The dramatic impact of climate change on the Alpine ecosystem is impossible to overlook, said Steffen Reich, who heads the nature conservation unit of the German Alpine Association (DAV). Glaciers are melting, the risk of rockfall is increasing and entire hiking routes have become impassible.
“We are directly affected by climate change,” said Reich. “And that makes us realize we have to do something.”
The association, which has almost 1.5 million members, trails and Alpine huts across Germany, promotes sustainable hiking, mountaineering, mountain biking and skiing.
The DAV has been committed to nature conservation and climate protection for many years. To this end, the organization devised an ambitious climate plan in 2021, which has now earned it the 2024 German Sustainability Award.
The jury said the accolade was well deserved because the DAV is a “key player driving sustainable change in the leisure industry.”
DAV aims to be carbon neutral by 2030
The DAV is aiming to become fully climate neutral by the end of the decade. It wants to achieve this goal by avoiding greenhouse gas emissions, “instead of making compensation payments,” said Reich.
The organization is meticulous about its carbon accounting. Each year, all 356 of its regional member clubs calculate their exact carbon footprint. Based on this data, the DAV learned that it had generated a total of 51,000 tons of CO2 in 2022.
It has pledged to set aside €90 (about $98) for each ton, which will be invested into climate-friendly measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, said Reich. The funds will go toward “improving infrastructure, running education programs and buying climate-friendly buses,” among other things. The DAV plans to invest €140 per ton starting in 2025.
Moreover, the mountaineering association is currently working to convert all its facilities, which include over 300 Alpine huts, to run on green energy. Solar panels are being fitted and much is being done to improve overall energy efficiency.
But by far the largest share of greenhouse emissions stems from transport, specifically, getting into and up Germany’s steep mountains, said Reich. Not all of Germany’s mountainous regions are serviced by public buses and trains. For this reason, the DAV has set up a carpooling platform so that mountain sports enthusiasts can share a ride instead taking their own car.
Committed to nature conservation
The association, which was established in 1869, has always been committed to protecting the natural beauty of the Alps, said Reich.
That’s one reason why Reich is against developing untouched areas of the Alps. This applies in particular to the expansion of ski resorts, but also to large infrastructure projects such as the planned pumped-storage hydroelectricity plant in Austria’s Platzertal valley.
The DAV has not only enshrined nature convention in its statues, but now has also formally committed itself to climate protection.
The German Sustainability Award has been awarded since 2008 by the eponymous foundation in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund and the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, as well as the German Environment Ministry. It is considered one of the most important accolades in this field.
The award ceremony will take place on November 23 and 24 in Dusseldorf. A total of 100 companies from 20 different industries will receive the coveted award this year.
“We were very pleased about getting the prize,” said Reich. “After all, this is a prestigious accolade.”
This article was originally written in German.