Speech by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the Baltic Offshore Wind Forum

09.05.2023 - Speech

“We must go to Dubai with a record, not a promise!”

That's what Mia Mottley, the Prime Minister of Barbados, said last week at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue.

Results, not promises.

Because we are facing the greatest security challenge of our century. And we can only solve this crisis if each and every one of us does our part.

Rising sea levels are threatening the existence of entire villages in Barbados.

Floods, storms and heatwaves are also hitting us here in Europe with ever-increasing severity.

That is why we are all here today. To put forward concrete and pragmatic solutions – and not promises – which reduce emissions and make our economies climate neutral as soon as possible.

The energy sector is key in this. It is responsible for roughly two thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions. The International Energy Agency estimates that we need to triple global renewable energy capacity to meet the 1.5-degree limit.

This is why we as the G7 have set ourselves concrete aims for building up renewable energy infrastructure: to 150 gigawatts offshore wind and 1000 gigawatts solar.

This is why we are working towards reaching a global agreement on a specific expansion target for renewables at COP 28.

In Dubai, we have a great opportunity to make a big leap forward on this – right here in our region, in our common neighbourhood: the Baltic Sea region.

Where wind of ten metres per second constantly sweeps across the sea.

This sea is a treasure. A treasure we all share, but also a treasure we can make better use of:

a treasure for green energy. The European Commission estimates the capacity for wind power in the Baltic Sea to be more than 93 gigawatts.

93 gigawatts. That is the equivalent to the output of around 90 average-sized nuclear power plants.

We are here to join forces to tap into this huge potential – not to make promises, but to deliver.

We have to be frank and crystal clear: this is not easy. Not easy at all.

We really have to dive into this issue to make concrete progress.

There are three points that are important to me.

First, every wind turbine we build is an investment in our security.

Because transitioning to green energy makes us less dependent on oil, coal and gas imports from countries we cannot always rely on. It helps to keep our energy supply cheaper and safer.

When I travelled to the Baltic States a little over a year ago, Russia had just started its war of aggression against Ukraine. As a German Minister, I was asked critical questions in the Baltic States: “Why did you make yourselves so dependent on Russian gas? Why did you build a pipeline in the middle of the Baltic Sea that undermines our security?”

The truth is: they were right and we were wrong.

Germany was too dependent on Russian energy for too long.

For every cubic meter of cheap gas, we paid with our security – twice and three times over.

And this is also why we are here today, why we have worked together with so much energy during the last year. Instead of North Stream, we are building Baltic power together – also for our security.

And with a view to the domestic debates – sorry to our neighbours and friends, but I would like to say something on some of the debates we are having here in Germany on how much speed we need – I would like to underline that one year ago, when we had to face the shambles of the misguided energy policy of the last decades, many of us were worried whether we would still be able to heat our homes in the winter.

Robert Habeck, our Economics Minister, undertook an enormous effort to steer us through this time. His ministry, our government – together – we did so with determination and with great success.

We accelerated the expansion of wind and solar power and have now reduced our direct imports of fossil fuels from Russia to zero. We will also need this determination in the future for our offshore plans in the Baltic Sea and if we want to make our country climate neutral.

That is why, when we took over the Presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States last July, we said: let us make wind energy a priority of our Presidency.

Lars, Pekka, I am glad that you are with us today because this is a joint effort. This is something new, to transform the Baltic Sea Council, a political institution, into a practical management institution.

Together with Poland, Sweden and the Baltic States, and our three countries, we agreed last year to increase offshore wind energy in the Baltic Sea sevenfold by 2030.

That is an ambitious goal, but it's worth every effort.

My second point is this: wind power is a huge opportunity for all of us. The International Renewable Energy Agency predicts that global wind energy capacities will increase from 740 gigawatts to 6000 gigawatts by 2050. That is an annual growth rate of more than 7 percent.

Already today, investment in renewables creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels. However, when I met with the 15 representatives from industry today, we all agreed: if European companies want to compete in this market of the future, we need to lay the right foundations now – by developing the necessary technologies, by securing supply chains and by training skilled workers.

But we also have to make the right investments. We have heard today, from some of you, that it's great if at an auction or in tenders, we have negative bidding. But if we want the investments to be made here in Europe, here in our Baltic Sea region, we have to make clear that this also pays off. We cannot stand idly by and wait for projects, we have to build them. And we also have to make a business case out of them.

And we heard about the IRA in the US. We heard that, last night, Canada announced big hydrogen plants; Australia and Japan will follow. So we have to make clear that investment is also worthwhile in our region – and we have to pick up the pace.

This brings me to my third point. We will only be able to implement these projects if we tackle them together. And we have to understand that these investments – also the tenders – have a security dimension which has to be priced in.

Everyone in this room knows how complex it is to build an offshore wind farm: from shipping twelve-tonne rotor blades several miles offshore – for which you need the vessels, but also, as I learned this morning, ports which are big enough for these vessels – to installing wind turbines the size of high-rise building in the open seas and putting deep sea cables in the ocean bed.

These complex projects require the right framework conditions. Currently, national approval procedures are too complicated. Too often, they slow down ambitious projects. Simplifying these procedures with cross-border agreements – because this is what we are talking about when we talk about offshore wind parks in the Baltic Sea; not about the national projects, but about cross-border projects – could help us speed things up. It is also clear that we cannot plan these projects between governments at a conference table. That is why we are here today and brought all of you together in the Foreign Ministry: business representatives, governments, experts from the scientific community and civil society.

You all know what needs to be done to make these projects happen.

We want to hear your expertise and your ideas. We want to learn from each other to build with each other.

A good example of how this cooperation already works is the island of Bornholm. On this “energy island”, Germany and Denmark are joining forces – both at governmental level by adopting the necessary legislation and at the corporate level. Together, we intend to build offshore wind parks with a capacity of up to three gigawatts.

The electricity will be delivered equally to Denmark and to Germany by submarine cables. Costs and benefits are also split evenly between our two countries.

Danish and German companies are working side by side. Soon we could be supplying a total of 4.5 million Danish and German households with green electricity. Lars, thank you for this great and quick cooperation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Colleagues and friends,

The distance between Barbados and Bornholm is almost 8000km. But let us keep in mind what Mia Mottley said last week: “What is good for the North is good for the South is good for the West and is good for the East.”

In this spirit, our conference today is a step in the right direction. A step to bring clean energy into the homes of our citizens.

A step to make our countries safer.

A step to secure the future of our planet.


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