Speech by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the opening of the 14th Petersberg Climate Dialogue

02.05.2023 - Speech

“Standard Operating Procedures for Planned Relocations”. That’s the somewhat dry title of a document presented by the Government of Fiji two weeks ago.

Standard operating procedures – that sounds technical, routine and, above all, bureaucratic.

But the backstory to this document could hardly be more dramatic for the people of Fiji. Because with these guidelines, the Government is helping people to relocate before their homes are swallowed up by rising sea levels. Even now, many shores are eroding and half a dozen villages have already had to move.

Rising sea levels are a threat that is, unfortunately, now a fact of life for the inhabitants of island nations. And that reminds us of what has happened since the Petersberg Climate Dialogue started life 13 years ago.

When the then Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the first Climate Dialogue in Bonn in 2010, we were still talking about scenarios and projections for the climate crisis. Some politicians even needed to be convinced that climate change wasn’t a figment of the imagination or a scare tactic.

But today we’re talking about a crisis that is there, in reality, in the here and now, today. And it’s one that threatens the security of millions of people around the world – every hour, every day.

That’s why our meeting here today is so important. After all, the Petersberg Climate Dialogue is and remains a forum in which we can build alliances among nations that want to forge ahead, where industrialised countries, island states, emerging economies and civil society come together.

We want to lay the foundations here for joint resolutions at the Climate Change Conference. And we’re entering into dialogue here with concrete partnerships for climate action, also across geopolitical borders.

We need all of this more than ever before. Together, we’re facing the greatest security challenge of our century, namely the climate crisis. All of us gathered here today can do our part to mitigate this crisis.

After all, and this is the good news contained in the latest IPCC report, we have the policy tools and the financial resources as well as the technical solutions to contain this crisis.

In order for us to achieve this, three things are key to my mind.

Firstly, and this is more than obvious, we need to achieve a drastic reduction in greenhouse gases. At the next COP in Dubai, we will, for the first time, conduct a global stocktake to ascertain where we are in terms of meeting the climate targets agreed to in Paris in 2015.

I don’t think you need a crystal ball to predict that science won’t give us good grades for this – because we’ve been far too slow since 2015.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber, I’m therefore glad that you also intend during your COP Presidency to set out a clear roadmap for keeping the 1.5 degree limit within reach. We will do everything in our power to support you in this endeavour and to make the climate conference a success in this regard.

As we all know, it’s not enough to point out that we aren’t meeting our targets. We need to say how we want to change course to finally get back on the 1.5 degree track.

One key to this is in the energy sector, which accounts for more than 40 percent of global CO2 emissions. The International Energy Agency estimates that we need to triple global renewable energy capacity – otherwise the planet’s pain barrier of 1.5 degrees will be significantly exceeded.

My country, Germany, has committed to sourcing 80 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2030. But we don’t have a magic solution here either. We were dependent on Russian gas for too long. We should have phased out coal earlier, and we could have built more wind and solar power plants.

But that’s water under the bridge. The important thing is that we learn from these mistakes – and that we have learned from them. We stand by our ambitious goals, and we want to support our partners in going down this path as well. In the G7, we have therefore just finished setting ourselves concrete targets for the expansion of wind and solar energy.

I’m committed to ensuring that we also agree on a global target for renewable energies and energy efficiency. Yes, this is something new. That’s why we’re sitting here in such a special setting. Because we don’t want to go into detail about everything we’ve already done or everything that can’t be done, but we want to work over the next day and a half on what more and what new things we can do to get on the 1.5 degree track.

That’s why I think this conference is so special – because it isn’t just like-minded partners that are coming together here, but different countries with different perspectives. But they all have the same goal: getting a handle on the climate crisis. And that’s why the different perspectives of each country are so important.

A few weeks ago, for example, Kenyan President William Ruto spoke in this very room about his country’s energy plans. And they are more than impressive. By 2030, Kenya intends to derive all of its electricity from renewable sources.

And President Ruto said something that applies to all of us, namely that this transformation is also a huge opportunity for economic development. Some 600 million people in African nations currently have no access to electricity. That’s almost half of the entire population.

