Conference: Climate protection offers incredible opportunities for rural areas

Sustainable, economical and local – throughout the country, there are plenty of examples of how climate protection can have a positive effect on rural development. The conference “Regional Development through Municipal Climate Protection” explored how best to achieve this.


How can climate protection help develop rural areas through added value and profitability? How can the transition towards energy independence succeed and who needs to be involved? How can rural areas take strategic advantage of the additional, positive effects of climate protection? Some 80 participants from districts, regional associations, consulting institutes as well as from the federal and state governments explored these and other questions at the conference. They exchanged views on strategies, framework conditions and good practice examples for regional development through climate protection.

In this way, district and regional managers can act as central intermediaries and significantly improve the interaction between stakeholders, playing a role in climate protection processes that, in addition to reducing emissions, also have many other positive effects. “Rural districts face a new role in the climate crisis. Wind turbines have to be built on site, and there is potential for new collaboration, for example the use of waste heat. In this transformation, rural districts act as initiators, motivators or moderators for their district municipalities as part of many climate protection projects. The fact of the matter is, a culture change is required at all levels. Climate protection is not a secondary concern, but a central political task, so that new perspectives and forms of value creation arise in rural areas,” said Anna Kebschull, District Administrator of Osnabrück, at a panel discussion.

Local cooperation pays off

“Perception at the state level has also changed significantly in recent years. In Hesse, for example, regional districts were not the focus of climate protection projects. In the meantime, all the districts in Hesse have joined the Charter of Climate Municipalities and are a part of the Hesse Alliance of Climate Municipalities. Climate protection and climate adaptation are cross-cutting concerns for regional development,” says Marie Martin of the Environment Ministry of the State of Hesse.

“Through the National Climate Protection Initiative, NKI for short, the Federal Government promotes and initiates climate protection projects in cities, municipalities and districts. From 2008 to the end of 2021, the NKI supported around 21,500 projects in more than 4,450 municipalities with around 965 million euros. This triggered investments of around 2.5 billion euros in total. With a view to local added value, climate protection is also an opportunity for development in rural areas. This is where we start with our funding and support municipalities with a variety of action so that they can also take advantage of these opportunities,” adds Dr Sven Reinhardt, Head of Department at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection (BMWK).

Panel discussion, from left to right: Dr. Sven Reinhardt, BMWK; Marie Martin, Hessian Ministry for the Environment; District Administrator Anna Kebschull, District Osnabrück; and Moderator Dr. Marcus Andreas

Regional added value through the expansion of renewable energies

“A sober look at the numbers makes clear: sustainable business is better business. By 2045, Germany can achieve zero-emission targets and be cost-neutral. In rural areas in particular, there is an enormous variety of opportunities for the change towards a circular economy within individual regions or districts. This creates value for local potential, reduces expenses elsewhere and increases regional purchasing power. There are many examples of success. In the Vulkaneifel district, for example, the regional added value will increase to around 1.2 billion euros by 2030 just through the expansion of renewable energies,” explained Dr Peter Heck from Trier University of Applied Sciences in a keynote.

In several workshops, the participants discussed in depth what individual paths towards climate-neutral municipalities look like. They also explored how to add value to climate protection in rural areas. An intensive exchange took place on the basis of practical examples and the experiences of participants.

Prof. Dr. Peter Heck, professor for environmental economics at the Trier University of Applied Sciences

Developing products using start-up methods

The conference, which took place in Berlin at the end of June, marked the conclusion of the NKI-funded project “COUNTRY-DISTRICT-MUNICIPALITY: Plan climate protection strategically, focus on profitability and value creation”. The project supported districts and their strategic partners in improving the interaction between the stakeholders in a region and initiating climate protection processes that have a positive effect on regional value creation. For example, the project has adapted a method for product development from the start-up scene for municipal climate protection – the so-called “climate canvas”.

With this climate canvas and a specially developed handbook, around 90 municipalities received training in climate protection projects for regional development. “In the course of coaching and training, countless excellent ideas have emerged, such as a renovation concept that includes local heating from a bioreactor made from algae, a biomass plant for green waste, or a regional sustainable cup system with local motifs, to name just a few examples,” says Lia Weitz, Senior Advisor at adelphi and director of the project.

Lia Weitz, Senior Advisor at adelphi, summarises insights and highlights.

The project "COUNTRY-DISTRICT-MUNICIPALITY" and the conference "Regional Development through Municipal Climate Protection" were carried out by the joint partners adelphi and Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg. The conference was also held with the cooperation of the German County Association (DLT), the Service and Competence Centre for Municipal Climate Protection (SK:KK) and the two institutes kommunare and ifeu.

Contact: Leonie Kattermann