Closing speech by Minister of State Gernot Erler at the international conference “Climate Change as a Security Threat – Strategies for Policy-Makers, Science an

06.11.2008 - Speech

Closing speech

by Minister of State Gernot Erler

at the international conference

“Climate Change as a Security Threat – Strategies for Policy-Makers,

Science and Business”

Concert Hall, Freiburg, 7 November 2008

Ladies and gentlemen,

The international conference “Climate Change as a Security Threat – Strategies for Policy-Makers, Science and Business” is now coming to a close, and you have just heard that I have the lovely task of summing up this conference in five minutes. Nothing is impossible but this is a difficult job. There are a few points to which I would like to draw your attention:

First of all, we all agree on the risks facing the world. Scientists have described the dangers: the drinking water shortage on the one hand, the melting Poles and rising sea levels on the other, the droughts which lead to even more food shortages and the growing number of storms which we are ill-equipped to deal with.

Second, we also agree that these are all man-made problems and risks. Therefore, we're not talking about fate here and that means that the response must come from humankind. And it is not enough to simply look to politicians, even though German foreign policy, as you saw yesterday, is now addressing these issues and recognizes their urgency. Rather, we need society, common efforts, the expertise of environmental organizations, as well as sophisticated alliances, coalitions, networks in order to find common answers. For, to come back to the presentation by Nobel Prize Winner Rajendra Pachauri, we don't have much time left, seven years at most, to make a difference. And Professor Messner from the German Advisory Council on Global Change showed us, impressively I believe, that disasters will multiply if we don't act quickly enough.

My third point is technology: I believe we were shown once again this morning that much has already been done and that even more is possible. I found it striking that Professor Eicke Weber, a member of the scientific community, was more optimistic than many politicians when he told us what he believes he himself, indeed what the scientific community, can achieve even though there are, of course, still many unresolved problems. But what matters is that this technology is used within the right political framework. Leading the way is a rewarding, indeed an important task, also for a country like Germany. Naturally, we are proud that, as we have heard, today 71 states around the world are using renewable energy and that, in common with the German Renewable Energy Sources Act, 52 of them have introduced feed‑in regulations, which have proved to be such an incentive. However, we have also learned today that it is not enough to merely lead the way, and that there is a danger that harmful processes will be moved to the Third World, thus allowing us to wash our hands of responsibility. The term “carbon leakage” springs to mind. In this context, the example of decentralized procedures, such as in Grameen Shakti in Bangladesh, is particularly encouraging. We hope that this example will be followed in many regions of the world as a decentralized approach which deserves to be supported. Perhaps the most concrete insight we gained at this conference in this connection was that it is especially important to effectively deploy the enabling technologies developed by us in other countries besides Bangladesh via development workers in the field of energy.

The fourth point is the special responsibility of municipalities. Cities account for 50 per cent of the world population and 70 per cent of energy consumption – so where else should we start? I was truly fascinated to hear that an approach is working here which otherwise seldom works in politics, namely an exchange of ideas, experiences, creativity among equal partners. We don't stand a chance if, for example, we tell the Chinese that they shouldn't under any circumstances follow the same road to prosperity that we have been travelling along for more than 150 years. Rather, there must be a dialogue among equals. The same rights must be recognized. The exchange of experiences, ideas and creativity among equal partners – that is an opportunity for cities working together. And I'm pleased that we have ICLEI here in Freiburg, who have made this their motto.

My fifth point is that there is of course one big question which we have also discussed here: how can we achieve a political breakthrough? We are – with regard to the international financial system – in a stressful situation which is increasingly threatening to become a global economic crisis. On the other hand, we have recently demonstrated our capability to take action. Within days, packages worth hundreds of billions of dollars or euro were mobilized in an effort to avert this crisis. The question is, what does this mean for the challenge posed by climate change. Basically, we need the same capability, the same scope of action and within a few years. And that brings us to the central issue: are we really able to accept the current climate situation as a challenge and to move forward into a new innovation revolution? I think, especially as we are currently witnessing the failure of existing systems, we are certainly also capable of such an epochal breakthrough when it comes to climate change.

And in this connection I would like to remind you of what Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said here at the outset. He stressed that it is not enough for Europe to be a world leader in climate protection. Rather, we need a second engine, namely the United States of America, the world's largest economic and political power, which consumes the most energy. The Minister was extending his hand and sending a message to the newly elected US President Barack Obama that leadership would perhaps mean concluding a Green New Deal with us.