But even though Africa is home to 60 percent of the world’s best solar sites, according to the International Energy Agency, only one percent of the world’s solar power systems is currently installed in Africa. If this state of affairs changes, if we change this together, this will not only help us to achieve our climate goals, but it will also improve the lives of millions of people.

The global transformation – as you can see so clearly from this – is not only the key to combating the greatest security threat of this century. But the energy transformation and renewable energies are also a key to greater justice around the world.

The global transformation is in full swing. In most places around the world, renewable energies are already the most economically viable form of energy production. Our aim for the COP in Dubai must be to usher in the end of the fossil fuel era.

But the science is clear: even if we achieve this transformation and manage to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, the upheaval for our environment and economy will be so great that many nations will not be able to manage this by themselves.

This brings me to my second point. If we want a just solution, then we must also help the most vulnerable countries to adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis – for example, by retooling their agriculture with drip irrigation or by coming up with concepts such as the resettlement plans in Fiji, which, by the way, experts from the German development cooperation agency GIZ also helped to develop.

And we have to get to grips with damage caused by the climate crisis that can no longer be repaired. At the COP in Sharm el-Sheikh, we agreed to set up new financing mechanisms that will enable the major emitters of greenhouse gases to support the most vulnerable countries in the event of loss and damage.

We took the first step towards this last year at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, when we opened up a debate on this issue, one that was also controversial. We want to work now in the run-up to the COP in Dubai to make tangible progress, also with regard to a fund for loss and damage.

This isn’t only a question of justice, but is also in our security interests. After all, where the climate crisis deprives people of their livelihoods, it also fuels crises and conflicts that can destabilise entire regions.

It’s clear that all these measures will cost money. And that brings me to my third point. As industrialised nations, we have pledged to provide 100 billion US dollars per year for this purpose.

And I appreciate that quite a few countries, especially those suffering the most from the climate crisis, are asking us the following question: “And why do you pay less every year than you promised us?”

So yesterday, together with Canada, we held a meeting of donor countries to see where we’re at and how we can finally close this gap. The good news is that, as things currently stand, we’re on track to finally reaching the sum of 100 billion US dollars this year.

We have, as the Federal Government, pledged to increase our contribution to international climate finance to at least six billion euro. But it’s more than clear to us that this isn’t enough. We need to mobilise several trillion euro for the necessary transformation and adaptation measures to the climate crisis.

Public funds alone won’t be able to meet this need. That’s why we also need to mobilise a massive amount of private funds. Together with the US, Germany is working to ensure that we do this, particularly with a view to reforms at the IMF and the World Bank. We want to make climate finance an integral part of the World Bank’s business model so that we can facilitate greater green investments.

There’s another problem here, though, namely the fact that 60 percent of low-income countries have a high debt risk or are embroiled in a debt crisis even today. This is the case in the island state of Dominica, for example. When Hurricane Maria hit in 2017, it caused damage equivalent to 226 percent of the country’s GDP. To repair that damage, Dominica had to take on new debt, at much higher interest rates than industrialised countries – which were not hit by a hurricane at the time.

This not only increased the country’s debt, but left it with too little money to prepare for the next storm or to invest in renewable energy, let alone education and healthcare.

In order to break this vicious circle that many countries are locked in that are particularly threatened by the climate crisis, measures are needed to restructure debt at long last. This is another reason why we’re here today, to talk about this issue. All creditors around the world have a responsibility here, because the debt crisis is squeezing the very countries that are in most urgent need of investments to combat the climate crisis.

Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed colleagues,

Since the first Petersberg Climate Dialogue, global sea levels have risen by almost five centimetres on average. This is a life-threatening disaster for the people of Fiji and Dominica.

This crisis is the biggest security challenge of our age for us all. At the same time, we have a historic opportunity to seize the economic opportunities presented by this fundamental transformation now, in this decade, with the right responses to the climate crisis.

For this, we need a change of course at the upcoming COP28 that will put us on the 1.5 degree track.

And yes, climate policy is also about vested interests. But we all have an interest in this – from small island states to big industrial nations. We want our children to be able to live in a secure world also in the future.

So let’s roll up our sleeves and use the coming two days to make progress on this path. Thank you very much.


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