Federal President Heinz Fischer Opens Climate School

6/21/2010Vienna

On Saturday 19 June, Federal President Heinz Fischer and Environment Minister Niki Berlakovich ceremonially opened the new "VERBUND Climate School of Hohe Tauern National Park" in Seebach Valley, Mallnitz.

A new monument was unveiled at Stappitzer See Lake in honour of this special occasion. By means of the innovative educational program, Hohe Tauern National Park and Austria’s leading electricity company are carving a new path in climate protection.

High-ranking representatives came to the Hohe Tauern National Park in order to open the "VERBUND Climate School of Hohe Tauern National Park", just a few days after the formalizing of the founding treaty. First and foremost, Federal President Dr. Heinz Fischer insisted on personally conducting the opening ceremony in Mallnitz. "We have also experienced major setbacks for climate protection in the past. There is still a great deal of distance to be covered. By now taking the step into the schools, and familiarizing children with this at an early stage, we will change people’s thinking in the way that we need," said the head of state, praising the initiative by VERBUND and the national park. Climate protection is one of the most pressing challenges of modern times – one that must be actively met with powerful measures. Austria’s highest ranking political figure, Federal President Dr. Heinz Fischer, drew attention to this today within the framework of the opening of the climate school in Hohe Tauern National Park: "National parks are an important element of an environmentally aware politics, which is conscious of the ideas of climate protection and its responsible approach toward our resources. These politics must, in turn, be incorporated into a global environmental and climate policy, which takes notice of scientific findings and does not lose sight of the living conditions of future generations," said the Federal President.

"Climate protection is also the protection of species – we are pointing this out even more urgently in what is the International Year of Biodiversity," stressed Environment Minister Niki Berlakovich: "An increase in temperature on account of the climate change would endanger the sensitive eco-system in the Alps and would lead to the extinction of many animals and plants in the high mountains, such as in Hohe Tauern National Park. We need a change in thinking if we are to stop this development – significantly more renewable energy, gentle mobility and a sustainable tourism economy. We must protect our natural riches like a national treasure. It is only in this way that we are also able to retain our intact natural landscape for future generations. In the process, everyone can get actively involved - and the sooner we are able to convey this to our young people, the more self-evident climate and environmental protection will be in adulthood," urged Environment Minister Berlakovich.

Young people are becoming aware of the importance of climate protection
Hohe Tauern National Park and VERBUND – "neighbours" by virtue of VERBUND hydropower plants such as Kaprun, Malta and Mayrhofen – have spent more than a year working on the climate school educational program. They can now offer a forward-looking and, above all, sustainable training program: By means of interactive learning, experiencing, observing and analysing, the school children at the "VERBUND Climate School of Hohe Tauern National Park" can develop an understanding of the factors and the relationships that have a regional and global impact upon the climate.

"The decision-makers of tomorrow will thus be aware that they can make an active contribution to climate protection and that, in their capacity as ambassador for climate protection, they pass their knowledge onto their families," said Uwe Scheuch, Carinthia's deputy governor and chairman of Hohe Tauern National Park advisory board, outlining the climate school's intention.

Dr. Karl Gollegger, managing director of VERBUND-Austrian Power Sales GmbH, made it clear that he is supporting the climate school because it is a matter of fundamental value for VERBUND: "The majority of the energy systems in Europe are still based on coal, gas and oil. This is not the case for VERBUND, since we generate 90 percent of the electricity from hydropower. We are also confronting the issue of climate change with this same sense of responsibility."

The focus is on climate protection projects from the national park region
Special materials and methods, adapted to the age of the students, have been developed for tuition in the schools. This all goes under the motto “from regional to global”. A special focus is formed by the climate protection projects from the national park region – such as those for tourism, agriculture, energy or mobility. The students are made aware of simple, but effective measures that they are able to successfully implement themselves.

Obtain further information and arrange appointments at www.hohetauern.at/klimaschule
The mobile climate school begins its programs from autumn 2010 in the schools of the Hohe Tauern National Park region. The primary dialogue group for the VERBUND Climate School of Hohe Tauern National Park are students from the 4th through to 7th school grade. Interested students can now obtain information about the tuition and arrange appointments under: www.hohetauern.at/klimaschule. As a further step, the program will be expanded to include the national park districts. As well as the geographic further development, the program will also be expanded to cater to the 9th through to 12th school grades.

The Stappitzer Lake Monument is a sign: "We are taking matters into our hands."
The Obervellach carving school has designed the Stappitzer Lake monument, an oversized wooden hand with a living sapling, which will be unveiled on the occasion of the opening. This thus symbolizes that, under the motto "We are taking it into our hands", VERBUND and Hohe Tauern National Park are jointly campaigning for climate protection. During the subsequent hike in Seebach Valley, Federal President Fischer and Environment Minister Berlakovich, together with numerous guests from the opening ceremony, tanked up on a little national park air and appeared to be impressed by the protected area.

Climate change in the Hohe Tauern National Park
The climate has always been subject to change during the course of the Earth’s history, and an increasing warming up of the climate is noticeable today. "Unlike the past thousand years, today’s climate change is influenced by man and is advancing at an alarmingly fast pace. The aftermath of global warming is especially noticeable and visible in the high mountains, such as in Hohe Tauern National Park," explains Werner Wutscher, president of the Friends of Hohe Tauern National Park. The most obvious phenomena are glacier decline and the melting of the permafrost soils. In addition, higher average annual temperatures result in the immigration of foreign animal and plant species that crowd out the domestic species. This can lead to the extinction of special animals and plants that are adapted to the high mountain habitat. "For this reason, initiatives such as those of VERBUND are essential for the maintenance of our cultural landscape," concludes Wutscher.