Monika Griefahn

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Monika Griefahn
Monika griefahn.jpg
Monika Griefahn

(1954-10-03) October 3, 1954 (age 64)
Muelheim-Ruhr, Germany
OccupationGerman politician
Known forco-founder of Greenpeace Germany and member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany .

Monika Griefahn (born 3 October 1954 in Muelheim-Ruhr, Germany) is co-founder of Greenpeace Germany and a German politician of the SPD .

She was a Member of the German Parliament (1998–2009), functioning as an expert on culture and the media as well as foreign (cultural) policy. From 1990 to 1998 she was the Minister of the Environment in the State of Lower Saxony. From 1980 to 1990 she was an activist in the environmental organization Greenpeace and the first woman on the international board of Greenpeace (1984–1990).

Life and work[edit]

After finishing school in 1973 she went to the universities of Göttingen and Hamburg to study mathematics and social sciences. She left university in 1979 with a diploma in sociology. Starting in 1973 she worked for the German-French Youth Organization and for YMCA Hamburg, offering adult education seminars for trade unions, church organizations and NGOs for more than a decade.

From 1980 onwards she became active in establishing Greenpeace in Germany, with its main office in Hamburg. She was the executive director until 1983. With Greenpeace Germany she organized campaigns against, among other environmental issues, chemical pollution as well as campaigns for the protection of the North Seas and the rivers Rhine and Elbe. In 1984 she became the first female member of the international board of Greenpeace. She was responsible for developing programs and skill training for the people working for Greenpeace all over the world until 1990. Additionally she helped found new offices in Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Latin America and the former Soviet Union.

In 1990 the later German chancellor Gerhard Schröder named her as the Minister for the Environment in the state of Lower Saxony, where she started special programs to support removable energy systems (wind, solar, biomass) in order to stop the use of nuclear power (more see "Public Offices"). She became a Member of Parliament in 1998 (see chapter "Public Offices" and "Member of Parliament").

Monika Griefahn is married to Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart, an environmental chemist and professor of process engineering, who developed – in cooperation with the American architect William McDonough – the Cradle to Cradle design principle. Griefahn and Braungart have three children.


Monika Griefahn joined the Social Democratic Party (SPD) Germany in 1992.

Member of Parliament[edit]

From 1994 to 1998 she was Member of the state parliament of Lower Saxony.

From 1998 to 2009 she was a Member of the German Parliament ("Bundestag") and served as chair of the committee on culture and the media from July 2000 to September 2005. From 1999 to 2000 and then from 2005 to 2009 she was also the spokesperson for the parliamentary group of the SPD for the committee on culture and media as well as for the sub-committee on cultural policy abroad. Furthermore, she was a member of the committee on foreign affairs and of the sub-committees on cultural policy abroad and new media.

Responsible for cultural policy she decisively initiated the founding of the German Games Award. She was also committed to the support of German films, strong copyright laws, and a decentralized structure of the book trade market by initiating a fixed bookprice law, cultural diversity and the expansion of Goethe-Institutes and German Schools abroad.

In 2005 she was elected chair of the bilateral committee on cultural diversity, which was appointed by the German Parliament and the French Assemblée Nationale.

In foreign policy her work focused on supporting renewable energy in German real estate all around the world (like German schools for example) as well as on the support of NGOs in the field of nature conservation and environmental protection. She was active in the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the OECD for these issues.

Public Offices[edit]

From 1990 to 1998 Monika Griefahn was Minister of the Environment of the state of Lower Saxony, which at that time was led by Gerhard Schröder, who became German chancellor later on. One of her central concerns in environmental policy was to quit to the use of nuclear energy. Her plans, which finally became reality in 2011, were blocked by directives of the Federal Ministry of the Environment, headed by Klaus Töpfer (1990–1994) and Angela Merkel (1994–1998). Parallel to her commitment against nuclear power Griefahn hurried along the extension of renewable energy in Lower Saxony with measures like an eco-fund or an atlas for wind energy. Her commitment contributed to the fact that the plans to phase out nuclear power became a reality between 1998 and 2005, when a coalition of the Social Democratic Party and the Greens led the Federal Government. In 2001 the law on the abandonment of nuclear energy came into power.

As Minister of the Environment Griefahn initiated new policies on waste management. Waste had usually been stored on disposal sites or burnt in incineration plants. Griefahn put her focus on products which could more easily been disassembled, on the separation of different waste types and on different waste treatments – such as composting or mechanical separation. Consequently, there was no longer a need to build about ten incineration plants, which had been planned before her time of office.

Additionally she changed procurement directives for public offices in Lower Saxony in such a way as to make them become more ecological. She founded two national parks - Harz and Elbtalaue (biosphere reserve).

Volunteer Work[edit]

Since 1986 Monika Griefahn has been volunteering for the Right Livelihood Award Foundation in. She has been a member of both the jury and the board. In 2010 she was appointed co-chair alongside Jakob von Uexküll. Griefahn is also a member of the German UNESCO-commission and vice-chair of the F.C.-Flick Foundation against xenophobia, racism, and intolerance. In 2008 she became a member of the presidency of the German "Kirchentag", a biennial national festival for Protestants. Moreover, she is jury-chair of a national festival on ecological and nature films (Ökofilmtour").

On a local level she started an initiative against right-wing extremism in 2001 which has helped to enlighten the structures of right wing sub-culture and its danger to civil society. Since then more and more people have become active in that field.

Selected Publications (German)[edit]

Computerspiele als Kulturgut? In: S. Ganguin, B. Hoffmann (Hrsg.): Digitale Spielkultur. Kopaed Verlag, München 2010, ISBN 978-3-86736-343-3.

Kulturwirtschaft und kulturelle Intelligenz. In: B. Wagner: Jahrbuch für Kulturpolitik 2008. Thema: Kulturwirtschaft und kreative Stadt. Bonn/Essen, S. 221-226.

Kreativität – ein Wirtschaftsfaktor? In: Kulturforum der Sozialdemokratie (Hrsg.): Kulturnotizen. 11/2006, Berlin.

Nachhaltigkeitspolitik und Kulturpolitik. In: Kulturpolitische Gesellschaft KuPoGe (Hrsg.): Kulturpolitische Mitteilungen. II/2002, Bonn.

Nachhaltigkeitspolitik und Kulturpolitik – eine Verbindung mit Zukunft? In: H. Kurt, B. Wagner (Hrsg.): Kultur-Kunst-Nachhaltigkeit. Die Bedeutung von Kultur für das Leitbild Nachhaltige Entwicklung. Bonn/Essen, 2002, S. 59-68.

(Hrsg.): Greenpeace. Wir kämpfen für eine Umwelt, in der wir leben können. Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1983, ISBN 3-498-02434-5.

Weil ich ein Lied hab'. Die Politik einer Umweltministerin. Piper, München 1994, ISBN 3-492-03688-0.

Selected Speeches (English)[edit]

26.10.2010: "Necessary political framework conditions for sustainable building and social effects", speech delivered at Carleton University, Ottawa.

13.04.2008: “Pushing Back the Frontiers of Poverty”; speech on the occasion of the General Debate of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

15.10.2007: „The cultural dimension of environmentalism“; Talk delivered at Harvard University, Massachusetts, USA.

29.04.2007: “Global warming: ten years after Kyoto”; Speech for the 116th IPU Assembly in Bali.


Jürgen Streich: Monika Griefahn. Politik, Positionen, Perspektiven. Zebulon, Köln 1997, ISBN 3-928679-60-0