Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to start by saying a few words on what happened last night. I’ve been following the reports from Manchester with great sadness and shock. It’s incomprehensible that someone could take advantage of a cheerful pop concert to kill or seriously injure so many people – so many young people. I’d like to convey my sincere condolences to all victims and those affected by this tragedy, as well as to their families in their grief and despair. This suspected terrorist attack will merely strengthen our determination to continue working together with our friends from the UK to combat those who plan and carry out such despicable acts. People in the UK can rest assured that Germany stands shoulder to shoulder with them.
Ladies and gentlemen, let us observe a minute of silence to remember the victims of this tragic event. – Thank you.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As in previous years, we’ve gathered here in Berlin to prepare the next UN Climate Change Conference, the 23rd of its kind. – Naturally, I’m delighted that the OECD Secretary-General is with us today. He has presented us with a report on which I’ll say something in a minute. – In contrast to previous years, the Climate Change Conference itself will also take place in Germany, namely in Bonn. However, the Presidency will be held by another country, the Republic of Fiji – thus allowing us to enter into unchartered territory, as it were. I’d therefore like to extend an especially warm welcome to all our guests from the other side of the globe. I greet you with a cordial “Bula” which – so I’ve been told – means “welcome” in Fiji.
With Germany and the Republic of Fiji, we have two countries working together which lie far apart in geographical terms. However, we’re united by our shared conviction and will to contain the impact of climate change as much as we can. It has to be said that we’re looking at global warming from very different perspectives. Climate change poses a much more direct threat to a country made up of more than 300 islands and located in the tropical climate of the South Pacific. Germany, by contrast, lies in the heart of Europe in a moderate climate zone. As a highly developed industrialised country, we are responsible for relatively high CO2 emissions. Naturally, we thus bear considerable responsibility for ensuring a change of direction.
I’m sure we all agree that the international community made a historic decision when it adopted the Paris Agreement. We undertook to keep global warming under 2°C and to limit it to 1.5°C if possible. The latter goal in particular, namely limiting global warming to 1.5°C, was of great importance to the island states. For every rise in temperature means a rise in sea levels. Today’s paradises are at risk of disappearing.
It was therefore vitally important that the international climate agreement was adopted and could enter into force quickly. Of the 197 signatory states, around 150 have now ratified it. As of 18 May 2017, 146 states had done so. Decisions are right and important. However, now we have to rise to the challenge; now the right steps have to follow.
The Conference of the Parties in Marrakech last year sent a clear message: we want to advance along the path we have embarked upon. Moreover, a schedule was adopted for making the decisions made in Paris more concrete and fostering initiatives. The key question remains as to how we can guarantee that all states make, and are indeed able to make, their national contributions towards reducing greenhouse gases. It’s clear that industrialised nations and larger emerging economies have to lead the way. Developing countries must be given support – whether it be financial or technological assistance. That’s why Germany joined forces with Morocco, the host country of the last UN Climate Conference, to establish the NDC Partnership. Just under 60 states have now joined.
At the UN Conference in Bonn, the focus will be on drafting a detailed instrument on implementing the Paris Agreement. For example, we need uniform standards so that national reduction targets and reporting on them really are comparable; in my view, this is an extremely important issue. This will also engender transparency and a solid basis for ensuring that states trust each other and engage in genuine exchange. Our plan is to make enough progress in Bonn so that we can then make the necessary decisions at the UN Conference in Poland in 2018. Moreover, we want to prepare for the facilitative dialogue next year. It will help all states to review their targets. It’s also a trial run for the global stocktake in 2023.
Furthermore, the Presidency of the Republic of Fiji will draw attention to the states hit hardest by climate change. Given their situation, swift action is essential. This isn’t merely a case of time is money – this is truly a question of survival. We need to keep reminding ourselves of that.
