German climate diplomacy

COP 28

Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and State Secretary Jennifer Morgan, Special Envoy for International Climate Action, at the Climate Change Conference in Dubai, © Sebastian Rau/photothek.de

19.01.2024 - Article

The climate crisis is the ultimate global challenge of our time. What role does diplomacy play in international climate cooperation? What does climate foreign policy mean? How is climate change impacting global security?

Rising sea levels, dramatic species loss, record temperatures – the climate crisis is making itself felt worldwide. More than three billion people live in regions hugely threatened by the consequences of climate change. The destruction of the environment and of natural resources also endangers human and international security. It exacerbates conflicts over ever scarcer resources such as water and food, forcing millions of people to flee their homes.

The scientists are absolutely clear: we need to act now if we want to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. To do so, global greenhouse gas emissions need to be drastically reduced in the course of this decade. No state or region can do this by itself – we need international cooperation and that is where climate foreign policy comes in.

The Climate Change Conferences

In 1992, the international community reached agreement on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In Rio, 154 countries signed the document which provides the basis for the annual Climate Change Conferences (Conference of the Parties, COP). The aim is to limit greenhouse gas emissions to keep global warming at a tolerable level, an aim which was reworked in the 2015 Paris Agreement at COP21. It is the task of climate foreign policy to prepare these conferences with regard to substance and help implement agreed targets. International alliances are to be forged to this end so that all states, in particular emerging economies and developing countries, can set themselves and achieve ambitious climate targets. After all, the consensus principle applies at the conferences: all of the now 197 Parties to the Convention need to agree to the decisions they negotiate. Throughout the year, there are a number of international events to lay the groundwork at working and ministerial level. To prepare for the COP, the Federal Foreign Office for example hosts the Petersberg Climate Dialogue. The Federal Government also supports the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which regularly presents globally agreed Assessment Reports on climate change with a view to strengthening science‑based climate policy.

Climate partnerships and climate financing

Adapting to climate change and the necessary fast-track economic transition poses a major challenge particularly for emerging economies and developing countries who need support to reduce their emissions. In Copenhagen in 2009, industrialised countries therefore set themselves the goal of mobilising 100 billion US dollars every year from 2020 for investment in climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. This was not to be limited to state support but also aimed to bolster private investment with a view to advancing the economic transition. This goal was first achieved in 2022. The industrialised nations have also committed to doubling their financing for adaptation between 2019 and 2025. In particular through its climate partnerships, Germany is supporting the sustainable transition in key countries.

Preventing geopolitical and security impacts of climate change

The climate crisis has become a geopolitical factor: economic and political centres of power are shifting as glacier melting opens up new trade routes, while sources and demand for commodities are changing with the global energy transition. Climate impacts such as increased frequency of extreme weather events are making resources scarce and exacerbating conflict.

Climate foreign policy can thus also be seen as preventive security policy. Prevention, but also dealing with climate impacts through adaptation measures and resilience-building are at its core. Germany is working to ensure that questions relating to climate and security are also given greater weight in the multilateral framework – for example in the UN, the EU, OSCE and NATO.


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