Bruno Oberle has investigated and shaped the interface between environmental policy, economic development and social balance from the perspective of the state regulator, acting as an entrepreneur and also as a scientist. He has dealt with both sectoral and national issues, working at the highest level of international policymaking.
Dr Oberle studied environmental science at ETH Zurich where he was awarded a doctorate, and also pursued studies in economics and mediation science.
Following graduation, Dr Oberle founded and headed up environmental consultancy and environmental management businesses. He assisted public institutions and private corporations both at home and abroad with the definition and implementation of environmental standards, verification of their enforcement and analysis of their impact. For example, he played a decisive role in the introduction of environmental impact assessment policies in a number of West African countries.
In 1999, Dr Oberle was appointed Deputy Director of the Federal Office for the Environment, Forests and Landscape and in 2005 Director of the newly established Federal Office for the Environment. He presided until the end of 2015 over that agency with its extensive portfolio ranging from environmental protection to the prevention of natural hazards, from climate policy to forestry and from air hygiene to the licensing of chemicals. In keeping with his conviction that efficient use of resources is a decisive factor contributing to a successful society in the 21st century. Dr Oberle emphasized control and regulatory mechanisms oriented toward a market economy, while stressing technological and social innovation.
Starting in 2005, Dr Oberle represented Switzerland in leading international institutions and international negotiations as Secretary of State for the Environment. He performed mediation tasks on a number of occasions, especially on matters concerning the financing of international policies. He played a key role in the Global Environmental Facility GEF and in establishing the Green Climate Fund GCF. Dr Oberle had a seat on the Board of Directors of the European Environmental Agency and on its Committee. He remains a member of the steering body of the UNEP’s “Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System”.
Parallel to these professional tasks, Dr Oberle assumed a number of university teaching and research missions, working, for example, on the analysis and definition of a typology of environmental conflicts and mechanisms for their resolution. He taught courses on ecological problem-solving in the Department of Environmental Natural Sciences at ETH Zurich for a number of years.
Since 2016, Dr Oberle has been Professor of Green Economy and Resource Governance at the EPFL. He also heads up the IRGC, the International Risk Governance Centre at that same university. His work focuses on the transition to a society which generates greater benefits with less natural resources, thus respecting the limits of our planet. This involves identification and quantification of the key parameters of that transition. The mechanisms, obstacles and impacts of the transition are treated at various levels: at the level of the individual players, e.g. enterprises (micro), at the global level of the community of states (macro), and with reference to regions, urban systems or infrastructures (meso).