Half of Germany’s international climate-related funding is being channelled into adaptation to the climate change already taking place, with a view to supporting other countries. During our G7 Presidency two years ago, we launched an initiative to create insurance policies for developing countries hit especially hard by climate change. We would now like to expand this project into a global partnership during our G20 Presidency. Much would be achieved if the various governments were to all pull in the same direction. It goes without saying that we’d be fighting a losing battle if we were to act alone. We always need many stakeholders on board. That’s why local councils, NGOs and companies are invited to the Climate Conference in Bonn. They will present a wide variety of approaches and measures to climate change mitigation in an effort to learn from each other and also to find others beyond their own circles prepared to follow in their footsteps. For it’s clear that we need a global alliance of all states in which, what’s more, all sections of society are included. This is about a comprehensive transformation towards the most sustainable possible lifestyle – in social, ecological and economic terms. That’s why the Paris Agreement is closely linked with the 2030 Agenda.
Our revised German Sustainable Development Strategy includes the global goals for sustainable development. Our aim is to look at the economy, the environment and social issues together and to take interdependences into account in our decisions. These decisions range from the purchase of everyday goods to long-term private and public investment – whether, for example, they concern the modernisation of infrastructure or the transformation of energy systems.
The OECD – and I’d like to express my thanks to Mr Gurría and his staff – has drawn up a study on “Growth, Investment and the Low-Carbon Transition”. According to this document, we will have to increase investment in sustainable infrastructure – transport, energy, telecommunications – by roughly ten percent around the world in the next 15 years if we are to meet the two-degree target. The OECD believes that this extra expenditure can be recouped. For using more efficient technologies will save costs. Of course, cost avoidance due to fewer burdens resulting from climate change also has to be taken into account. The OECD has even come to the conclusion that we could achieve more growth through a common climate policy for all G20 states. In Germany, we’ve already seen that prosperity and sustainability can indeed go hand in hand. This is demonstrated, among other things, by a wide range of efficiency technologies which have made many of our companies leaders on the global market.
Nevertheless, this is about huge sums which have to be found before they can be redirected towards sustainable investment. The state level alone will quickly reach its limits. That’s why we need more private investment. The more companies take part in this, the quicker we’ll advance towards better climate protection. The energy transition in Germany shows that despite the great effort involved, advancing along this path is worthwhile. Once a start has been made, once the breakthrough of a new technology has been achieved, then costs go down. That’s an important lesson. The technological know-how gained can then benefit poorer countries which still lack their own research and development capacities.
There have already been palbable results: the price of energy generated from renewable energies has fallen considerably around the world. The United Arab Emirates is one example. Solar installations have been built there which produce energy for three US cents per kilowatt-hour. There’s a similar situation in Morocco with regard to wind farms. In Germany, we’re relying more and more on tenders when it comes to promoting renewable energies. In the case of photovoltaic systems, costs are starting to fall further. The first round of bids for off-shore wind farms far surpassed our expectations. Some bids don’t even require promotion. When I think back to how we supported the first ten gigawatts, then I realise how much leeway we have. We can now say that around one third of the energy consumed in Germany is generated from renewable energies. Despite their rapid expansion, the security of supply continues to be guaranteed.
However, there’s no denying that we still have a few challenges to master. For instance, we have more possibilities to generate energy than we have to store or transport it. That means that the bottleneck in Germany is no longer due to power generation but quite clearly due to the question as to how we get the energy to where it’s needed and how to better store it. Those who succeed in future in finding ways to store energy will have a broad range of uses for their know-how.
Of course, we not only need progress in the energy sector but also in all other spheres – for example, buildings or transport. The spread of digital technology opens up new opportunities. Connected mobility in local and long-distance public transport, car sharing, autonomous vehicles – all of this can foster sustainable mobility. Smart electricity meters help consumers to better monitor and control their power consumption. The ecological and economic benefits of these new technologies are evident: consumers use less energy and resources and save money. This creates substantial market opportunities for providers.
However, I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture. It takes considerable effort to put any innovation into practice, even in a highly developed country like Germany. In the case of smart electricity meters, people wonder: what does the electricity company know about me; what about data protection? We have questions on insulation, about which we’ve been discussing promotion instruments for a very long time but have never been successful across the board. However, progress has been made – sometimes slowly, sometimes a bit quicker. I can therefore only encourage everyone to embark upon this path.
