Klaus Töpfer

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Klaus Töpfer
Töpfer in 2003
4th Executive Director of the
United Nations Environment Programme
In office
15 January 1998 – 31 March 2006
Secretary-GeneralKofi Annan
Preceded byElizabeth Dowdeswell
Succeeded byAchim Steiner
Minister for Regional Planning, Building and Urban Development
In office
17 November 1994 – 14 January 1998
ChancellorHelmut Kohl
Preceded byIrmgard Schwaetzer
Succeeded byEduard Oswald
Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Reactor Security
In office
22 April 1987 – 17 November 1994
ChancellorHelmut Kohl
Preceded byWalter Wallmann
Succeeded byAngela Merkel
Parliamentary constituencies
Member of the Bundestag
for Saarland
In office
20 December 1990 – 28 February 1998
Preceded bymulti-member district
Succeeded byAnnegret Kramp-Karrenbauer
Personal details
Klaus Töpfer

(1938-07-29)29 July 1938
Waldenburg/Schlesien, Gau Silesia, Germany (now Wałbrzych, Poland)
Died8 June 2024(2024-06-08) (aged 85)
Munich, Bavaria, Germany
Political partyChristian Democratic Union (1972–2024)
Alma materUniversity of Münster
  • Politician
  • Businessman
  • Civil Servant
  • Academic Assistant
Other offices held

Klaus Töpfer (29 July 1938 – 8 June 2024) was a German politician (CDU) and environmental politics expert. From 1998 to 2006 he was executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Personal life


Töpfer was born in Waldenburg, Silesia. He studied economics in Mainz, Frankfurt and Münster. In 1968 he earned his doctorate at the University of Münster.[1] Töpfer died on 8 June 2024, at the age of 85.[2]

Early career


In 1971, Töpfer was appointed Head of Planning and Information of the Federal State of Saarland, a post he held until 1978. During that time, he also served as a visiting professor at the Academy of Administrative Sciences in Speyer, and consulted several countries on development policy, among them Egypt, Brazil and Jordan. He spent the following year at the University of Hannover as Professor and Director of the Institute for Spatial Research and Planning.[1]

Political career


In 1985, Töpfer became State Minister for the Environment and Health in the government of Minister President Bernhard Vogel of Rhineland-Palatinate.

Töpfer in 1989

In 1987, Töpfer became Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety under Chancellor Helmut Kohl. During his time in office, Germany established the Federal Office for Radiation Protection as a response to the Chernobyl disaster. From 1994 to 1998 he served as Federal Minister for Regional Planning, Civil Engineering and Urban Development. He was member of the Bundestag from 1990 to 1998 and member of the Steering Committee of the CDU from 1992 to 1998.

In 1998, Töpfer was appointed Under Secretary General of the United Nations, General director of the United Nations office in Nairobi and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme. Among the milestones of his eight-year tenure are a number of important environmental agreements, including the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Töpfer was also closely involved in behind-the-scenes negotiations in support of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. In June 2006 he was succeeded in this office by Achim Steiner. As director of UNEP, he had a key role in gauging and attempting to remedy the environmental costs of the 2004 Asian tsunami.

Later career


In 2009 Töpfer was appointed founding director of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) which performs research between climate problems and sustainable economics. This institute is located at Potsdam, Germany. The institute's funding is provided by the federal government of Germany Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Germany).

Töpfer was rumored as a possible successor to the German presidency after Christian Wulff's resignation.[3] He later served as co-chairman of the Federal Government’s Ethics Commission on a Safe Energy Supply.

From 2013 Töpfer headed the project "DEMOENERGY – The Transformation of the Energy System as the Engine for Democratic Innovations"[4] together with Claus Leggewie and Patrizia Nanz (both Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities Essen, Germany). In 2016, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) appointed Töpfer as co-chairman (alongside Juan Somavia) of an Independent Team of Advisors on positioning the UN development system for the Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2018, Energy Community appointed Töpfer to serve as mediator in an energy dispute between Kosovo and Serbia.[5][6]

Other activities

Töpfer at Potsdam in 2017

Corporate boards


Non-profit organizations



  1. ^ a b "Prof. Dr. Klaus Töpfer | Research Institute for Sustainability". www.rifs-potsdam.de. Retrieved 23 April 2024.
  2. ^ Der frühere rheinland-pfälzische Umweltminister Klaus Töpfer ist gestorben (in German)
  3. ^ "Koalition weist Nachfolgersuche von sich". Süddeutsche Zeitung. 7 January 2012.
  4. ^ "Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen (KWI)". www.kulturwissenschaften.de.
  5. ^ Christian Geinitz (8 March 2018), Europäische Stromversorgung: Wie ein Deutscher die Uhren wieder in Takt bringen soll Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
  6. ^ Fatos Bytyci and Maja Zuvela (13 March 2018), Kosovo finds temporary fix for energy glitch slowing Europe's clocks Reuters.
  7. ^ Senior Advisory Council Theva.
  8. ^ Sustainability: Porsche appoints renowned experts Porsche, press release of 28 November 2016.
  9. ^ 2011 Annual Report: Advisory Boards Deutsche Bank.
  10. ^ Patrons atmosfair
  11. ^ Advisory Board Stiftung Zukunftsfähigkeit.
  12. ^ Advisory Board Institute for Energy Efficiency in Production (EEP), University of Stuttgart.
  13. ^ Patrons German-Russian Raw Materials Forum.
  14. ^ "Holcim Foundation Advisory Board". Archived from the original on 8 October 2010. Retrieved 11 October 2010.
  15. ^ Prof. Dr. Klaus Töpfer übergibt Vorsitz des Rates der Agora Energiewende an Dr. Hans-Joachim Ziesing Agora Energiewende, press release of 5 March 2018.