Keynote Speech at the European Climate Initiative Annual Conference

unterseite icon 21.02.2018 | National Climate Initiative

Germany's climate initiative for Europa

Germany's climate initiative for Europa
Bundesumweltministerin Barbara Hendricks begrüßt zusammen mit der bulgarischen Vize-Umweltministerin Atanaska Nikolova Klimaschutzvorreiter aus nahezu allen EU-Mitgliedstaaten.

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Deputy Minister Atanaska Nikolova,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you in Berlin today.

The European Climate Initiative – EUKI – is my ministry's most recent climate initiative. I am therefore particularly pleased that numerous inspiring cooperative European projects have arisen from an idea conceived during a period that has not been very easy for the European Union.

I believe in the importance of advancing climate action by cooperating on concrete climate projects in Europe. It is also vital to impart European ideals through this cooperation.

Climate change is one of the greatest threats to peace and prosperity on our planet. Because of this, the twelfth of December 2015 will go down in history as the day the global community gathered in Paris and agreed a joint path to protect the climate and to save humankind.

We want to limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius and, if possible, to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To do so, we must make the world economy climate-neutral over the course of this century. We will help lower-income countries do their part on the path to greenhouse gas neutrality. Sustainable development in all countries is the only way to ensure that we have an opportunity to achieve our global targets.

We are actively working to ensure that the necessary technological advances benefit everyone. Because climate action should not create new social rifts – it should become a model for economic success around the world.

The Paris Agreement is not the end but the beginning of our journey.

We know that the nationally determined contributions submitted by countries under the Paris Agreement are not yet sufficient to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius. This is why, this year, we will hold discussions with non-state actors on how to strengthen national targets and measures. New, improved contributions are to be submitted by 2020.

What matters now is pooling our strength and working today at full capacity for implementation of the agreement at all levels. When I look around this room, I see familiar faces and actors already working on concrete solutions. Among you I see,

  • cities and towns making sure that getting from A to B can be carbon-neutral;
  • scientists helping us develop sustainable, long-term plans and good measures; and
  • NGOs providing citizens with information, encouraging them to participate in climate action and, where necessary, urging policy to move forward.

All of this should not be confined to the small-time arena of national politics. Climate change crosses national borders, so climate activists must do the same. I firmly believe that European exchange of experience is important so that we can implement our common goals.

Germany is often called a pioneer in climate action. And I think we have indeed made some progress – for example, in expanding renewables in the electricity sector. It is also true that ambitious climate policy enjoys a high level of support in Germany.

But – and this is a big “but” – the most recent statistics on greenhouse gas emissions show that we still have major challenges to take on.

We must begin, for the sake of the climate, the profound structural change that will make our economy sustainable without losing the support of affected citizens. In Germany, the debate about phasing out coal exemplifies this dilemma. The coalition agreement negotiated by the SPD and the CDU/CSU says that, by the end of the year, a commission will address the structural and socio-political issues of the phase-out and draft a roadmap for getting it done.

This comes with discussions of new opportunities and prospects to be held with people in regions that will be affected the most by an end to coal power, who are, understandably, worried about their future.

Germany is not an exceptional case. Other European countries are facing similar challenges. I believe that we have to talk about these things – we can surely learn a great deal from one another.

Deputy Minister Nikolova,

I believe this could also become an important topic in the cooperation between Bulgaria and Germany. In the past few years we have already developed a close, trusting working relationship – perhaps this is an opportunity for further cooperation.

I am aware that many countries around the world are grappling with the question of how much climate action their economy can actually “afford”. This question does not do justice to the matter because it makes it seem like climate action is a luxury that one must be able to afford. The exact opposite is the case. This is, in any event, the lesson that we have learned in Germany. Our country, its industry and its workers have seen extraordinary benefits from the green economy. Climate action does not create costs – it creates economic growth and jobs for us. For example, we have over 300,000 workers engaged just in the expansion of renewable energies. To say nothing of the fact that climate action makes life in our cities and towns healthier and more pleasant and strengthens regional economies and local value creation.

I am convinced that what we are talking about today is an enormous opportunity for the entire EU. We should firmly establish climate action in a European investment policy based on solidarity. The less wealthy member states must be supported in directing additional investments to climate-friendly infrastructure and modernising their energy systems. We already have some good tools for this in the European Union, like the solidarity components of the emissions trading scheme and the structural funds promoting sustainable investments.

Starting this year, the EU budget for the period after 2020 will be negotiated in Brussels. We must keep in mind that this budget will determine the course for the upcoming decades – for climate action, but also for the achievement of the global sustainable development goals. Currently, the annual EU budget is around 150 billion euros. In addition, further public and private spending is leveraged using the EU budget. In my view, it is crucial to spend at least 20% of the budget on climate action and to phase out investments that damage the climate in all other areas.

We often see EU funding programmes with large amounts of money available but lacking good ideas and plans for sending these funds into future-ready projects.

And this is where we need you – I urge you to see EUKI as a bridge to larger projects that tap into EU support.

Finally, I would like to wish you all great success in the further implementation of your projects. I hope you have an enjoyable and productive time here at the conference.

21.02.2018 | Speech National Climate Initiative