Opening Ministerial Keynote Speech at Project Drawdown Europe

Minister Svenja Schulze´s opening keynote speech at the "Call to Action" Event of Project Drawdown Europe in Berlin addressed the need of stronger frameworks for climate action in Germany, and in Europe.

– Check against delivery –

Kirsten Dunlop
Paul Hawken
Andreas Kuhlmann

Ladies and gentlement,

Around one year ago, I was at the launch of Project Drawdown Europe here in Berlin. Your project has achieved many impressive results since then. This motivates climate players everywhere. A lot has happened in Germany and Europe, too. Even though we sometimes only move at snail’s pace, we are progressing.

First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of the German edition of the Drawdown book. And on the numerous initiatives that have been launched worldwide in response to Project Drawdown, or have been strengthened by it. At the launch, I expressed my hope that we can bring the Drawdown momentum to Europe, too. I believe this has happened.

Your project raises awareness of the many fascinating solutions in the fight against climate change, for example research projects on artificially grown leaves, marine permaculture systems and innovative concepts for improved cycling infrastructure, to name just some of the inspiring proposals.

The German government has put climate action at the top of its agenda, and this sends a very important political signal. We already have a digital cabinet to deal with the huge task of digital transformation, and we are now establishing a climate cabinet to tackle the massive challenge of climate action and provide an appropriate steering body.

This makes one thing crystal clear – all ministries with responsibility for climate action will have to step up to the plate.

I want the German government to adopt a climate change act by the end of this year. I have launched the legislative process with my draft act. It ensure that every sector has to take responsibility.

It is now time to climb down from our soapboxes and take concrete, binding steps. The climate change act will provide the framework for ensuring goals are actually reached. The climate cabinet will serve as the necessary steering body.

In short, it is a question of specifying an annual volume of climate-damaging gases for each sector – energy, industry, transport, buildings and agriculture – that must not be exceeded. These annual emissions budgets are precisely what the EU Effort Sharing Regulation prescribes for member states. This is applicable law, and possible penalties are calculated on this basis where these budgets are exceeded.

2019 is the German government’s year of climate action. This year we will adopt the legislation to make reaching our climate targets binding.

I strongly believe that the European elections in May will play a crucial role in determining whether committed action to tackle climate change can continue.

I have experienced at first hand, again and again, what happens when facts are twisted in public debate. It creates doubts among the public and planning uncertainty for businesses and their long-term decisions. This is why it is so important to involve experts such as yourselves in the political process.

This is the only way we can master the technical, social and, above all, political challenges connected to climate change.

In view of the European elections, it is especially important that solutions are not just identified, but are also actively brought into public debate. We need this debate at a technical level, where it is a question of implementing a range of different approaches. At a social level, where we want to create incentives for climate-friendly behaviour.

And, in particular, at a political level where, as I outlined earlier, our priorities are the climage change act and the first programme of measures for our 2030 targets.

Successful climate action requires a long-term strategy. My goal is a new contract between generations that ensures the planet will still be liveable in the second half of this century. Achieving this will require patience rather than a knee-jerk response to every proposal.

From a political perspective, the problem of climate change can be summed up in a simple way: global greenhouse gas emissions have to be drastically reduced worldwide – in particular, CO2 emissions resulting from burning coal, gas and oil.

A relatively simple mechanism would help: making greenhouse gas emissions more expensive by setting a price. And conversely, fewer CO2 emissions would pay off. This mechanism could help promote precisely the technical and social solutions that you have identified with Project Drawdown.

Climate-friendly technologies need to become more attractive and cost-effective. And, where it makes sense, supported right up to their market breakthrough. This will enable everyone to achieve greater climate action and pay less in the long term. This is the simple steering effect of carbon pricing. However, it is by no means trivial because we of course have to bear in mind the social impacts and ensure a balance.

Some European countries like Sweden and Switzerland have already introduced carbon pricing and their experiences have been positive. I also consider carbon pricing to be a feasible option for Germany. Acceptance is crucial in this regard. Acceptance is, so to speak, a very hard currency. Whoever doesn’t have this currency will not be able to buy much, particularly not in democratic systems.

Convinction, trust and the will to shape the future – all this needs to be in place to be traded in for acceptance further down the line. We have to win people’s hearts and minds if we want to start transforming the good will of society into acceptance.

Public support for carbon pricing is growing by the day, as are the numbers of people getting involved, thinking outside the box and committing, like the thousands of schoolchildren who are fighting for the rights of their generation. At their age I was demonstrating against nuclear power, and that is a battle we have now won.

Today, three-quarters of Germans support ambitious climate action. Initiatives are being launched across the country – social, corporate and state initiatives. Acceptance is increasing, and at the same time there is a rapid decline in acceptance of climate-damaging behaviour.

There is also a global trend of more and more companies using internal carbon pricing so they can react to an expected CO2 price and identify options and opportunities for decarbonisation. Today, 1,400 companies are already steering their investment decisions in this way.

We have to support and further develop these and many other good ideas and solutions.

The best recipe for success is when technologies and innovation foster both ecological and social progress. Environmental technologies are a perfect example. They provide an excellent answer to the global question of how to satisfy the basic needs of a growing number of people without destroying habitats in the process.

Take the dynamic growth of the green tech market, which is forecast to be almost seven percent per year. No other sector is experiencing such strong growth.

This clearly illustrates that we have influence, but that we also have a role model function which shapes how the world views our commitment to climate action. The world is looking to us – the European Union and Germany – to find political, technical and social solutions.

This is reflected in the fact that there is such great interest internationally in our current discussions on the socially sound phase-out of coal power. This is why we now need an even stronger framework for climate action – a robust climate change act in Germany and an ambitious long-term target in Europe.

In keeping with today’s event, I would like to conclude with a call for action: bring your scientific and pragramatic approaches into the public debate. Play a part in ensuring that we can stop discussing whether climate action is worthwhile or not and instead can focus on the type of climate policies we as a society really need.

Thank you.

10.04.2019 | Speech Europe and the Environment | Berlin