Tuesday, 19. June 2018

Speech by Federal Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel at the 9th Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin on 19 June 2018

Angela Merkel
19. June 2018, Tuesday
Berlin

Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki,
Prime Minister Bainimarama,
Federal Minister Schulze,
Ladies and gentlemen from around the world,

Allow me, on behalf of the entire Federal Government, to offer you a warm welcome to Berlin once again. I would like to express my particular gratitude to my colleague Prime Minister Morawiecki. After all, the fact that we are able to appear at this climate dialogue together is not something that can be taken for granted. The purpose of this meeting is to prepare for the next UN Climate Conference. The fact that its Prime Minister is here today is a firm indication that Poland will be the host. Poland will host the Climate Conference for the fourth time.

Thank you very much for choosing Katowice for this event. Katowice essentially stands for what we in Germany need to address, namely structural change in regions that are dominated by heavy industry and mining and in which change must be shaped with climate protection in mind. This is anything but easy, and the issue of climate change is most tangible here.

Last year, an island nation that is heavily affected by climate change, the Republic of Fiji, held the Presidency of the Climate Conference for the first time. This gave rise to the Talanoa Dialogue. Its illustrious name is associated with a specific approach that is being adopted in the Pacific region. The aim is to emphasise commonalities rather than get bogged down in conflicting interests. This makes it easier to build mutual trust. We can therefore set about implementing the Paris Climate Agreement with fresh ambition and a different methodology. It does us Europeans, who are apt to fight out our differences tooth and nail, good to become acquainted with approaches from other regions for a change. I therefore wish to offer the Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji my sincere thanks for what you have done for the Paris Climate Agreement.

As a global community, we have reached agreement on both the Paris Climate Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Both of these were milestones. In order to ensure that they are a success of historic dimensions, it is important now, of course, to actually implement what was agreed to. This must be our task. This is why I wish to say that the Federal Government is fully committed to the Paris Climate Agreement. After all, an ambitious climate protection policy not only helps to mitigate the worst impact of climate change, but also offers new opportunities for innovation and therefore growth and prosperity around the world. The Agreement has now been ratified by 178 countries. All of the countries on board are united by the belief that global problems can only be solved together.

It is, of course, most regrettable that the United States wishes to withdraw from this Agreement. There has, unfortunately, been no change to this state of affairs following the most recent G7 Summit. This is why it is important that we, together with the other G7 countries, expressed a clear commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement once again, just as we did in Germany at the G20 Summit last year. We firmly believe that we must strengthen our multilateral cooperation and that we must not allow it to be weakened.

In this year in which the multilateral approach is under pressure, it is important to get down to business also in the area of climate protection. We want binding regulations to be adopted by the end of this year at COP24. I believe that we need common rules for our actions. This is also the signal that this Petersberg Climate Dialogue should, and doubtlessly will, send. I am told that the consultations are proceeding well, and I would like to thank all those who are involved in these efforts.

Many ideas and proposals have been contributed with regard to concrete action. Many countries, cities, companies and members of the public are working in housing construction, transport, urban renewal and urban design, as well in a host of other areas. We should continue to build on this. This must be a grassroots movement. After all, we know that while the Paris objectives are ambitious, what is on the table so far is not sufficient if we are actually to achieve the two degree target. If, as we have to acknowledge, it turns out that energy related CO2 emissions increased again last year, then this is, of course, a step in the wrong direction. We must therefore work intensively on this matter.

But there are also rays of hope. Progress continues to be made in the expansion of renewable energies both in Germany and around the world. Since the first Petersberg Climate Dialogue in 2010, the share of renewable energies in gross electricity consumption in Germany has far more than doubled. In other words, this has happened within the space of eight years. Renewable energies are now our most important source of power in Germany. Unfortunately, we are not quite keeping pace in our efforts to expand grids, with the upshot that we are unable to use a large number of kilowatt hours. This is why grid expansion is particularly important to us now. As we have good conditions for wind energy in the north and many commercial hubs are located in the south, we must make it possible for electricity to be transported there.

