Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the 2nd EnBW Climate Conference

25.10.2007 - Speech

“A cooperative and above all forward-looking energy foreign policy is required – not only in order to save our jeopardized environment but also to prevent threats to our planet's security and peace.” This was stressed by Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in his speech at the 2nd EnBW Climate Conference in Berlin.

-Check against delivery -

Mr Villis,
Mr Minister-President,
Jürgen Hogrefe,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me thank you, Mr Villis, for your kind words of welcome, and congratulate you on your appointment as EnBW's new CEO.

You have the reputation of combining European experience with healthy German solidity, and as a foreign minister hailing from Westphalia, I cannot help but see precisely these qualities as being the best prerequisites for a successful term of office at EnBW!

This is because both are needed, or to put it another way, without European experience and German solidity EnBW will find it difficult to hold its own in the ever-stiffer wind of European competition.

The energy business and politics have a less easy relationship today than in the past. We are being carefully watched. Contrasting philosophies about the future structure of energy supply are floating around, and allegations of dependency and mutual instrumentalization to the disadvantage of the consumer are all too readily voiced.

Nonetheless I remain convinced that we in Germany need powerful and internationally competitive energy firms. It is in our interests to have major energy players able to participate in the global search for and exploitation of fossil energy resources in Russia, Africa, the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula. “Small is beautiful” can surely not be the final answer to the challenge of securing our energy supplies for the next 20, 30 or 50 years.

Let me make one thing clear – against this background I doubt whether splitting the ownership of energy production and the supply network is the best idea. In any case, Germany's regulation of network infrastructure is much better and more effective than similar efforts in other European countries, a fact that is not yet generally known. This is why the European Commission, and especially its far-reaching proposals for restructuring the energy market, concentrate on us, as proved by Commission President Barroso's recent comments to the Dutch media. And precisely because your European competitors and their governments are quick to agree with him, and are praised for this even in Germany, I foresee a tough battle to achieve compromises and majorities with regard to unbundling and regulation.

This is the task of politics, our job, and I have no right to wish for easy tasks.

On the other hand, however, I must say that in some cases the energy business doesn't make our job any easier. Price rises, also for electricity, may be justified in economic terms.

But the level of self-confidence and verve with which these increases were recently publicized gives me cause to doubt whether this contributes towards the success of our joint efforts in Brussels.

If we want to make our case in Brussels, especially to the EU Member States, if we want to demonstrate that we, too, want reasonable and fair conditions for European competition, then we need greater trust and discipline, perhaps on both sides!

I must admit, however, that during the past months and years energy and climate policy have not been the focus of public attention merely because of this discussion about prices and European competition. On the contrary, we have all realized that climate protection, that a cooperative and above all forward-looking energy foreign policy is required – not only in order to save our jeopardized environment but also to prevent threats to our planet's security and peace.

Climate change is not a faraway phenomenon but part of an urgent and threatening reality. The intensity and speed of climate change are dramatic, the timeframe for action is even smaller than feared, and – this is decisive – for that very reason economic and environmental interests cannot forever be balanced out on a long time-axis.

We should assume that this conflict of aims will exacerbate both nationally and internationally. We must work towards resolving it even more vigorously, more courageously, but above all more creatively. And we need creativity not only in developing new technologies but also, if not above all, in developing new policies, new instruments, and in seeking new allies.

Future-focused foreign policy goes hand in hand with sustainable national and international energy supply. They are the modern equivalent of the global policy of détente; climate change policy is thus synonymous with peace policy.

Although some people disagreed with its choice, the Nobel Committee understood this connection when it awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore and the IPCC, and I congratulate the organizers of today's event for having had the idea, long before the Prize was awarded, of inviting Al Gore here to deliver the keynote speech.

Perhaps, and that is my hope for today's conference, the meeting of politics, business and climate change will provide the catalyst for new concrete projects and proposals!

In any case, on my trips to faraway or nearby regions and during my conversations there, I have always found (and for that reason I have often included energy-industry representatives in my delegations) that if you see with your own eyes the current dimensions of water shortage, desertification and glacier melting as a result of global warming, you understand much more readily why climate change already causes crises, creates dangerous conflict potentials and worsens existing conflicts in many parts of the world.

We need only look at Africa or the Middle East, where almost every conflict involves access to and distribution of resources, or at Central Asia or the North Pole, which I visited a few weeks ago. In all these places climate change leads to disputes about the distribution of natural resources.

The Arctic's “eternal” ice, a natural landscape vital to our planet's ecological balance, is melting literally before our eyes. And this not only threatens polar bears, cod and our weather, but opens up whole new conflict fields which no-one would have imagined five or ten years ago. All of you here will doubtless have read the novel by Sten Nadolny, “The Discovery of Slowness”, published a few years ago, and were as fascinated as I was about his portrayal of John Franklin's search – in vain – for the North-West Passage. And we were all astonished and shocked to hear, a few weeks ago, that global warming has now made just that possible – an ice-free North-West Passage.

The news of this had just sunk in when we were beginning to see the potential changes in both the economic and the political world situation – easier maritime transport through a North-West Passage would have dramatic effects on global trade flows and on Arctic raw materials.

Global warming is accelerating this race for resources, a race which, by the way, didn't start with the Russian submarine planting a flag under the ice. On the contrary, all Arctic countries, without exception, are staking their claim in some way or other. No wonder, as the region is thought to contain 25% of global energy resources – particularly oil and gas.

