The event was opened by the Mayor of Hamburg, Olaf Scholz, who looked back over the city´s notable year as the Green Capital of Europe and also looked forward to further activities in 2012. He emphasised that the end of the European Green Capital year in no way means that environment policy will now be neglected in Hamburg. "The quality of the environment in a major city like Hamburg equates with quality of life," said Scholz, explaining his commitment.
DIE ZEIT editor-in-chief Giovanni di Lorenzo then welcomed the guests to the "European Green Capital ZEIT CONFERENCE". He pointed out how little interest there is in environment-related stories until readers´ interest is awakened by a natural disaster. What is needed, said Lorenzo, is to make the topics universally accessible by pinning them on projects which can be understood by everyone. Which is precisely what happened in Hamburg last year, he said.
In three different panel discussions, industry, government and science experts considered the environment in terms of work, knowledge and quality of life: "Are green jobs really a driving force behind the economy?" "To what extent should education and training take greater account of green and sustainable issues?" and "Does new knowledge translate into new awareness?".
Together with fellow panellists Eberhard Brandes of WWF Germany, Thomas Jorberg of GLS Bank and Claus Leggewie of the Essen KWI (Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities), Anita Engels discussed environment-related education opportunities. She stressed that green topics first need to be tackled at the regional level if people are to be reached. The panel was unanimous in its view that an interdisciplinary approach is required in education and science in order to cover the broad and complex subject of the environment. The collaboration between different faculties has proven successful at the KlimaCampus of Hamburg University. This approach has also been adopted in the economy, Jorberg pointed out. Only in schools has there been scarcely any attempt to tackle environmental issues from an interdisciplinary angle, criticised Brandes and Leggewie. In summing up, the panel emphasised how important it is to exploit the advances made in the European Green Capital year and to build upon these next year.