It is very important to be able to plan in order to expand climate friendly things such as renewable energies and other investments. For example, we decided to phase out production of coal in Germany over ten years ago. This phase out process will be completed this year. However, we needed more than a decade to bring about this change in a way that is neither to the detriment of people nor to the detriment of jobs, but reasonable and viable.

Together with the Economic Affairs Minister and others, the Environment Minister now has the formidable job of ensuring that this structural change in the area of lignite takes place in such a way that we can say to the people living in the affected regions: listen, things are going to change, but we’re thinking first and foremost about you and not just about CO2 emissions. After all, if people were to have the impression that we were only thinking about CO2 emissions and not about the people themselves, then this would not work well as a project for society. This will be one of the major tasks that we intend to tackle together in this legislative term.

If we have binding rules for achieving our climate protection aims, then this will improve market opportunities for climate friendly products. Planning security is therefore vital.

We in Germany have to admit that we have to get it right again. We have set ourselves most ambitious aims. We endeavoured to reduce emissions by 20 percent from 1990 to 2010. Then we said, in ten years, without having to take account of any one off impacts owing to German reunification, we want to have reduced emissions by a further 20 percent. That was an ambitious target. This is why we currently have so much to do in order to actually close the gap that is coming to light now, and this is why the commission that I referred to a moment ago is so important.

We know that we must take a more binding approach. This is why Environment Minister Svenja Schulze has been tasked not only with working in the structural change commission, but also with drafting a climate protection law, which – that much I can tell you already today – will surely not be an easy task as there are a wide range of different interests and also, it goes without saying, because it will then be binding. This means that we will have to see how we can make progress in the area of lignite.

However, we must also turn our focus to other areas. It must be said that our biggest problem child in Germany is transport. We have a great deal of transit traffic owing to our geographic location, with the result that all savings that are made by modern technologies are compensated by more traffic. This is therefore one of the greatest challenges that we face.

I would like to return to the idea of a consensus based approach, from which we could certainly learn a great deal in Germany, too. The motto of your Petersberg Climate Dialogue, “changing together for a just transition”, sums up exactly how we need to proceed, including at European level. The EU target for 2030 of reducing greenhouse gases by at least 40 percent compared with 1990 levels is of course important for us.

We have reformed emissions trading and also divided up the EU target among the Member States for the sectors not covered by emissions trading. This means that Europe has a binding legal framework to enable it to play its part in implementing the Paris Agreement. We have thus made significant progress. However, that does not mean our work is finished, as the Member States, European Parliament and European Commission are now working on instruments and measures, for example with the aim of promoting renewable energies and energy efficiency.

What we need to admit is that we unfortunately did not include all sectors in emissions trading. As a result, we have a mixture of market based instruments, tax measures, other types of measures and regulatory law. For example, regulatory law predominates in the transport sector, while trade is the main focus in the industrial sector. This is certainly not yet the non plus ultra of a coherent set of instruments, but we first need to work with what we have.

A long term climate protection strategy will depend to a large extent on the medium term financial perspective for the European Union. The Commission has suggested that 25 percent of the entire EU budget should be set aside for expenditure on climate protection. That is a good and ambitious start. But alongside public spending, we also need to promote private sector investment in climate protection. In Germany, for example, we have been putting tax benefits for measures to make buildings more energy efficient for years on the backburner. We have a large number of pre war buildings and that gives us huge potential to reduce CO2 emissions. But that is also one of the new Government’s projects.

