Speech by Federal Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel at the XIth Petersberg Climate Dialogue on 28 April 2020 (video conference)

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Secretary-General, António Guterres,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Svenja Schulze,

Allow me to offer you a very warm welcome. I’m delighted to be part of the Petersberg Climate Dialogue once again this year. 2020 was supposed to be the year of biodiversity and climate protection. Right now, however, we’re witnessing each day how profoundly the COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way in which we live and work together. Yet – this is what I firmly believe – we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that we continue to face other major challenges for humanity. 2020 must therefore, despite everything, be the year of biodiversity and climate protection.

In order to ensure that this is successful, it’s vitally important to continue the Petersberg Climate Dialogue particularly now. I would like to thank all those involved – especially those from the UK – that we are able to hold this climate dialogue under these unique circumstances. The next UN Climate Conference – COP26 – will, after all, take place under the auspices of the UK Presidency.

The COVID-19 pandemic is reminding us once again – albeit in a particularly painful way – of how vital international cooperation is. In our closely interconnected world, the national good always depends on the global good at the end of the day. Whether the coronavirus crisis, or the economic, financial or climate crisis – in all great challenges, the more we act together, the better we are able to avoid or mitigate human suffering and economic upheaval.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have seen a reduction in emissions harmful to the climate in most recent times. But, of course, we mustn’t allow ourselves to be deceived as this is essentially due to the shutdown of our public and economic lives. It therefore continues to be our task and we continue to have a responsibility to implement the Paris Climate Agreement with all due seriousness and determination. We continue to be called upon to improve national contributions by 2030, to develop long-term strategies for the period up to 2050 and to come up with a concept for climate financing to this end.

The European Commission has shown us the way with its Green Deal, in the course of which Europe is to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. We know that the path to get there is long. I therefore welcome the proposed interim target of reducing emissions in the European Union to 50 to 55 percent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels. We need a comprehensive package of measures to this end. This includes investments in climate-friendly infrastructures and also appropriate carbon pricing.

I welcome the planned extension of EU emissions trading to other sectors. In Germany, we decided last year to introduce carbon pricing also in the fields of transport and heating. We are thereby increasing incentives for both companies and private households alike to make investments in order to reduce CO2 emissions and therefore CO2 costs in the future.

Germany will phase out coal-based power generation by 2038. This will entail truly far-reaching structural change for certain regions in Germany. We will invest particularly heavily in these regions in order to have climate protection create new economic prospects and therefore jobs for people.

We will continue to promote the expansion of renewable energies. The aim is for renewable energies to account for 65 percent of the total by 2030.

We don’t just want to think of ourselves, but also to drive forward international cooperation. We are setting aside four billion euros for international climate financing this year, which means that we have doubled our commitment since 2014. We have already increased our contribution to the Green Climate Fund to 1.5 billion euros. And also after 2020, Germany will do its part to support international climate financing in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.

Let me say once again that we face difficult discussions about distribution with a view to our respective national budgets if we consider the economic damage that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused. It will therefore be all the more important, when launching economic stimulus packages, that we keep climate protection very firmly in view and make it clear that we’re not cutting back on climate protection, but rather that we’re investing in sustainable technologies – that we’re not only thinking of ourselves in national terms, but that we’re continuing to make robust progress as regards our international obligations because this is essential to ensuring that we meet with success in climate protection at the global level.

In order to do justice to the joint Paris Climate Agreement, everyone in the international community must do their part, of course. We must move away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energies and greater energy efficiency. We believe and I believe that market economy incentives are most important in this regard and that we need carbon pricing. It would be wonderful if as many of the world’s countries as possible could take this approach. After all, carbon pricing is the most efficient way to reduce emissions. And participation across the board helps, of course, to prevent market distortions that could emerge if only individual countries sign up to such a system.

Overall, it’s important for investors to be able to see that investing in modern technologies pays off. This applies not least to renewable energies. The wind and sun are available everywhere as sources of energy. However, it’s often the case that they’re unfeasible owing to capital costs. We therefore need a financial market that makes cheap capital available for climate-friendly investments. As many stakeholders as possible should work together in this context – countries, development banks, and also the private financial sector.

Economy and ecology must be thought of as two sides of the same coin. And it goes without saying that we must also do this with a view to biodiversity. We know that natural habitats are shrinking. This is having a severe impact on biodiversity, and is also posing a threat for us humans in turn. Allow me to mention one example: according to scientists, 60 percent of all infectious diseases in recent decades have been transmitted from animals to humans. This is due to the increased exploitation of hitherto undisturbed habitats and the resulting proximity to wild animals.

We therefore have no alternative but to make progress in the international protection of biodiversity and forests. We need a new framework for the protection of biodiversity in the run-up to the 15th UN conference to implement the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Ladies and gentlemen, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda – which include healthcare and climate protection – make it clear that there can be no sustainable development at the expense of individual SDGs, but that we must bear all of them in mind at all times. Like all of the SDGs of the 2030 Agenda, we can only successfully overcome the challenge of climate protection at the end of the day by taking firm action at the national level and by working together at the international level. I would like to ask all of you for your support, and I hope that this conference will show the world that climate protection and biodiversity are, particularly at this time of worldwide crisis during the pandemic, of paramount importance. I would like to thank everyone involved in this endeavour. It has been a privilege to speak to you today. Thank you very much.

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