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13.05.2019

Opening speech of Svenja Schulze to Petersberg Climate Dialogue X: "Fulfilling the promise of Paris"

Svenja Schulze am Mikrofon
unterseite icon10.05.2019 | Topics

Tenth Petersberg Climate Dialogue

Tenth Petersberg Climate Dialogue
Against the background of the ongoing Fridays for Future protests and the global inadequate climate protection goals, Schulze would like to take the opportunity to plead for increased climate protection worldwide and in Germany.

– Check against delivery –

Excellencies,
Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Petersberg Climate Dialogue this year. Together with my co-chair, Chilean Environment Minister Carolina Schmidt, I would like to welcome you to this anniversary meeting here in Berlin.

When we organised the first Petersberg Climate Dialogue, we could by no means be certain that this dialogue, held in between the big climate change conferences, would become a firmly established event. Those of you who attended the first meeting at the Petersberg in Bonn, shortly after the failure of the Copenhagen climate change conference, will remember the mood at the time.

In Copenhagen, the international community had failed to adopt a universal agreement on climate action. This was perhaps the most crushing defeat in the global fight against climate change. But it was also a time to show courage. The first Petersberg Climate Dialogue in 2010 sent the signal that despite the failure of the Copenhagen summit, the last word had not been spoken on climate action.

Since its first meeting, the Petersberg Climate Dialogue has contributed to building trust and creating a space for constructive discussion. The dialogue meetings have always helped to prepare key steps and decisions.

The 2015 Paris Agreement was one of these major steps in the fight against global warming. It puts us in a situation today that is completely different from what our colleagues were facing back in 2010. We now have an international climate agreement that obliges all countries to pursue climate action.

Looking back at the past ten years, we can rightly say that we have not been idle. And I am not only referring to the Paris Agreement. Many countries have made huge investments in technologies for the future. The costs of renewable energies have gone down rapidly. For example, costs for photovoltaic systems decreased by more than 70 percent between 2009 and 2017. In many cases, these systems are now cheaper than fossil energy sources.

This is an important step forward and gives us reason to hope that our generation will finally live up to its responsibility and halt climate change. All around the world, pupils are protesting every Friday against the way we, the older generations, are stealing their future. We owe them concrete solutions and resolute climate policy. That is the signal we should send at this 10th Petersberg Climate Dialogue.

Global emissions are still on the rise. All our efforts must be focused on reversing this trend. The detailed rulebook under the Paris Agreement now provides a solid international framework for this.

Unfortunately, however, in Katowice we did not succeed in adopting clear rules for the use of international market mechanisms. COP25 in Santiago in December will be an opportunity to make up for this. There must not be any double counting where emission reductions appear on paper that do not exist in the real world. Accounting tricks do not save the planet.

Most of the international rules, however, have been agreed, and we are entering a new phase of international climate policy. In future, we must focus on rigorous implementation of climate action and on cooperation. This is reflected in the motto for this Climate Dialogue: It is time for us to fulfill the promise we made in Paris!

This also means that we have to improve our national climate targets as we are currently heading towards global warming of more than three degrees. 2020 will be a decisive year because it is the year by which NDCs must be updated. The climate summit in New York in September will be an important milestone on this path

Germany has committed to doubling its public climate financing to four billion euros between 2015 and 2020. We will reach this goal. We will also double Germany’s contribution to the Green Climate Fund compared with the first replenishment. It would mark great progress if this became a model for others and many countries were motivated to follow our example.

Almost three years ago, we jointly founded the NDC Partnership. Together we can support countries that want to further develop their climate action plans. Germany has earmarked 5 million euros from the International Climate Initiative for this, and we are looking forward to working with ambitious partners in this process.

From 12 to 14 June, 350 experts from the scientific community, industry and administrations will meet in Berlin for an exchange of experience on implementing and updating NDCs. Patricia Espinosa will take part as well, and the topic of raising ambition will play an important role.