The development of renewable energies continues to advance around the world. There is good news to report from many countries. I’d like to give you just a few examples. China is the world’s biggest investor in the development of renewable energies. India recently decided to construct another 50 solar farms. This has brought the country closer to its target of generating 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2022. Kenya is currently building a wind farm with 365 wind turbines, which can cover up to 20 percent of Kenya’s energy requirements. It has now been possible to give two thirds of the population access to electricity. When I look at the number of African countries where access to energy is under 25 percent, then I realise that solar and wind energy presents us with a huge opportunity to generate electricity on a decentralised basis and thus enable many people to have access to electricity for the first time. Of course, I’m especially happy about the situation in Kenya. For during Germany’s G7 Presidency we advocated the active promotion of the development of renewable energies in Africa.
In the G20, too, we’re now focusing more on Africa. We want to mobilise more private investment within that forum, with a view to fostering sustainable development. However, it’s difficult to mobilise investment without any electricity. It’s therefore important this goes hand in hand. Even though advances in technology have considerably reduced the cost of developing renewable energies and even though electricity generated with renewable energies is cheaper than electricity generated from fossil fuels in many countries, starting capital is always needed to advance renewable energies, as well as climate-friendly investment in general. Donor countries, financial institutions, development banks and private stakeholders therefore have to play their part.
Private stakeholders in particular do of course need planning certainty for their investment. That’s why long-term strategies are so important, as called for in the Paris Agreement. For they can provide orientation for investors and, ideally, the maximum level of openness to new technologies. A total of six states have now adopted their long-term strategies and submitted them to the United Nations. They include the African state Benin.
Germany is also among these countries. With our Climate Action Plan we’ve set out the next stage until 2050: a reduction of at least 55 percent in greenhouse gases by 2030 and 80 to 95 percent by 2050. However, we still have much to discuss with regard to the details of this Climate Action Plan. We’re being careful to tackle these goals without exclusively focusing on specific technologies and in a cost-efficient way. The whole thing is an ongoing process, that’s to say there are regular adjustments. Here, too – as in the drafting of the Climate Action Plan – we have to ensure that the largest possible number of stakeholders are involved.
The European Union also has a concrete target: by 2030 it aims to have reduced emissions by at least 40% compared with 1990 levels. Every member state must play its part. A key instrument here is emissions trading, which we want to strengthen. Parallel to this, we mustn’t of course forget our economy’s competitiveness. For there’s no point if production is simply transferred to other parts of the world. Emissions damage the climate – regardless of where they are produced. I can therefore only welcome China’s decision to launch its national emissions trading before the end of the year. Then, as it were, we’ll have two major regions – the European Union and China – trying out this market economy instrument.
Of course, it would be best if the production of harmful greenhouse gases were to have a global price tag. A global carbon market would create incentives for the most efficient possible production and at the same time prevent distortions of competition. That’s why we launched a platform during Germany’s G7 Presidency two years ago to enable us to work together more closely. This is another issue which could be expanded to include the G20.
Ladies and gentlemen, I firmly believe – as does my Government – that there are no excuses; protecting the climate concerns us all. Firstly, we all feel the impact of climate change. Secondly, progress in protecting the climate will benefit us all. We’re responsible for each other. We’re liable for each other’s actions. We are bound together by a common fate. As the Summit will take place in Hamburg, we chose a maritime symbol – a reef knot – for our G20 Presidency. A reef knot grows tighter the more you pull on it, the greater the strain placed on it. Our motto is: “Shaping an interconnected world”. We cannot deny that our world is interconnected, nor can we call this into question. We are bound together by a common fate.
The spirit which reigned at the adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement must also be present today – as it’s implemented in Europe, in the G7 and G20 states and at the United Nations. I’m still trying to persuade the doubters. There’s always work to be done. But for now I’d like to thank you very much for your attention.