Speech by Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the conference Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue: “From Negotiation to Action – Towards a global Energiewende”

17.03.2016 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the second Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue.

“Energiewende is not only ecological, but also logical” – that is how Bertrand Piccard [the Swiss pilot of the Solar Impulse] expressed it in the film just now.

He’s right. The Energiewende not only makes economic sense. Sigmar Gabriel will have plenty to say about that in a moment. No, sustainable energy supply is also a major foreign policy issue!

We are living in turbulent times – Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya – I can’t remember a time when crises and conflicts came at us as thick and fast as they are doing at the moment. And I fear that this state of affairs will not change overnight, but that we will have to deal with it to an increasing degree in the coming decades. This also poses fresh challenges for energy policy.

Conflicts over scarce resources will also leave their mark on the generations to come. And the negative impact of climate change on stability and security will increase.

That is precisely why it is so important that we managed to achieve several ground-breaking successes at international level last year along the way to a more sustainable energy supply.

Let me give you three examples.

First, the historic success of the climate negotiations in Paris.

Paris showed us that the international community is able to agree on ambitious goals – in the face of all scepticism and seemingly irreconcilable differences.

It is a success for all of us. But everyone individually now has to do their part if we are to achieve the goal we have set!

My second example: in September the United Nations agreed on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For the first time access to a sustainable energy supply for everyone has been formally defined.

My third example concerns the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Only seven years after it was founded, three‑quarters of all states are members. That shows that there is a demand for multilateral institutions to foster global connectivity, that we need them, also in the energy sector! IRENA Director‑General Adnan Amin played an instrumental role in this development. I am delighted that he is here today!


Ladies and gentlemen,

The Energiewende is Germany’s equivalent to America’s man on the moon project. We have often pointed that out, Sigmar. After all, we Germans are well known for our modesty ...

But what is true, is, as one journalist once put it very aptly, that when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon in 1969, we – at least the older ones among us – watched him on the television from the comfort of our sofas. However, we can’t stay curled up on the sofa to put the Energiewende into practice. We all need to get our sleeves rolled up!

And moreover, we will only be able to fulfil the commitments made in Paris if we all now set to work together, today. The hard graft is only just beginning. We have to radically transform our energy supply, our cities and our mobility.

The global Energiewende has gathered momentum in industrialised countries and emerging economies in the wake of the Paris agreement. The EU, the US, China, India and Brazil are just a few examples.

Yet I am particularly concerned that we also develop innovative solutions for the poorer countries, which do not have easy access to experience, technology and capital to the same extent. They are the least responsible for climate change, yet they are already suffering from the consequences, sometimes severely.

A sustainable energy supply has to promote development. To this end each country, each region has to find a solution that suits its own requirements. The Energiewende doesn’t come in “one size fits all”.

Africa can set standards in this area. Almost two‑thirds of the 1.1 billion Africans are affected by energy poverty. Yet there are good ways to develop so‑called off‑grid or mini‑grid electrification with renewable energies. In the area of energy supply, Africa has the chance to leapfrog over old structures, as it has done in the case of mobile telecommunications. That is a great opportunity!


Ladies and gentlemen,

I’m convinced that we are heading in the right direction. But since this path is littered with challenges, I am glad you are here today. For this conference is designed to promote networking and exchange: with regard to potential problems and obstacles, yes, that as well, but mainly in connection with opportunities, prospects and successful role models!

The global Energiewende isn’t going to happen on its own. That is why our watchword is “From negotiation to action”. Let’s all get to work!

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