For a sustainable future
The University of Bern shapes the UN Global Sustainable Development Report completed in 2019 and founds the Wyss Academy for Nature.


Far-reaching change needed

New York, September 11, 2019: Peter Messerli, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Bern and co-chair of the international expert group, presents the first Global Sustainable Development Report in New York.


The Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) was commissioned on behalf of all UN states in order to show the progress made in implementing the 17 sustainability goals of the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 to help inform the UN Sustainability Summit on September 24 - 25, 2019. The report clearly shows that the current model of development is unsustainable and that even the progress achieved over the last two decades is under threat because of increasing social inequalities and potentially irreversible environmental damage.

The scientists come to the conclusion that the goals of the Agenda 2030 can only be achieved with profound change. The report identifies 20 points where interventions can create transformative and accelerated progress towards multiple sustainability goals and targets in the coming decade. The authors identify the food and energy systems as particularly important arenas for change since these systems are critical nexus areas for human health and well-being. As they currently function, they are, however, bringing the world toward environmental tipping points.

Science looking for exchange

The authors emphasize that the extensive transformation that is needed will not be easy – it will also take strong political will and commitment: "The Agenda 2030 will force all of us to make tough political decisions," says Peter Messerli.

The report also suggests that science will take on an important role: A deep scientific understanding will be needed to anticipate and mitigate the tensions and trade-offs inherent in widespread structural change. "We can only succeed if actors from politics, business, science and civil society learn to work together in a completely new way," emphasizes Messerli: "And for that, we need scientists who are not just sitting at their desks but are looking for exchange." The focus should thus not be on individual problems, but on finding comprehensive solutions.


In a nutshell

"The University of Bern impressed us with a fantastic program."

Dr. hc. mult. Hansjörg Wyss, entrepreneur and patron

Wyss Academy for Nature aims to develop solutions for people and nature

Bern, December 13, 2019: The entrepreneur and patron, Hansjörg Wyss, the President of the Government of the Canton of Bern, Christoph Ammann, and the Rector of the University of Bern, Christian Leumann, ceremoniously sign the contract for the founding of the Wyss Academy for Nature at the University of Bern. CHF 200 million will be invested in this undertaking over the next 10 years.

Rector Christian Leumann sums up the idea behind the Wyss Academy for Nature as follows: "We want to combine the internationally acclaimed Bern research on biodiversity, climate change and land use and develop concrete projects which will directly benefit nature and humans." Rapid biodiversity losses, accelerated climate change, and a growing demand for land resources are closely interrelated. The following question is becoming increasingly pressing: How can the necessary nature conservation be reconciled with human well-being?

Active on four continents

This is exactly the area in which the Wyss Academy for Nature tackles this issue: Teams of scientists will join forces with experts and representatives from politics, business and civil society on four continents to develop innovations aimed at protecting nature and ensuring the sustainable use thereof. The implementation-oriented applications, strategies and policy guidelines will be tested at the hubs of the Wyss Academy and extended to other regions.

The way the different stakeholders cooperate is also new: It breaks up the conventional silos of science, nature conservation, development cooperation and policy making. In this way, scientific findings are applied quickly and can take effect. The novel approach of the Wyss Academy for Nature has already been tested in two pilot projects in Kenya and Peru.

Pioneering environmental achievements

The Wyss Academy for Nature is made possible by the Bern entrepreneur and patron, Hansjörg Wyss. In the context of the Wyss Campaign for Nature, the Wyss Foundation is donating a total of 100 million Swiss francs. The Canton of Bern and the University of Bern are each contributing 50 million francs. The Wyss Academy for Nature offers the Canton of Bern and the University of Bern the unique opportunity to provide pioneering services where the environment and sustainability are concerned. Three world-renowned research institutions of the University of Bern are involved in the Wyss Academy: the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR) and the Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS).

In a nutshell

"Founding the Wyss Academy for Nature at the university presents a unique opportunity for the Canton of Bern."

Christoph Ammann, President of the Cantonal Government of Bern