“Preserving the natural basis of life on this planet is something that is very close to my heart,” says Wanner. He knew early on that he wanted to work in the environmental sector, and his ambition while still at school was to become a Greenpeace activist. After passing his Matura university entrance exams, he opted to study environmental sciences at ETH – a choice that he would happily make again. He was particularly taken by the interdisciplinary approach: “The things I learned on that course still benefit my work today.”
Set the right priorities
Wanner’s entry into politics was almost as unexpected as his appointment as CEO of Energie Zukunft Schweiz: in 2009, he was elected to a seat in the Basel-Stadt cantonal legislature, just one year after joining the newly founded Green Liberal Party of Switzerland. As the time for elections drew near, the party leaders were looking for candidates and asked if they could add him to the list. Wanner agreed. “But I never imagined that I would actually be elected”. The first years were understandably tough: “Back then, I simply had no idea how politics worked”.
But as time went on, he gained some valuable experience. In 2013, he collaborated with alliance partners to launch the people’s initiative “Basel 100% renewable”, which called for a complete switch to renewable energy sources by 2050. This led to the drafting of new cantonal energy legislation which was adopted by the Grand Council as a counterproposal. Among other things, this stipulates that systems based on renewable energy sources must be used when replacing oil and gas heating systems in Basel-Stadt. Wanner says this is one of the most progressive laws of its kind in Switzerland: “It’s my biggest political success to date.”
When Wanner needs to escape from his intellectually demanding day-to-day life, he heads to the mountains to climb, paraglide or ski. He makes sure to keep his weekends free for those activities despite all his commitments. “You have to set priorities,” he says. And now there are new priorities on the horizon, with Wanner and his partner expecting a child in the summer.
He still believes that it is important for him to pass on his knowledge and experience. One way he does that is by working as a lecturer at ETH, where he holds a regular course on project development in renewable energies. “I want students to see the exciting challenges that energy transition offers – plus I want to show them that taking care of the environment can be fun!”