“We can turn the great transformation towards sustainability into a global story of hope: the promise of a life in dignity for all within the boundaries of our planet.”

Former President Horst Köhler

Sustainability & Transformation

Humanity’s greatest challenge is to eradicate extreme poverty without destroying our planet along the way. Therefore, we urgently need to transform our economies and societies – not just in developing countries and emerging economies, but also in the industrialized world. The Western lifestyle is too resource-intensive – it simply cannot be applied to the entire world population.

Prices that tell the truth

Building a sustainable economic model that offers everybody a chance of prosperity requires change in many areas. Energy, for example, must be produced and consumed much more efficiently than today. Our dependency on non-renewable resources, especially on oil, must be drastically reduced. All of this can be achieved if prices reflect the real ecological costs of products. We will not be able to successfully combat climate change, for instance, without an effective pricing mechanism for CO2 emissions.

All of this demands a much broader reflection and debate on growth and prosperity. We need an honest, responsible growth model that we can actually afford with the financial and natural resources available to our generation today. And we should find better answers to the question of what really promises happiness and satisfaction in human life.


Chance, not threat

The prospects for a successful transformation of our economies and societies are real. In 2015 all member states of the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Now is the time for action! If we set the right course today, we will be able to stimulate the creativity needed, to foster innovations, and to get Europe back on track and moving forward again.

Selected speeches on the topic

At the closing event of the Africa Days of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Berlin, March 2014 (courtesy of the BMBF, Jessica Wahl / Wahluniversum). Horst Köhler in conversation with the Young DGAP, Berlin, April 2016 (courtesy of the Young DGAP, photo by Dirk Enters). Former Federal President Horst Köhler in Berlin (photo by Dennis Williamson).

“In that regard, the free market is currently playing a very dishonest game. We live in a global economy that is systematically externalizing the actual social and ecological costs of products to other continents and future generations.”

Horst Köhler, Countering the narrative of decline: the great transformation as a global story of hope, 9 March 2017.

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“The Global North must be aware that blind faith in growth alone will not ensure our long-term well-being – material or spiritual. We have to rethink and arrive at a definition of prosperity that does not rely solely on material growth but also takes account of other dimensions of happiness.”

Horst Köhler, A new global partnership: eradicate poverty and transform economies through sustainable development, 14 June 2013.

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“Countries with a rapidly expanding real economy that are driving forward industrialisation will need German plant and machinery and German know-how to solve complex problems.”

Horst Köhler, A new Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty And Transform Economies Through Sustainable Development, 14 June 2013

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“That is what makes fighting climate change unique. Politics and policies are confronted with a new quality of challenge: they need to meet concrete deadlines. You cannot ask the climate for an extension just because you failed to do your homework.”

Horst Köhler, Countering the narrative of decline: the great transformation as a global story of hope, 9 March 2017

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