The British-German Environment Forum (BGEF) was launched in 1997, inspired by the successful tradition of Anglo-German ‘Königswinter’ conferences, which have made a unique contribution to political understanding and cooperation between Germany and Britain since the war. It represents an extension of the tradition with a new focus: it acts as a catalyst for fresh thinking and action on the challenge of environmentally sustainable development. The UK and Germany, both among the first countries to industrialise, not only face special challenges in moving towards sustainability but have valuable – and contrasting - policy experience and traditions to share and build upon, not only for mutual benefit but also to inspire good practice throughout Europe and globally.
BGEF brings together policy makers and practitioners from business, public agencies and the voluntary sector for a 2-day conference on topical environmental issues, alternating between Britain and Germany. It aims to build a network of contacts to promote good practice and innovation and provides a unique forum for exchange and discussion on topical and important issues of common concern between the two countries.
BGEF is designed to generate action: a key goal is to develop the experience and insights of practitioners in business, local government and the voluntary sectors involved in designing and implementing initiatives to support good practice in environmental management at local and regional levels as well as at the national level.
BGEF conferences in the UK and Germany since 1997 have covered a wide range of crucial issues for policymakers, business and NGOs, including :
- Future energy policy
- Economic growth and sustainable development;
- Climate policy and EU emissions trading;
- Sustainable food systems;
- Sustainable transport;
- GM foods and risk assessment;
- The Kyoto Protocol and its implementation;
Support and leadership
The BGEF initiative was supported in its first decade by the Anglo-German Foundation (AGF), and further funding for the conference series comes from appropriate public and private sector sponsors (such as the foreign affairs ministries of the two nations). Selection of delegates, themes and venues is the responsibility of a Joint Steering Committee comprising distinguished members drawn in equal numbers from the UK and Germany representing organisations from the public, private and voluntary sectors. The Committee is jointly chaired by Tom Burke CBE, Rio Tinto’s environmental strategy adviser and former Special Adviser to the UK Secretary of State for the Environment, and by Jo Leinen MEP, former Minister for the Environment for Saarland and Chair of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee.
Since 2010 BGEF has been working in close partnership with Wilton Park, the UK Foreign Office conference centre for international relations, and Ecologic Institute a German consultancy and think-tank on sustainable economy and politics. BGEF is coordinated by its founders, Dr Ray Cunningham, former Director of the Anglo-German Foundation, and Ian Christie, fellow of the Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey, and by its lead representatives in Germany R. Andreas Kraemer, Director of Ecologic Institute and in the UK Robin Hart, Director of Programmes at Wilton Park.