Speech by Svenja Schulze at the conference "Daring Cities 2020"

Porträtfoto von Bundesumweltministerin Svenja Schulze
Svenja Schulze gives a speech at the Daring Cities 2020 conference, a three-week virtual conference series on urban climate policy.

– Check against delivery –

António Guterres,
Armin Laschet,
Patricia Espinosa,
Ashok Sridharan,
Norbert Barthle,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Many things this year are not going as planned, including this conference. We had originally planned to meet in Bonn. I am pleased that we can meet virtually despite the changed circumstances.

The coronavirus pandemic has been dominating our political agenda for more than six months. It poses huge challenges for the world.

But there are also other crises requiring immediate action. Particularly the climate crisis. Both crises remind us just how vulnerable our society is. More than ever, we need joint, ambitious efforts in climate action at local, regional, national and international level.

Cities have a key role to play in the climate crisis, just as they do in the coronavirus crisis:

Cities have been particularly hard hit by the effects of the coronavirus crisis:

  • Crowded public spaces and close living quarters help the coronavirus to spread more rapidly.

And cities are particularly affected by the impacts of climate change:

  • Cities are becoming warmer than the regions around them. It is often four to six degrees hotter in large cities.
  • And coastal cities around the world are threatened by rising sea levels and flooding. This will affect around 800 million people by 2050.

But cities are also the main battlegrounds for the fight against climate change.

  • Cities are drivers of innovation. They generate 80 percent of the global gross domestic product. At the same time, they are responsible for about 75 percent of global CO2 emissions and for about two thirds of global resource and energy consumption.

The goal now is to use the economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus crisis for greater climate action. Cities can become the key to overcoming both crises.

This requires national governments and regional levels to work together with cities. The current report of the Coalition for Urban Transition concludes that 80 percent of urban emissions up to 2050 can only be eliminated through effective cooperation between different levels.

Sub-national governments are often already taking the lead with daring concepts. To give an example: more than 10,000 cities around the world have already set emission reduction targets and drawn up binding climate plans. They are promoting cycling, public transportation and e-mobility, and planning climate-friendly cities with more green spaces.

Cities need daring national governments that invest in climate-friendly and green recovery.

In Germany, we are on the right track:

  • Firstly, the German government adopted the Climate Action Programme 2030. It includes support and relief measures with a volume of 54 billion euros until 2023 alone.
  • Secondly, the German government adopted the Climate Change Act, which stipulates a commitment to climate action in all areas of the economy and society.
  • And third, we have aligned our COVID-19 economic recovery package with climate action. We are focusing on the municipalities in particular: the German government is making an additional 100 million euros available to enable municipalities to implement climate action measures despite the financial pressures of the coronavirus pandemic.

The German economic stimulus package is backed by the European Green Deal at EU level. In the EU we have resolved to become climate neutral by 2050 and are currently discussing an increase in our 2030 climate target. The theme of the German Council Presidency, "Together for Europe's recovery", is driving the agenda: Europe must become stronger, fairer and more sustainable.

The coronavirus has made one thing clear: global crises demand global responses. This is why the Federal Environment Ministry is also involved in different initiatives at international level. One example is

  • the City Climate Finance Gap Fund, which was launched two weeks ago by the Federal Environment Ministry together with our Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Luxembourg and the Global Covenant of Mayors. The Gap Fund supports cities in the early phases of developing climate-friendly infrastructure projects. It is being implemented by the World Bank and the European Investment Bank with a budget of at least 55 million euros.
  • The Gap Fund is part of the Leadership for Urban Climate Initiative that the Federal Environment Ministry presented together with ICLEI and other partners last year at the UN Climate Action Summit. The aim is to accelerate investments in climate action and to dare to do more together in climate action. This is a goal we share with ICLEI.

As ICLEI, you make an indispensable contribution to progress in climate action in cities around the world. I am very grateful for your remarkable work. Please continue to dare!

Thank you very much.

07.10.2020 | Speech Climate