Speech by Federal Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel at the Xth Petersberg Climate Dialogue, Berlin, 14 May 2019

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Environment Minister Schmidt Zaldívar,

Svenja Schulze,

Ladies and Gentlemen, participants in the Petersberg Climate Dialogue – which if you count the way they do in the Ruhr District has long been a tradition; but even in Berlin something will become a tradition on the tenth outing,

I would like to extend a warm welcome to you all to this event here in Berlin. I am delighted that Chile and Germany are organising this year’s Petersberg Climate Dialogue together. Please convey my very best wishes to President Piñera.

We have learnt that Chile has big ambitions. I am very happy about that. Our countries may be a long way apart geographically, but it is clear that they share a common desire. So I am pleased that our cooperation here has gone so well.

The next conference will take place in about six months’ time. It is a good tradition that the Petersberg Dialogue tries, in between the conferences, to work with many key stakeholders to plan the course for the future and get things moving.

Compared to previous years, something has changed. Not just the fact that the issue itself has taken on more importance. Around the world, children and young people are skipping school on Fridays to demonstrate for climate protection, putting the pressure on politicians worldwide. To be honest, it’s anything but a comfortable feeling. But let me say this quite clearly: what they are doing is completely understandable. Because from young people’s perspective, our natural world and our coexistence are at stake. They believe they need to warn against this disaster and pile the pressure on the relevant actors. We should respond and take action.

The 2015 Paris climate agreement contained a pledge that we would effectively address climate change and reduce its impacts. To achieve this goal, both global action and national contributions are needed. Every country is called upon to pursue its own path. But we also have to recognise global connections and to ensure that the world as a whole makes progress. It is absolutely clear – and this is something that has been said repeatedly since the start of the climate debate – that we have a shared responsibility, though we are starting from very different positions. In other words, we need to take the differing situations in various parts of the world into account when we are shaping global climate policy.

On the one hand, the goal is to reduce emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. On the other, it is also a matter of building resilience so as to cope with the impact of climate change. The aim is to spread the cost of climate damage as widely as possible. Insurance solutions have become an established instrument to this end and can be further developed. During our presidencies of the G7 in 2015 and G20 in 2017, we set up and developed the Global Partnership for Climate and Disaster Risk Finance and Insurance Solutions. It is intended in this way to insure an additional 400 million people against climate risks by 2020. In industrialised countries we are familiar with such insurance solutions: they are common practice. But they are not yet so widespread in economically weaker countries. However, it is those very countries that are particularly hard hit by climate change impacts.

So we want to work in and with the Global Commission on Adaptation to increase the political importance attached to climate change adaptation. For instance, if we want to pursue the SDGs and tackle poverty and hunger, we cannot sit back and relax, even if this is an area where we have in fact made some progress: we must not lose sight of the dangers. Climate related natural disasters can and will increase hunger and hardship again if we do not take action. Agriculture will suffer. More and more people will leave rural areas. And there will be greater susceptibility to political instability and terrorism. We must counter this. On a visit to three West African countries a few days ago, I again saw for myself how difficult the situation is. In countries such as Burkina Faso, the Niger and Mali, you can see this combination of circumstances very clearly, and the great suffering as well.

If we fail on climate protection, conflicts are virtually inevitable, given the world’s growing population and increasingly scarce resources. This is also the reason why Germany, a non permanent member of the UN Security Council, is currently making climate and security one of its priorities. I am very pleased that you have also discussed the issue of women here. That is another focus of Germany’s Security Council membership – not least in the month when we held the presidency. I believe it is particularly important to empower and enable women as stakeholders, also in connection with security and climate protection.

Climate protection and resilience cost money, and poorer countries do not have enough. The industrialised countries therefore pledged to provide 100 billion US dollars annually for these states from 2020. Speaking for Germany, I can only reiterate that we stand by this goal, we stand by the sum of 100 billion US dollars, and we will double our public spending on climate financing by 2020.

Replenishing the Green Climate Fund, too, is very important for promoting low emission, climate resilient development. This topic will be a special focus at this year’s Climate Change Conference in Chile. Germany has announced that it will double its contribution to the Green Climate Fund compared to the first replenishment. We plan to make available a total of 1.5 billion euros. I would be very pleased if as many countries as possible were to do the same and also substantially increase their contributions. Looking to the countries particularly affected, I would like to say this: even if we are talking about huge sums, we need to make sure that the funding actually translates into projects. Because lots of money goes into the pot. But when you ask in small islands or elsewhere what has actually arrived on the ground and what has been done, then you discover that it is a very long road from pledges and the Fund to project implementation – even though time is of the essence.

Finally, we as the international community must ensure that global financial flows are oriented more strongly overall to sustainability and to the goals of the Paris Agreement. So I can only welcome the formation, as the result of an initiative by Chile and Finland, of the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action. Germany has joined this Coalition. The Helsinki Principles endorsed by the Coalition make clear what goes to make up climate friendly funding policies.

