Keynote from Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter at the COP24 Side Event "Smart Cities - How Innovations Accelerate Action in Cities and Regions"

In her speech, Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter emphasizes the importance of local climate protection. Digital innovations open up new opportunities for the state and the economy.

- Check against delivery -

Dear Mr. Rolle, Dear Mr. Wieck,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am deeply convinced that digitalization can represent a key element to unlock a great climate action potential at the local level. I am therefore thankful to be able to provide the opening input for this side-event.

I have three key messages for today:

My first message: We need climate action now. This is what this COP is about.

The IPCC special report on 1.5 degrees Celsius makes it very clear that we are already approaching the critical temperature limits today! From the 2040s onwards, we could already be at 1.5 degrees Celsius if we maintain the current emission rates.

If we want to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees, we need a radical reduction in greenhouse gas emissions worldwide over the next ten years. This means that we will have to make enormous additional efforts.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has made it clear that we have the necessary knowledge to succeed, especially in the field of energy. Technologies exist, not least thanks to innovative environmental policy.

Our goal must be a world in which the energy supply is not only climate-neutral, but also safe, clean and affordable – in the spirit of the 2030 Agenda. COP24 plays a central role in achieving this goal of a climate-neutral world.

This week we must adopt the implementing guidelines – the so-called Rulebook – for the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The guidelines must be based on clear and robust rules. States should clearly report in advance by how much they intend to reduce their emissions. And once they have implemented their measures, they should then allow the progress to be recorded visibly.

Another key goal of the EU at COP 24 is the successful completion of the Talanoa Dialogue. We want to send a clear signal that states should review and, if possible, improve their NDCs by 2020. As we speak, the Talanoa Dialogue is still ongoing. We sincerely hope that the fruitful exchange so far leads to concrete results by 2020.

My second key message: We need to use all technical means, especially digitalisation, to unlock mitigation and adaptation potentials. At the same time, we need to install strong digital safeguards so that the digital revolution is used in a sustainable manner that ensure openness, privacy and competition.

Many discussions here in Katowice show: Coping with the megatrend "climate change" is not possible without looking at the megatrend of "digitalisation".

Firstly, we need digitalization for monitoring climate change as well as the impact of our measures. We rely to a large extent on knowledge that we can only gain through digital tools.

Secondly, we need to look at the potential of the digital transformation to our decarbonisation efforts. Take the municipalities, which are increasingly becoming smart cities and important drivers of innovation and climate action. Their projects range from investments in intelligent lighting and smart buildings to connected transport and energy systems and digital waste management.

Yes, these new technologies can combine climate targets with economic success and jobs. Growth, sustainability and digital innovation can go hand in hand. Digitalisation creates new incentives to invest in "green" products, processes and services. It opens up opportunities for the greentech sector in particular to improve its competitive position through new business models.

The global market volume for environmental technology and resource efficiency is expected to increase to over 5.9 trillion euros by 2025. In our Greentech Atlas, we estimate the additional market volume through digitilisation for German companies in the greentech sector alone at over 20 billion euros - and this with a savings potential of around 50 million tons of CO2 per year.

To fully develop the potential of digital key technologies for climate protection, we must set the right political framework. In Germany, we are therefore launching 50 projects on artificial intelligence for environmental and climate protection - also together with international partners.

But – let me also say some words of caution. In order to make the digital shift a driver for sustainability, we need data for smart solutions. That's why we also have to take a stand on the issues of transparency and ownership in a data-driven world. In the global competition for the digital future, we can only succeed with our own European model. I am convinced that it should be based on transparency, protection and broad participation.

That is certainly also in the interests of business. After all, ecologically, socially and ethically responsible action is increasingly becoming a competitive factor. The transparency of business models and value chains is the order of the day, and digitization will also lead to far-reaching changes here.

My third message: The national level is not enough to push climate action, we need the local and regional level as well.

The Paris Agreement, the 2030 Agenda SDGs and the New Urban Agenda of Habitat III, all make it crystal clear: Effective climate mitigation requires action from actors and stakeholders on all levels – local, regional and national.

Local governments, in particular, play a key role in addressing climate change —more than 70 percent of global CO2 emissions are concentrated in cities.

Cities are continuously shaping the transition towards carbon-neutrality and developing strategies for adapting to the consequences of climate change. At the Federal Ministry for the Environment, we recognize cities and regions as strong partners – and we support them through our National and International Climate Initiatives.

In the first 10 years since its launch in 2008, the National Climate Initiative (NKI) supported more than 25.000 projects with a combined funding volume of 790 million euros. Through our International Climate Initiative (IKI) also supports regions and cities worldwide – for example with projects related to ICT based mitigation and adaptation actions in cities.

To bring these different levels of actors and projects together, my Ministry, the State of Baden-Württemberg and the City of Heidelberg will co-host an international conference on climate action and vertical integration: ICCA2019 (International Conference on Climate Action). The conference will bring together decision makers and stakeholders to discuss climate action at all levels. It will be a key stepping stone towards the UN Secretary Generals Climate Summit next year. Digitilisation will surely feature prominently at the ICCA as well.

Thank you very much!

11.12.2018 | Speech UN Climate Conferences