The EU must also think about whether its NDC is sufficient. It is important to keep in mind which emission reductions will be necessary in the long term. We need planning certainty in order to avoid structural disruptions and to give society and industry sufficient time to prepare for changes. This is why I very much welcome the fact that the EU is currently drawing up a long-term strategy.

At last year’s Petersberg Climate Dialogue and also in Katowice, we held detailed discussions about how to avoid structural disruptions. The key here is a just transition.

As you know, the German government set up a Commission last year to develop proposals for a gradual phase-out of coal-fired power generation in Germany and a final date for completion of this process. Another task of the Commission was to combine the phase-out plan with proposals for sustainable structural development in the affected regions.

The Commission’s final report was presented earlier this year. Coal-fired power generation in Germany will stop by 2038 at the latest, if possible by 2035. About 30 percent of coal-fired power plants will be taken off the grid by 2022. This will require enormous efforts from Germany as an industrial location because we are also phasing out nuclear power by 2022.

The gradual phase-out of coal-fired power generation is a major contribution to CO2 reduction. However, we have always made it clear that coal phase-out and structural development must go hand in hand. We need both. We owe that to the people, the regions and the industries affected. This is what just transition stands for, and we are filling this term with life.

A key step was our decision to establish a climate cabinet within the German government, which allows the competent ministers to closely coordinate their policies. Later this month, the climate cabinet will discuss the proposals submitted by the individual ministries. It will prepare the necessary government decisions that we want to take before the end of the year. This includes a decision on the climate change act I have presented.

Another important measure will be carbon pricing. Germany and France have agreed to coordinate their approaches in this area. In my opinion, it is no coincidence that calls for a carbon price for all sectors are becoming louder around the world.

I want to make it very clear that our goal is not for the state to make a profit out of a carbon price. Our only goal is to introduce a market instrument that makes CO2 emissions more expensive and rewards avoidance of emissions.

Under the European emissions trading scheme, we already have a carbon price that covers most industries and the energy sector.

The new idea is to put a price on CO2 in all sectors, in particular in the buildings and transport sectors.

Switzerland, for example, already has such a carbon price. They call it an "incentive tax". This term makes it clear that this is not about imposing a ban, but that it is an invitation to switch to environmentally friendly alternatives, for example from a petrol or diesel-powered car to an electric vehicle. Of course, the electricity for the car should come from renewable sources.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the momentum this debate has gained recently in Germany. We have to use this momentum now.

At the same time, it is clear that a carbon price cannot replace legislation or clear reduction targets for all sectors. We will not stop climate change unless we combine all reasonable measures.

I would like to see closer international cooperation in this field because it is definitely not ideal to discuss the issue of carbon pricing at national level only. International cooperation that strives to ensure fair competition will create the basis for a more innovative industry. Germany is already expressing its support in various international bodies for the introduction of carbon pricing systems and harmonisation of these systems.

More international cooperation can also help us achieve greater acceptance. We should all work very hard to ensure that our policies meet with the broadest possible public acceptance. For example, while carbon pricing must of course work in practice, it must also be designed in a way that it is understandable for the general public.

The Federal Environment Ministry is currently reviewing different models. I consider it absolutely vital to avoid negative impacts on low and medium income groups and unfair burdens on commuters and tenants. Often these groups do not have the opportunity to avoid higher costs by changing their own behaviour. This is why we need an immediate redistribution of revenues. Accompanying measures that take effect at a later stage are not sufficient.

Our climate cabinet will discuss these requirements for carbon pricing in detail and find a broadly supported solution.

The 10th anniversary of the Petersberg Climate Dialogue not only marks a nice conference tradition. The dialogue gives us the opportunity to think ahead and pave the way for the major implementation steps that are needed in global climate action.

I look forward to working with you over the next two days on fulfilling the promise we made in Paris. I would be delighted if we could also discuss the topics from the German and European debate that I have just outlined.

But before we start with the first round of discussion, I would like to give the floor to my co-chair, Minister Carolina Schmidt.

13.05.2019 | Speech International Environmental Policy