Wednesday 19th January program


Ralph Watzel (moderator)

Since 2016 Ralph Watzel is President of the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) in Hannover, the National Geological Survey of Germany. He studied geology at Heidelberg university, and geology and geophysics at Karlsruhe university. He took his doctoral degree at Freiburg university where since 2000 he is engaged in academic teaching. In 2007 he completed a management training at St. Gallen university, Switzerland.

After more than 10 years of practical experience as hydrogeologist, he worked as consultant for sustainable development at the Ministry of Economy of Baden-Württemberg from 2001 to 2006. From 2006 to 2016 he was the head of the State Geological Survey and Mining Authority of Baden-Württemberg.




                 Wolfgang Schneider

European Commission, Policy Officer DG Research and Innovation, Unit Clean Energy Transition. Following several years in the German Ministry of Economy Wolfgang started his career in the European Commission in 1996. Since then he was engaged with technical issues regarding the European single market and was Project Officer for the Research Fund for Coal and Steel before he joined the Clean Planet Directorate. Beside the GeoERA project his center of work lies in the promotion and monitoring of carbon capture, use and storage activities.





Peter Handley

Peter Handley is, since September 2017, Head of the Energy-Intensive Industries and Raw Materials Unit in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Growth. He was previously Head of the Resource Efficiency Unit at the Secretariat-General, where he was responsible for coordination of Energy Union, 2030 climate and energy package, low emission mobility strategy and the circular economy.




Ruud Cino

Ruud Cino is Deputy Director, Directorate Sustainable Heating and Subsurface Policy of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy of the Netherlands. He is qualified as a chartered accountant and is currently responsible for the policy concerning the oil, gas and other mining sectors. His professional interests focus on the position of the oil and gas sector in the energy transition and the decommissioning and re-use of oil and gas facilities and infrastructure. Before Ruud Cino served at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment where he was responsible for the policy on soil and water quality.



Geoffrey S. Plumlee

As Chief Scientist, Dr. Geoff Plumlee provides strategic scientific vision and counsel to the USGS Director and other executive leaders on inter- and transdisciplinary USGS science research priorities, activities, capabilities, and partnerships. Geoff has been USGS Chief Scientist and Senior Science Advisor to the USGS Director since January 2019. Geoff brought to these executive leadership positions 33 years of research and science leadership experience with the USGS, as well as his ability to seek out and establish successful research collaborations with scientists from a broad range of earth, biological, health, social, emergency response, and engineering science disciplines.



Scott Foster

Scott Foster joined UNECE in 2011 as Director of Sustainable Energy. Mr. Foster previously was Managing Director of Nomad Energy Consulting, Vice President of global regulatory affairs with AES Corporation, Senior Director for global power with Cambridge Energy Research Associates, senior expert on electricity at the International Energy Agency, and hydroelectric engineer at Pacific Gas & Electric Company.




Laura Burke

Laura Burke is the Director General of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), appointed in 2011 and served as a Director within the EPA since 2004. As Director General she has the responsibility to lead and strategically manage the EPA. Laura is the Chair of the European Environment Agency (EEA) Management Board. Prior to joining the EPA, she worked in the private sector. Laura is a graduate chemical engineer of University College Dublin (UCD), holds an MSc from Trinity College, Dublin, is a Fellow of the Institute of Engineers of Ireland and is a Chartered Director. In 2016 Laura was awarded the UCD Engineering Graduates Association (EGA) Distinguished Graduate Award.



Elisa Vargas Amelin

Elisa Vargas Amelin is Policy Officer at DG Environment of the European Commission, responsible for implementation of the Water Framework and Groundwater Directives and working on water scarcity and drought management, climate change adaptation. She graduated from the University of Minnesota in Resources Conservation and Environmental Management and has completed a Joint PhD on Economic Growth and Sustainable Development in the UNED University and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. She worked for over ten years in the environmental consulting field in Spain covering international projects, water scarcity, droughts and climate change issues.


Maria Vassilakou

Maria is an experienced, inspiring urban leader, devoted to open, inclusive and green cities, passionate on urban transformation processes leading to sustainable system change. She served as Vienna’s Vice Mayor responsible for Urban Planning, Traffic & Transport, Climate Protection, Energy and Public Participation from November 2010 to July 2019. Maria now works worldwide as an independent advisor on urban transformation. After leaving office, she founded Vienna Solutions, a network of experienced Viennese urban experts and practitioners, with whom she cooperates building flexible teams to deliver complex urban projects.




Joop Hasselman

Joop Hasselman is a senior project manager at TNO, Geological Survey of the Netherlands. Since 2020 Joop has been the Project Coordinator of GeoERA. Before that, he worked as a consultant in the field of soil and groundwater and later expanded to HSE consultancy in the engineering and pharmaceutical sectors.