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The establishment of IRENA: "Kick-starting the third industrial revolution"

26.01.2009 - Speech

IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, is to advise and assist industrialized and developing countries in the adoption and increased use of renewable energies. The Founding Conference was held in Bonn on Monday, 26 January. Minister of State Gernot Erler attended the conference on behalf of the Federal Foreign Minister. In his words, "the breakthrough of renewable energy will kick-start a third industrial revolution."

IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, is to advise and assist industrialized and developing countries in the adoption and increased use of renewable energies. The Founding Conference was held in Bonn on Monday, 26 January. Minister of State Gernot Erler attended the conference on behalf of the Federal Foreign Minister. In his words, "the breakthrough of renewable energy will kick-start a third industrial revolution."

26 January 2009

– Translation of advance text –

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to cordially welcome you to Bonn. I'm delighted to see you here today at the invitation of the German Government, and it's a great honour for me to speak to you on this special day for the development of international cooperation.

It has long been obvious that our economic system, based on fossil fuels, cannot be sustained indefinitely, and that no single country, regardless of its size, can meet this challenge alone. People everywhere need energy, whether they are living here in Germany during this year's cold winter or in the hot climate of the tropics. We've recognized that we must completely change our methods of generating that energy. This is a process which concerns us all. Only if everyone contributes can we establish sustainable new energy systems before the old ones break down.

The conclusion is quite clear – the international community must commit itself to addressing this task together. Up to now there has been no international organization devoted to the issue of how we can shape this enormous change. Today we finally assume our shared responsibility, because we are voicing our joint commitment to making our energy supply sustainable and environmentally friendly with the help of renewable energy and IRENA.

We saw last summer what happens when we fail to assume that responsibility. The record price of oil created economic turmoil across the globe and alarmed people everywhere. High oil prices don't stop at borders, they affect everyone who relies on oil. The subsequent fall in the price of oil is, according to the analysts, solely due to the global economic and financial crisis. When the economy recovers, the price of energy is bound to reach new heights. It's clear, therefore, that if we don't want to spend the next few decades permanently lurching back and forth from energy crisis to economic crisis, we must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

That's why IRENA is so important – it will help governments take this vital step for their countries and escape from that dependence as soon as possible.

The Federal Government is firmly convinced that the isolated use of renewables by individual countries is not sufficient to prevent further increases in greenhouse gas emissions, with negative consequences for the climate. To date, however, the use of renewables is concentrated in just a few countries. That basis must be broadened – fossil fuels stand for the economy of the past, while renewables stand for the economy of the future. If the ground for this future is today only being prepared in a few countries, then conflicts over the control of resources are destined to break out. We are becoming increasingly aware that energy issues also have wide-ranging foreign and security policy significance.

The high economic growth in Africa, Asia and Latin America can only continue if there is a secure energy supply; in industrialized countries, too, energy consumption is unlikely to fall. It is therefore obvious that in the long term scarce resources and competition for oil, gas and coal reserves could lead to increasing international tension. Further growth in greenhouse gas emissions and climate change already eliminate agricultural land, cause natural disasters, and destroy infrastructure – especially in emerging and developing nations. This leads to more social tension, more migration and more international conflicts.

We can only prevent these conflicts from escalating in the long term by making much greater use of renewables.

But I don't wish to only speak here about the risks of business as usual but also about the opportunities a switch will present. Just as the use of coal was instrumental for the first industrial revolution and the use of oil for the second, the breakthrough of renewable energy will kick-start a third industrial revolution. We have the unique opportunity to jointly promote and shape this new global industrial revolution. It's in all our countries' interests to participate in it and to let other countries do likewise. IRENA will help us address this major future task in a determined way.

Let me thank all of you for being so committed to IRENA. You have played a part in turning this great vision into reality today.

We've all worked together through the many sessions and conferences to ensure that the urgently needed international cooperation in the field of renewables can be made smoother than before. The worldwide efforts to promote renewables will from now on be pooled in a single organization, a single institution.

You have all given IRENA much support and made valuable proposals. If what's been achieved to date is an indication of what the future holds for IRENA, then we can expect great things from it.

I wish IRENA every possible success!

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