Of course, an appropriate framework is also needed, to mobilise private capital for climate protection and stimulate climate friendly investment. Investors must and should see that it is worth investing in modern efficiency technologies rather than in facilities that gobble up resources. For far too long, innovation and growth went hand in hand with increased raw material consumption and higher pollutant emissions. This is something we can no longer afford, not least in view of the growing global population. It is especially important that industrial countries use their innovative capacities even more to ensure sustainability.

In Germany you very often hear people saying that as we account only for a small proportion of CO2 emissions, it’s not really up to us so much. The people who say that need to be reminded, over and over again, that we consumed unimaginable resources in the past, and so we did play a part in getting the world into such a difficult position today. And so, bearing in mind our prosperity, we also bear a great responsibility for promoting climate friendly innovations. This is a discussion that needs to take place in the developed industrial countries.

Germany has achieved a great deal in the development of renewables and has played something of a pioneering role. We have had to bear relatively high costs in terms of subsidies, but these technologies are now almost market-ready. Economies of scale have made them almost cost effective. Today we can see that auctions, for example for the award of funding for wind energy, are resulting in wind energy being generated without additional subsidies in many places.

It is therefore also a matter of fairness for industrialised countries to develop and use climate friendly technologies. After all, for a long time they were the main polluters and generators of emissions harmful to the climate. It is also a matter of fairness that they recognise their responsibility to transfer technology. In other words, we should look for ways to introduce the technology in other countries, for example within the scope of development policy, in order to get market ready products there too. This will change our development policy in the coming years, by the way. We will have to regard development policy more as a tool to promote the market application of innovations. At present, commercial market mechanisms on the one hand and development policy on the other are often wholly unconnected. Basically, we need to get to the stage where innovation transfer to ensure marketable products on the ground is a component of development policy and development cooperation.

So technological innovation plays an important role for the transition to global greenhouse gas neutrality. Although there is much to be concerned about in this connection, there are also very many positive examples. Allow me to mention Chile by way of example. The country is seeing a notable boom in renewables. For five years now, wind energy, photovoltaics and solar thermal energy have recorded high growth rates. I find it very gratifying that German Chilean cooperation in this field is bearing fruit. Costa Rica is another example. It is working to transform its energy, transport and agricultural sectors with the aim of ensuring zero emissions by 2050. China, too, is continuing to see substantial growth in renewables. In 2018 they already accounted for more than a quarter of the country’s electricity production. When you consider that China is a very big country with a very large population, then you realise this is something that really has an impact on a global scale and demonstrates how determined China is to face up to the challenges posed by climate change.

We see great potential for renewables in Africa. For example, Germany is working in the Compact with Africa, an initiative launched during our G20 presidency. The aim is to stimulate investment in Africa, to encourage African countries to make their overall fiscal policy more transparent and improve their credit standing, and also to call on German companies to invest in these countries. We have already had some considerable success here within the scope of our bilateral reform partnerships with, for example, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

The advances made in the transition must not be allowed to stop at the energy sector. Thus the Indian state Sikkim has converted to a 100% organic agricultural sector. Three further states in India are planning to do the same. That, too, is a contribution to climate protection.

However, although I could list a lot of other good examples, we all know that this is not enough to truly attain our goals. We are still seeing increasing warming in the northern polar regions. Ice expanses and permafrost are at risk of disappearing, which would further increase global warming.

We know that there are tipping points in climate change which are very hard to forecast but which will have major new qualitative impacts. And so we cannot help but worry that long periods of heat or drought have repercussions. The FAO estimates that global grain harvests in the current 2018 2019 crop year will not be sufficient to meet demand. So some places truly are digging into their reserves. Storms and flooding also play a part. And we know that this claims many lives and causes tremendous suffering.

We can see that climate change is fact. I am therefore glad that the United Nations Secretary General has invited heads of state and government not only to the Climate Change Conference in Chile, but also to a UN Climate Change Summit in September, in order to find out what progress we have made since the adoption of the Paris Agreement. I will be attending. The Secretary General will put on the pressure again. And Ms Schulze is of course right: we cannot leave the Environment Ministers on their own with the issue of climate protection. Rather, the whole cabinet and the political leadership of each and every country must get behind it.

Let me turn now to Germany. As agreed in Europe, we have set ourselves goals. When it comes to the first goal for 2020 – this has to be stated quite frankly – there is a gap between what we have done and what we initially thought when answering the question “will we be able to implement that?”. We set ourselves a very ambitious goal for 2020. From 1990 till 2010, CO2 emissions were reduced by 20 percent – 20 percent within 20 years, in other words. This included all the structural change in the wake of German reunification. Then we said we wanted to see another 20 percent fall between 2010 and 2020. This is turning out not to be so simple. And so we feel it is all the more incumbent on us to make it clear when it comes to the 2030 goals: these must be attained.

