" — with this question, the Max Planck President set the central focus of the evening. In his introduction speech, he outlined the specific climate protection measures undertaken by the Max Planck Society, such as the Climate Action Plan approved by the Senate, aiming to halve MPG's CO2 emissions by 2029 without restricting research, as well as emphasising the societal significance of basic research: "Our greatest contribution to tackling climate change is through our research." He continued by saying: "As hopeful as the findings from natural sciences and technology may be, they alone cannot drive the transformation or curb climate change. We additionally need research in the fields of economics, social sciences, and law. "

The interplay of climate protection, economics, and international law

The subsequent panel discussion highlighted the importance of leveraging global economic mechanisms, engaging society, and establishing appropriate legal frameworks for effective climate protection. Helene Bubrowski, deputy editor-in-chief of Table.Media, who holds a Ph.D. in international law, skilfully moderated the discussions of this highly complex field of climate protection, economics, and public law.  

Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Marcus Hicken, Commissioner for Energy Foreign Policy and Climate and Security at the Federal Foreign Office, Anne Peters, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, and Axel Ockenfels, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, discussed, among other topics, the data on climate migration. According to Filippo Grandi, this data is currently more speculative than reliable, as climate as a cause of migration is diffuse and hard to pin down, with conflicts or wars influenced by climate change also playing a role, as well as the loss of livelihood. This led to discussions about the applicable legal framework for climate or environmental refugees. International law expert Anne Peters pointed out that the term "climate refugee" is not defined as a status in either the Geneva Refugee Convention or German law — and is also misleading. Due to the fundamental climate-related impacts, there is an increasing reliance on human rights arguments, particularly in court cases. The role of courts was discussed by the multidisciplinary panel, along with questions about whether the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate protection had flaws and the status of international solidarity and global climate justice.

For those interested in reliving the lively discussion, a recording of the panel discussion will soon be available on the Max Planck YouTube channel.

Awards and medals for exceptional young researchers

Every year young scientists were honoured with various internal awards for example the Otto Hahn Medal for their outstanding scientific achievements in connection with their doctoral theses. The ceremonial presentation of the prize, which is endowed with 7,500 euros, took place during the Section meetings. The prize has been awarded every year since 1978. All awards and the outstanding early career researchers can be found here.

Three young women stand out from the group of young scientists awarded medals, namely Ida Marie Astad Jentoft from the MPI for Multidisciplinary Sciences, Laura Olivera-Nieto from the MPI for Nuclear Physics, and Sophie-Marie Humbert from the MPI for the Study of Crime, Security and Law. They also received the Otto Hahn Award. The award  facilitates an initial research stay abroad. Subsequently, these young scientists have the opportunity to establish a research group as a Group Leader at a Max Planck Institute with their own research concept.

Max Planck Start-Up Award of Stifterverband for Batene

The Annual Meeting on Tuesday evening kicked off with a prize ceremony: the Max Planck Start-Up Award of the Stifterverband was presented to the start-up Batene. Max Planck President Patrick Cramer, Volker Meyer-Guckel, Secretary General of the Donors' Association, and Anna Christmann, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Start-Ups at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action initially discussed the start-up scene in Germany. They focused on ideas to further stimulate this sector and promote science entrepreneurship within the scientific community, such as through the Start-up Award. The panel emphasised that the relationship between science and business should not be viewed as rigid, with one party providing insights and the other handling implementation and marketing. Instead, they advocated for a system with permeable and overlapping boundaries to make founding start-ups more attractive and easier. Patrick Cramer also suggested that the expertise of the Max Planck Institutes needed to be better interconnected, citing Max Planck Innovation as an excellent partner in this endeavour.

In her laudatory speech, Vice President and Chair of the Prize Jury Claudia Felser explained why one of the seven submissions stood out: "Thanks to Batene's technology, batteries can store up to 80 percent more energy, which has attracted significant interest from automotive and battery manufacturers. Additionally, the jury was impressed by the technical, scientific, and entrepreneurial achievements made in just two years." She highlighted that Batene already has a well-developed patent portfolio and a licensing agreement with the Max Planck Society. "The financial backing and the initial valuation of Batene also give us confidence that a truly great innovation is emerging here."

During the subsequent talk session, the winning team was brimming with enthusiasm and motivation. Joachim Spatz, Director at the MPI for Medical Research, Martin Möller, former head of the Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials (DIW) in Aachen, and T. D. Thanh Nguyen, who also came from DIW and served as commercial director there, discussed their next milestone: the construction of a pilot plant for producing fibres, nonwovens, and electrodes to demonstrate the scalability of their process. The next item on the team‘s agenda, however, was above all one thing: putting a small share of the prize money to immediate good use by celebrating their win together!

Max Planck presence in Berlin

Several Max Planck Institutes and facilities are located in Berlin, collectively employing a workforce of around 1,400 people.

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