Towards climate neutral science: the Pledge4Future CO2e emission calculator

Under pressure from the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court in spring 2021, the German government has amended its climate targets. The new coalition also wants to stick to these and pursue the goal of greenhouse gas neutrality by 2045. Emissions are to be reduced by 65 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 (Presse- und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung (2021)).

Soon, all domains of our society will have to become climate neutral. In view of rising prices for emission certificates, climate-damaging products and work processes will become continuously more expensive. Companies that fail to make the transition to climate-friendly production will no longer be competitive. Furthermore, in a society that is becoming increasingly aware of the consequences of climate change, companies that are harmful to the climate will suffer from image damage in comparison to their counterparts that operate more sustainably.

What does this mean for science institutes? Sooner or later, they too will have to be climate neutral. Cost-intensive audits will have to be carried out to quantify emissions and to identify reduction potentials. The tool Pledge4Future is the answer to these challenges: a free web tool for scientific working groups to calculate, visualise and reduce per capita CO2 emissions in the long term. While the tool emphasises the collaborative and independent aspect of climate action, it also aims to amplify the ambitions of institutes and research groups through benchmarking.

The project emerged from a sustainability working group mainly consisting of members of HeiGIT and the GIScience research group during The Climate Challenge Hackathon organised by Scientists4Future Heidelberg and the Goethe Institute. It emerged from the two-stage evaluation process as the winner of 8,000 EUR in project funding. A first demo version on the website offers a glimpse of some of the future services. The beta test phase is scheduled to start in spring 2022. If you would like to be a beta tester, please contact

As part of the festival “When Machines Dream the Future” of the “Generation A=Algorithmus” project of the Goethe Institute, Scientists4Future Heidelberg and Pledge4Future members Sarah Lohr, Felix Munzlinger and Veit Ulrich presented the project in a live interview on 13 November. On 14 November, Pledge4Future took part in a critical live panel discussion on the pros and cons of using artificial intelligence.

Author: Sarah Lohr

Date: 10.12.2021