I was born on May 4, 1952 in Flensburg, a city on the northern tip of Germany. I have two grown-up sons, a daughter-in-law and four lovely grandchildren.
After having studied mathematics and economy in Kiel, I am a “Diplom-Mathematikerin”.
In 1978 our family moved to Oberhausen in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. I worked as a research assistant at the University of Duisburg until 1990.
I was engaged in several citizens’ action committees since 1981. Among them the “Stadtelternrat Oberhausener Kindergärten”, the “Frauenforum” (womens’ assembly) and the “Bürgerinitiative gegen Giftmüllverbrennung,” an initiative against toxic waste. The main reason I started being politically active was my little son’s bad suffering due to toxic air-pollution in the Ruhr-area around 1980.
In 1985 I joined the political party “DIE GRÜNEN” and represented green ideals for four years in the Oberhausen city council.
Being the top candidate for the Greens in 1990 elections, I was elected to the state parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia and served as the green groups spokesperson until 1995.
After forming a Red-Green coalition in 1995, I became state minister for the Environement, Regional Development and Agriculture. Thereby being the first green Agricultural minister. I put a strong emphasis on consumer protection. In 2000, the ministry was enlarged and included Environment, Nature Protection, Agriculture and Consumer Rights. (This was first ever ministry for consumers in Germany.) Our coalition ended in 2005.
Subsequently, I was elected for Bundestag unto the federal level. I served three terms until 2017.
In my first year, I was Chair of the Committee on Food, Agriculture and Consumer Rights.
From 2006 until 2013, I was the vice-chair of the Green Group in the Bundestag (Bundestagsfraktion). My responsibilities streched from policy fields such as environment, energy, consumers, animal rights to building and mobility.
I became Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Nature Protection, Building and Nuclear Safety in 2014 and continued this until my last session in 2017.
After years as member of the Bundestag, in November 2017, I started as Energy Commissioner for Africa of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
In 2018 I became chair of the Global Renewables Congress, a global network of parliamentarians, promoting 100% Renewable Energies. Both jobs are on a honorary basis.