Speech by Svenja Schulze at the conference "Climate change and the European water dimension – Increasing resilience"

Svenja Schulze gave a video message at the opening of the conference, which focused on the EU strategy on adaptation to climate change with regard to water-related issues.

– Check against delivery –

Minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes,
Minister Andrej Vizjak,
Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It’s old news for us. Climate change is one of the major challenges of our time. Extreme weather events like heat waves, floods and heavy rainfall occur more and more frequently, causing losses in farming and forestry, damaging buildings and infrastructure, and hurting industry and business.

It has been clear for a long time that the impacts of climate change are no longer problems affecting individual countries. The impacts on the water balance and water bodies are becoming more and more tangible, also in the EU member states. Even now, water availability and quality have changed. This has taken a serious toll on water-dependent ecosystems.

The adverse effects on other areas of use – like farming, forestry, transport and energy – are particularly concerning to me. If we want to succeed, our approach to water-related climate adaptation can only be a comprehensive, joint endeavour. The management of water and water bodies must be reviewed in full and restructured for the conditions of climate change. The goal here must be to strengthen our ecological, economic and social systems by making them more resilient and adaptable.

In addition to adaptation measures, successful climate action requires reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Our target from the Paris Agreement is ultimately to make Germany greenhouse gas neutral by 2050 at the latest. We can only succeed if we make fundamental changes to our economic practices and lifestyles and switch to new, climate-neutral technologies. To ensure that these alternatives can be used widely, we are providing targeted support for research and innovation.

We know that only good alternative solutions meet with acceptance in transformation processes. Adaptation measures, too, only achieve success and acceptance if they lead to greater quality of life and sustainability. Ultimately, all citizens benefit from cleaner air, green city centres with little traffic and less noise. The European Commission has announced an ambitious new strategy for climate adaptation for the start of next year. I expect that the strategy will supplement and enhance the efforts of the individual member states. The new EU strategy must reflect the fact that climate adaptation is often most effective when it is decided and implemented at local and regional levels.

In Germany, the government just recently adopted an ambitious update to our national adaptation strategy. Now we have an action plan with 180 measures and initiatives on the table.

These are all encouraging developments that show that Europe is not neglecting the challenges of climate change, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Today's conference is a joint initiative with our Portuguese and Slovene colleagues. Next year, they will succeed Germany in the Council Presidency and have already announced that they will take up the results and policy recommendations of the conference. This means the recommendations can be directly incorporated into the debate on the European Adaptation Strategy.

I hope today and tomorrow bring you interesting and very fruitful discussions.

Thank you.

05.11.2020 | Speech Climate