Christian Bruch CEO Siemens Energy

How to fight climate change now

Siemens Energy CEO Christian Bruch calls for fundamental change in energy systems.

Climate change is a major threat to humanity. As Siemens Energy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Sustainability Officer Christian Bruch notes, the time has come to radically change and decarbonize our energy system.

By Oliver Sachgau

Christian Bruch, the world is far from where it needs to be to meet the Paris Climate Agreement goals. We are nearing a tipping point. Why is there still so much hesitancy to do what’s needed to meet these goals?

Christian Bruch: I would not call it hesitancy. The transformation we need to go through is complex and massive. We can see that the elements we are driving today are not sufficient. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report has shown us that we have to move fast, and we have to move differently. We need to bring all stakeholders together to shift gears. The time to act is now.

The IPCC report you mentioned warned that unless greenhouse gas emissions are scaled back massively, limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will be impossible. Do you think the report has changed anything in public discourse?

CB: It was both a summary of what everybody felt in their gut and a wake-up call. For the first time, we now recognize that we really need to change the boundary conditions. It’s not about introducing new technology. It’s not about saving a little bit of energy. It’s about a fundamental change in our approach to consuming and producing energy.

The effects of climate change are distributed unevenly, affecting some areas of the world much more than others, especially developing countries and the global south. How do you address the disparity between where climate change is hitting people the hardest and where we have the most resources to tackle it?

CB: We do need different solutions in different parts of the world. At the same time, as the Paris Agreement clearly states, the developed world has an obligation to support the developing world in tackling the challenges of energy supply while addressing sustainability. We, as the developed world, have not lived up to this commitment. We need to recognize that in the developing world in particular, the increase in energy demand will be massive. If the developing world fails to deal with this challenge, we will not be able to mitigate climate change, which will ultimately also be to the disadvantage of the developed world.

“The transformation we need to go through is massive. We can see that the elements we’re driving today are not sufficient.”
Christian Bruch, CEO Siemens Energy

Your current portfolio consists of conventional and decarbonized technologies.

At the same time, you want to be the partner of choice for the

energy transition. What will this mean for your portfolio?

CB: There's no single silver bullet for the energy transition, whether it's solar or wind or hydrogen. We will need a variety of technologies – and for a transitional time, we will need conventional technologies. This is why I believe it's a strength to have what we call decarbonized portfolio elements and conventional technologies like gas turbines, because our customers have the same problem. Having said that, our portfolio is absolutely going to change going forward. That’s not even a question. We focus our R&D investments of €1 billion every year on technologies that are relevant in a decarbonized energy world.

You’ve spoken in the past about the importance of bridging technologies. Why would switching to gas help us decarbonize? Aren’t you just taking half-measures?

CB: First of all, if you can produce power from a renewable energy source, that’s a better way to do it. Nobody is questioning that. But if you have a situation today where 70% of the CO2 emissions in power production are caused by coal-fired power production, the most urgent task becomes how to stop and replace that. If gas helps us build a bridge by cutting the CO2 emissions by two-thirds compared to coal, then this is the right measure for reducing CO2 emissions in the short and medium term. Will it still be the right technology and approach ten or more years down the road? Probably not, but for me, it's important that we stop talking about long-term targets and start tackling some things immediately.

It’s important that we stop talking about long-term targets and start tackling some things immediately.”
Christian Bruch

Siemens Energy has the goal of being powered by 100% renewable energy by 2023 as one lever of becoming climate neutral by 2030. How are you doing with these goals?

CB: We're well on track here, and there's no doubt that we will achieve that target of being climate neutral in our own operations by 2030. Reaching this goal will obviously require reducing emissions, but we will also need to compensate emissions from 2030 onwards.

Is it more important to talk about how we as individuals use electricity, or about the way companies generate it?

CB: That is a very important point because we underestimate the relevance of the individual. If we don't change the way we consume energy, we won't solve the problem. It will require all three elements – how we generate electricity, how we distribute and store it, and how we consume it – and we all have a role as individuals to tackle that. We will have to change, all of us.

Sustainablity Report

Honestly, sustainability targets can’t be sustained.

As we achieve them, we constantly set more ambitious ones. By energizing society, we create lasting value for future generations. Learn more about our focus areas and goals in our new Sustainability Report 2021.

January, 2022


Oliver Sachgau is a Berlin-based German-Canadian writer and journalist

focusing on financial topics. His work has appeared in Bloomberg, the Washington

Post, Fortune, and the Independent.


Combined picture and video credits: Götz Schleser