Welcome

Speech by Minister of State Gernot Erler at the opening of the international conference "Climate Change as a Security Threat – Strategies for Policy-Makers, Sci

07.11.2008 - Speech

Excellencies,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to cordially welcome you to the opening of the international conference "Climate Change as a Security Threat – Strategies for Policy-Makers, Science and Business" here in Freiburg. I'm pleased that so many of you accepted our invitation.

I would first of all like to welcome those seated up here on the stage who are opening this conference today. Dr Rajendra Pauchuri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Cli­mate Change, Director-General of the Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, has travelled furthest, namely from India. Welcome to Freiburg, Mr Pachauri! We're delighted you've come all the way from India to Freiburg and look for­ward to your lead-in presentation. I would also like to welcome Dr Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. Thanks to an initiative launched by the German Foreign Minister, German foreign policy is now taking a close look at energy and climate change as part of an extended security concept, and I'm pleased that Freiburg has now become another milestone in this new foreign policy, which is aimed at creating a global community of shared responsibility. That brings me to the third person on the stage, Dr Dieter Salomon, Mayor of Freiburg. He's not a guest but, rather, the host as well as the Federal Foreign Office's partner in organizing this con­ference. Thank you very much for our good working partnership and for the hospitality we have received here in the Freiburg Concert Hall.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a seemingly endless list of important participants in this con­ference and of distinguished guests of honour, but I hope you'll forgive me for not welcoming everyone individually. I can only name a few who represent many. Let me begin with the keynote speakers and panellists at this conference. Altogether there are 17 from eight different countries: in addition to Germany, Bangladesh, China, Denmark, India, Nigeria, the UK and the US. You're all very welcome and we're delighted you've all come to Freiburg.

I would like to welcome Kerstin Andreae, my colleague from the Bundestag, as well as many other deputies at federal, Land and municipal level who all registered for this conference. I would also like to welcome Ambassador Funde and all members of the Diplomatic Corps. We're pleased that Vice-Rector Professor Schanz and the former Rector Professor Jäger are representing Freiburg University and that many of the city's notabilities are here today, including the honorary citizen Dr Rolf Böhme, former mayor, and Dr Eugen Martin. I bid you all a heartfelt welcome! Renate Buchen, Gerolf Staschull and Atai Keller, all of them leaders of groups on the city council, are accompanied today by a large number of councillors. I would like to welcome the many associations and authorities present, not least Johannes Bur­ger, Secretary of the Freiburg Chamber of Crafts and Trades, and Police Chief Heiner Amman. I cordially welcome Dr Christian Hodeige, publisher of the Badische Zeitung, as a represen­tative of the media and press, and Georg Salvamoser, founder of the Freiburg Solar-Fabrik, as a representative of the business community.

Most of all, however, ladies and gentlemen in this packed house, I would like to say to you: it's great that you're all here today. We've received registration forms from no less than 30 different countries; this morning we had a total of 1,318 registrations, including entire school classes and study groups, for example Class 10a from Rotteck Grammar School or the seminar course from Marie Curie Grammar School in Kirchzarten, as well as master study panels from Freiburg University on environmental governance, forest ecology and manage­ment. Welcome! That there is so much interest gives us great satisfaction.

It also shows, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, that it was right to take this conference to Freiburg, a city with a long tradition in ecological thinking and action, a city which is home to institutions such as the Eco-Institute, the ICLEI, the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems and the Centre for Renewable Energy. I began preparing this conference during the summer of last year together with these four organizations, and I would like to take this opportunity to say what a pleasure it has been to work with them. I would also like to point out that there are other institutions of this kind in Freiburg. They all have their own stalls in the foyer to my right and I hope, ladies and gentlemen, that you will find time during the breaks to look at what they have to offer.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Freiburg conference should not be just another conference on climate change. Naturally, it will begin by yet again highlighting the dangers and potential risks posed by climate change. But it has a very specific aim, namely to draw up concrete responses: what can politics do to counter the concrete dangers posed by climate change? What can science and technology do and which courses of action are available to us in the worst hit communities? And because we don't want to merely analyze but also seek answers to these questions, many members of the Federal Foreign Office are here. They are not only responsible for organization but will also try to take back with them any constructive ideas which emerge here and turn them into con­crete policies.

The very framework for this conference proves the earnestness and credibility of our quest. I can tell you that you are, as it were, taking part in an environmentally-friendly work of art. All emissions generated by the conference, for example due to travel to and from the conference, accommodation, catering, etc. will be offset by climate measures elsewhere. To this end, we decided to buy certificates from the company First Climate for the construction of a wind farm project in the Indian state of Maharashtra. And yesterday evening, ladies and gentlemen, this hall was sold out for a very lovely benefit concert by the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, whose takings will go to the initiative "Lighting Up Hope and Communities in Rural Nicara­gua". This initiative supports the use of solar energy in rural Nicaragua in Totogalpa, a region some 200 km from Freiburg's twin city Wiwilí. At the close of the conference tomorrow, I will hand over the cheque, which – we already know – will amount to more than 30,000 euro to the organization which runs the benefit project, SEED. The benefit concert and the con­ference's climate neutrality were made possible by a generous donation from Deutsche Tele­kom, to which I would like to express my sincere thanks, in particular Dr Ignacio Campino, who will also play an active role in this conference as a panellist. I would also like to thank Adelphi Research, which was responsible for the management of the conference.

Finally, I would like to extend a warm welcome once more to all participants from the various countries, from Freiburg and the region. And now I would like to hand over to Dr Dieter Salo­mon, Mayor of the city of Freiburg. Thank you very much for your attention!

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