And, ladies and gentlemen, for me this is about incorporating an experience from traditional security policy into this new security policy, which is linked to the challenges of climate change. What were our experiences with traditional security policy? They show that we will not forever be able to repair conflicts internationally when the damage has been done through interventions, perhaps even with military interventions. We can't do that, indeed it is beyond us. And the same applies to climate change. We need a global preventive policy on climate change and that means moving towards a global community of shared responsibility. Of course, this is only possible if the biggest players, the Americans, the Chinese, the Indians, the Latin Americans are involved. An active, a proactive climate policy: that is the peace policy of our age.

Ladies and gentlemen,

That was my attempt to sum up what has been said during this conference in five minutes. I left out very many important aspects which we heard here. But in this respect, too, I have good news for you. Here in Freiburg there is a Centre for Renewable Energy which offers a master's course in renewable energy management. Representatives of this course are here and they were given the not so easy task of drafting a summary in English of each panel discussion by this evening, and subsequently elaborating a summary of the entire conference from that. This summary, as well as all talks and charts given or shown and released for publication here will be put on the conference website http://www.freiburg-konferenz.de from next week. You will therefore have something which not only reminds you of the conference but which will perhaps also provide a working basis for further efforts.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It was announced that there was still a small event to come. First of all, I would like to come back to the fact that we tried here to show the way forward with a practical example and made this conference climate neutral. I'm proud to be able to show you a small certificate. We have calculated that this conference, including travel, accommodation etc. produced 148,000 tonnes of CO2. We have offset this by buying certificates for a wind farm in the Indian state of Maharashtra. So, you can say with a clear conscience that you took part in this conference without harming the environment.

But we have something else for you. We decided to mark the opening of this conference the day before yesterday with a benefit concert by the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra whose proceeds will be going to a climate protection project. I would like to take this opportunity to once more warmly thank Deutsche Telekom and its representative Dr Ignacio Campino for sponsoring this wonderful concert so generously, thus making it possible to make available a substantial sum for the climate protection project Lighting up Hope and Communities in Rural Nicaragua.

And now I would like to ask Dr Helen Marquard, Secretary General of the London-based organization SEED, which selected the project within the framework of its annual competition for the best sustainable business idea, to come on stage. I would ask you, Ms Marquard, to say a few words about SEED and about the sponsored project. Please take the floor.

[Speech Dr Marquard]

Thank you, Ms Marquard. I believe you've convinced us that the solar project in Totogalpa was the right choice. Incidentally, we also opted for this project because Totogalpa is only about 200 km from Freiburg's twin city Wiwilí, with which Freiburg has close links. Ms Marquard, I would now like to hand over to you a symbolic cheque for 35,000 euro from the proceeds from the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra concert on 5 November.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to conclude by expressing my thanks. First of all, I'd like to sincerely thank our sponsor, Deutsche Telekom, once more for making the benefit concert and the promotion of the solar project in Nicaragua possible. I'd like to thank the city of Freiburg and its employees for our good working partnership in preparing and holding the conference. I'd like to sincerely thank my team from the Federal Foreign Office for not only preparing this conference but also making it a success. In particular, I want to thank my aide Annette Walter, without whom this would not have been possible. I'd also like to sincerely thank Adelphi Research which helped organize this conference so capably. I think everyone has done a great job. I'd also like to look up to our professional interpreters who I believe ensured that everyone who doesn't speak English so well could participate in and benefit from this conference. Thank you so much for your great work. I'd like to thank all keynote speakers as well as all panellists who contributed to this conference. Above all, however, I'd like to thank you for coming here in such large and impressive numbers during the last day and a half and for ensuring that this was an event full of lively debate.

Finally, I'd like to ask the moderator Petra Pinzler to come back on stage. Petra Pinzler, you've just praised the audience. That's right, a moderator has to do that. But I feel that we have to thank you for the fact that the conference wasn't a tiring series of individual presentations but, rather, that a lively dialogue developed, that it was interesting and that this spirit came across during the conference. We owe that first and foremost to you and we therefore don't want to let you leave without a small present. I mentioned the wonderful concert by the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra the day before yesterday. I would like to present you with a full version of “The Seasons” by Haydn performed by the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra. And these are the last flowers available in Freiburg which grew outside rather than in a greenhouse. That, too, is fitting for this conference. Thank you once again for your great work!

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