So, although it may not always be easy to hear, it is right and proper for the Environment Minister to insist that we put a legal framework in place for this. We can certainly be happy that greenhouse gas emissions felt last year by 4.5 percent compared to the previous year. One reason for this is that we have made renewables a key pillar of our energy supply. Well over one in three kilowatt hours used in Germany now comes from wind or solar energy, hydropower or biofuel. However, what we are having major difficulties with is expanding the grid quickly enough so that energy from one part of Germany can be transported to those parts of the country where more electricity is needed. This is a matter of some urgency, because we are going to phase out nuclear energy at the beginning of the 2020s, something that will again pose great challenges.

In recent months we have had one big success which will help us a great deal up to 2030 too. We have agreed in a broad based Coal Commission to exit coal based power generation entirely by 2038. Given the role of coal and the fact that we are phasing out nuclear power beforehand, this will be no mean feat. The fact that agreement to exit coal by 2038 at the latest was reached across party lines, and especially between environmental associations and the German business community, is a very important milestone. Next week in cabinet we will be deciding on the key priorities for the regions affected, because people in the coal producing districts are obviously wondering what will happen to them, and what this will mean for their future. We will have to keep the structural pledges we make. Because one thing is important: society needs to accept this change, and that means there needs to be a broad discussion.

So I believe we have a lot of work ahead. We will decide on how we intend to proceed and the necessary measures before the end of the year. We are still discussing various instruments and courses of action. After all, there is trading in allowances in the European Union for some of the emissions, particularly in the industrial sector. After tough negotiations, the quantity has now been readjusted so that there is a significant CO2 price for the allowances. But we do not yet have a similar instrument for the transport, housing or agriculture sectors. We will have to ask ourselves this: what is the right instrument? What combination of regulatory law and market economy methods is the right way to reduce CO2 emissions in agriculture, transport, construction and housing as well, so that we really do achieve our goal for 2030, a 55 percent cut? It will not be easy, in part because Germany is a transit country. In the case of transport, everyone who fills up with petrol here in Germany counts. They might be German car owners and lorry drivers, or they might come from Poland, France or one of our other neighbouring countries.

We must see that we have lots of European measures too. And we do. Europe has a very detailed plan regarding the budgets for the period from 2020 to 2030, which are available to all member states. So we can and we must basically proceed on a year by year basis, achieving our goals each step of the way. And we have to make sure that they really are actually implemented. Otherwise it will get very expensive. Otherwise we will have to spend a lot of money on allowances. We will be able to invest the money more usefully if we achieve our targets.

Now there is a new discussion following on from what was said in Paris, namely that “a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases” is to be achieved “in the second half of this century”. Now there is a debate about how to define “the second half of this century”. Unarguably, it begins in 2050. And so nine European countries led by France have said they want to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

We are now discussing this in Germany too. And I would like to take this opportunity to state very clearly that it is a question of climate neutrality. In other words, it is not a matter of ensuring that there are absolutely no CO2 emissions any more, but of finding alternative mechanisms to compensate for remaining CO2 emissions. One possibility might be reforestation – only possible to a limited extent in developed countries; another is CO2 storage. CO2 storage is very controversial in Germany. Many people are worried by it. Other countries are considering the possibility.

As I have just said to the Environment Minister, I propose that we discuss how to achieve the goal of being climate neutral by 2050 in our climate cabinet. The debate should not be about whether we can achieve this goal, but how. If we find a sensible answer to this question, then we can join the initiative launched by the nine EU member states. I hope we can. But I also hope that we don’t just simply say yes, but that we underpin our commitment and pursue it on a sound basis. Our climate cabinet is the proper forum for this discussion.

Ladies and gentlemen, as you see, we in the Federal Government have plenty to do. There’s the exit from coal, the 2030 goals, and we are looking ahead to 2050. We do not know precisely what technology will enable us to do in 10 or 20 years’ time. After 2030 there may possibly be things we can know nothing about just now. But it is my belief that if we do not set ourselves ambitious targets then we will have a hard time in finding our way there. That is why it is right to fix targets over long periods of time. And that is why we will be wrangling very intensively with each other.

The question, ladies and gentlemen, is not “what will it cost us to achieve these goals?” but rather “how much more would it cost us if we did nothing?”. Unfortunately, not everyone in the world is convinced that this is the correct question. I am. That is why I believe it right to take the long view, because then the cost of adapting is lower than if you have to take ad hoc decisions. That is our guiding principle. I am very glad that Chile is on our side and that all of you here are playing your part, in many different ways, to ensure that we can indeed implement the Paris Agreement.

The Berlin conference at which we prepared the Kyoto Protocol was an early milestone in my political career. We had to see then that the obligatory goals, binding in international law, were not actually where we made real progress. After Copenhagen, though, with the adoption of the Paris Agreement, we found a way which makes it possible for far more countries to cut their CO2 emissions. These are not obligations binding under international law, but ultimately it is a matter of achieving something binding for the entire world. This appeal goes out to everyone’s sense of responsibility. Germany intends to make its contribution. Germany will make its contribution. I am pleased that we are by no means alone in the world on this.

Thank you very much.