In order to implement the Paris Climate Agreement, we also need to look beyond the European Union and bring global financial flows as far as possible into line with climate friendly development. We need to work at all levels to achieve this. I would like to express my particular gratitude to the World Bank, which has pledged to use part of the agreed capital increase to enhance and expand its role in climate finance. As far as Germany is concerned, I can say that we stand by the industrialised countries’ joint target of mobilising 100 billion dollars from 2020 every year for developing countries that lack financial resources, but are particularly affected by climate change. That is why we also stand by our commitment to double public spending on climate financing by 2020 compared with 2014. I still remember that it was right here that I expressed my support for this target for the first time.

We are campaigning for a substantial replenishment of the Green Climate Fund and underlining this through our own contribution. We believe that this fund is crucial to the success of the Paris Climate Agreement, as we can only achieve its goals in cooperation with developing countries. We are also demonstrating solidarity in the NDC Partnership. All of you here are experts on this subject, but for others, I would like to explain that this involves nationally determined contributions. In the meantime, 89 countries have joined the NDC Partnership. We support the implementation of nationally determined contributions, for example in Morocco, India or Brazil, where we are promoting investments in solar thermal energy, as well as in Indonesia and Colombia, where we are helping to develop climate friendly transport systems. I think there can never be too many examples of this type.

With every step forward we take on the road to modernising our economy and infrastructure in terms of ecology, the cost situation generally improves. In turn, this boosts sustainable investments. For example, the costs of generating electricity by photovoltaics have decreased by almost 50 percent since 2014. As a result, higher investments can be made in this technology again. That is really very interesting because when I was Environment Minister – a long time ago now, from 1994 to 1998 – it was impossible to imagine that solar energy and its costs would ever reach the levels we see today. But then we realised that the prices fell dramatically when there was a certain mass effect. That is also one of the examples – the same goes for wind energy – of how it is worthwhile helping new technologies to reach the market. Without support, these technologies would never have become profitable, but with support, they were able to become profitable and end their dependence on subsidies. That is the actual message.

We know that climate change is not a question of belief – I think everyone in this room knows that – but rather a fact. The years 2015, 2016 and 2017 were the warmest on record. Extreme weather events are also increasing in Germany. Every year, many millions of people in developing countries fall back into poverty because of natural disasters. The economic costs of doing nothing can scarcely be calculated, but they are enormous. This needs to be reiterated in discussions because many people say that they don’t have the money at the moment. But we will pay the price anyway if we do nothing.

That is why the question of adapting to the climate change that has already occurred is naturally also one we need to address far more intensively. We must not forget that the continued survival of island states is already acutely at risk. When I arrived here, Svenja Schulze told me that the representative of the Marshall Islands had given a compelling presentation on what is happening and shown how this literally threatens people’s survival.

That is why we believe that climate risk finance and insurance are two further topics we should not only include in G7 and G20 talks, but also continue working on. We want to set up a global facility. The aim is to do so at the World Bank’s Annual Meeting in Bali in October. Germany has already pledged 90 million euros to this facility.

Climate protection is not a luxury we treat ourselves to – it is a question of ecological necessity and makes economic sense. Climate protection and adjustment are investments in the future, as well as investments in peace and stability. A successful UN peace policy is inconceivable without an ambitious climate policy. That is why Germany, which is grateful to have been elected to the UN Security Council recently by a large number of votes, will make climate protection and the security aspects of climate change priority topics during its two year term on the Security Council. I think the Security Council is a good forum where we can continue working and also try to collaborate with many of you as partners in addition to our efforts in the Petersberg Climate Dialogue and UN conferences.

Ladies and gentlemen, the opportunities of low carbon development are now obvious. Lasting growth and prosperity cannot be achieved if the whole package is not sustainable. We know this requires patience, but it involves a joint goal. With this in mind, I hope your talks at this event will continue to be productive. You have already had in depth discussions. Please continue your talks in the spirit of consensus, but also in the spirit of urgency and sustainability. As I said, as Head of Government I also now know which contradictions one needs to master. It is not only a question of saying nice things – we also need to take practical action. We need to follow the path of sustainability and Germany is committed to doing so. Thank you very much.

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