It is our duty to take pre-emptive foreign-policy action and to monitor adherence to the Arctic Treaty procedures. We must prevent a “Cold War at the North Pole” as the headlines called it during the summer because in the Far North, as with climate policy as a whole, we can only win or lose together.

I use this example to make it clear how dramatically, and how close to home the issues of climate protection strike, leading to real political consequences. It is a huge challenge, perhaps even the global challenge of the future – in ecological, economic and political terms!

At the same time – and this is what I try to point out during my visits abroad – global warming represents a huge opportunity for more political and indeed economic cooperation. It is no coincidence that today's meeting is entitled “The Economics of Climate Change”. And in Germany more than anywhere else a forward-looking policy has over the past few years helped unlock our country's economic potential and made us more than competitive on the international stage.

But let me start with the political consequences – we must at all costs avoid creating new divisions in the world, into countries which place growth before climate protection, those which wag a warning finger at them, and those which lose out – African or small island states, for example – and which feel the effects of global warming without being able to defend themselves.

My message is that we must come to an agreement on global warming in spite of different starting points and interests. We cannot allow new front lines to emerge as in Kyoto.

Germany and the European Union therefore call for a comprehensive agreement to be negotiated and adopted under UN auspices. We carried out the vital preliminary work during our EU and G8 Presidencies. At the Bali meeting we will do all we can to ensure that an ambitious and above all binding international agreement becomes possible which forms the basis for global emission reductions after 2012.

The good news is that the EU is increasingly speaking with one voice on climate policy. It has become a global player and a trailblazer for the rest of the world, not least thanks to the ambitious goals we managed to place on the agenda during our Presidency. We want to drive that agenda forward and fight for our belief that only a cooperative approach is the solution, and that this route is the right one in spite of often difficult talks and partners.

We are fighting for our European approach which shows that economic development and a modern climate policy with binding reduction targets are not contradictory but can go hand in hand.

And we want to ensure that greenhouse gases, above all CO2, are given a global price. This may not please everyone here today, but our view is that the atmosphere cannot become a free dumping ground at the cost of future generations.

We in the EU have the largest and – in spite of all the justified criticism – to date the most effective CO2 trading system in the world. And many others want to learn from us, as the market is growing rapidly, to well over $30 billion in 2007.

Many regions and countries are considering creating emission-trading systems, particularly also in the USA, where the East and West Coast states are the pioneers. For that reason, during my recent trip to California, Governor Schwarzenegger and I agreed that the US states and the EU should cooperate closely on creating and linking their trading systems.

This will broaden the market and further reduce the existing competition differences between the industrial countries. But we will only be successful if we also engage the dynamic new economies of China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, not right from the start with the same obligations, but we should seek and find ways of gradually harmonizing standards!

This example, too, shows what I briefly mentioned earlier – the collaboration of politics and business is a major prerequisite for a forward-looking policy. Moreover, if we look at the economic potential here, we see that Germany is well placed to meet the coming challenges, in the field of the use of fossil fuels and of course in the main business structures. The firms are strong enough to also assume economic responsibility outside Germany, above all in the growth market of Eastern Europe.

However, the renewables sector in Germany is equally experiencing a boom which surprises even the most optimistic analysts. Over 200,000 top-quality jobs have been created so far and the trend is upwards.

In the Berlin-Brandenburg region, to which I feel particularly attached, a veritable solar cluster has grown up, producing 35% of all solar modules installed in Germany. Just recently the US firm FirstSolar has invested in the region, creating 400 additional jobs.

Even the Washington Post has asked how “cloudy Germany” could become a powerhouse in solar energy, hardly able to satisfy the demand.

Here, too, the answer is: this is the result of smart policy, awareness that technology alone is not sufficient and that growth can only happen if there is also a reliable legal framework. This is why, seven years ago, we drew up the Renewable Energy Sources Act. This provides a reliable framework which forms part of our successful model and which for that very reason has been taken as an example for similar legislation in around 40 other countries. I feel that this should not be seen as a hindrance to an appropriate energy policy, also by the German energy industry.

This is because “greentech” plays a central role in tackling the future challenge of global warming. This is why we in the German Government want to show, with our “hightech climate protection strategy”, that we mean it when we say that Germany has to become a “low carbon economy”. Norway and the US are also very ambitious in this field. I'm convinced that if we want to occupy the leading positions in the future, we have to mobilize the necessary resources today. Let me give you just one example – according to recent estimates China alone will, in the medium term, invest $25 billion in green technology – per year!

This also demonstrates, by the way, that we cannot rest on our laurels regarding wind power, solar technology and biomass. We must broaden our spectrum and make good lost ground on geothermics and hydrogen.

Let me close by returning to my original message. Future-looking climate policy is peace policy, as it helps us prevent tomorrow's resource and climate conflicts.

To do this we need strong national and international partners and the courage to cooperate. The fight against global warming is a task that involves and challenges politics, business and science in equal measure, across all disciplines and national borders.

And it is winnable. I hope this EnBW conference produces contributions towards winning that fight and that new ideas and contacts are developed. You can rely on my interest and cooperation, even though we will continue to differ on the role of nuclear energy!

Thank you.

Related content

Top of page