Speech by Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the opening of the energy transition exhibition in Beijing

08.04.2016 - Speech

Party Secretary Wang,
Minister Lu,
Esteemed students and guests,

It is a great pleasure and honour for me to be able to speak to you here at the University of International Business and Economics.

I am delighted to be visiting China, and my itinerary in this country is full to the brim with meetings, topics and tasks.

In a nutshell, your country, China, and my country, Germany, have – together ‑ got a lot on our plate.

We are taking responsibility in an increasingly turbulent world full of crises and conflicts. And this is what we have to do. Our two countries are the most densely populated and economically strongest states on their respective continents. This means that we must ensure stability in our own regions and, at the same time, work to achieve peace and resolve conflicts beyond our own borders.

China is already doing a great deal to this end. And – I consider this to be especially important – we are working together to an increasing degree, for instance in our successful efforts to resolve the nuclear conflict with Iran last year, and, right now, with regard to North Korea, Afghanistan and, last but not least, the political process for Syria.


Despite this wide range of topics, I am delighted that I am able to come to your university today to talk to you about an especially important aspect of our cooperation, namely sustainability and “green development”.

Why is this so important for the future? I believe that only when China manages to

  • use finite environmental resources more sparingly,
  • reduce pollution and its impact on the climate
  • and gradually decouple economic growth from the consumption of resources,

then, and only then, will you and your children be able to enjoy growing prosperity and greater opportunities for development in the future – that is to say all the things that the Chinese people work so hard and so diligently to achieve.


We in Germany have chosen the path of sustainability, and we call this the “energiewende”. Twenty-five years ago, we adopted legislation to promote renewable energies. Back then, there was a great deal of scepticism all around the world. Will this path jeopardise industry and growth? Will Germany lose its competitive edge in global markets? I know that this scepticism persists, also here in China. This is why I want to tell you all the more emphatically today that the energy transition is in full swing. German industry and German exports are stronger than ever before. But growth is becoming increasingly decoupled from the consumption of resources. The German economy has grown steadily in the past 25 years, but emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases have fallen by 27 per cent.

We have managed to do this because the political establishment and the business world in Germany have invested – in energy efficiency, resource-friendly technologies and in expanding renewable energies. Today, one third of Germany’s electricity comes from renewables. And these investments not only tackle climate change, destroyed landscapes, polluted rivers and smog in cities – all experiences that we in Germany are familiar with as are you in China – but have also given rise to entirely new professions and many hundreds of thousands of jobs.


The European Marco Polo explored China 700 years ago. When he returned, he said: “I did not tell half of what I saw, for I knew I would not be believed.” This might possibly be the other way round today. When I talk about the German energy transition, then I have to be afraid that no one will believe me here in China ... This is why I have brought two things with me. First, a detailed exhibition about the German energy transition. We are displaying this today for the very first time throughout the world, and I would like to invite you all cordially to join me on a tour of the exhibition.

I could not imagine a better first stop for the exhibition than China. China is itself currently at a turning point. Its rapid development has taken its toll on the environment and resources. You are aware of this on an everyday basis, and your Government is also aware of this. This is why it has just decided in the 13th five-year plan that China intends to “grow green”.

China is, already today, the largest investor in renewable energies around the world, and has set itself the ambitious target to increase its share of renewable energies to 15 per cent by 2020.

Your country is also showing that it wants to take responsibility on the international stage on the path to sustainability. In Paris at the end of last year, the world’s countries agreed to a groundbreaking climate agreement that aims to limit global warming to well below 2°C – to 1.5°C if possible.

Germany is also committed to this responsibility, and this is why we, together with China and many others, are calling on the parties to sign the Paris Agreement in New York on 22 April and to accede to it as soon as possible.

But the real work and effort will actually begin after it has been signed. The aim now is to transform not only our energy supply, but also our cities and our mobility. We are counting on China’s cooperation in global climate protection particularly in the area of international air transport, which is not covered by the Paris Agreement, as is being discussed in the International Civil Aviation Organization at the moment.


Ladies and gentlemen,

Not only the Paris Agreement, but also many discussions around the world make it most clear to me that the signs of the times point to a global energy transition.

The only question is who is taking the lead?

I believe that China and Germany have the potential to be natural partners on the path towards a global energy transition. We are asking ourselves one and the same question: are we the leaders of transition towards new, clean products, processes and business models – or are we allowing others to reap the benefits of this deal?

Germany would like to be among the leaders of this development – we want China to be part of this, and we want to work together with China. We want to work together on renewable energies, city planning, the development of new traffic concepts, the buildings of the future and, of course, in the context of collaborative projects between our companies – also in third markets.

And this brings me to the second aspect that I have brought with me today. I am being accompanied by a business delegation that already applies the cooperation with China that I am talking about on a daily basis today. I would like to offer you a few examples so that you can get a clearer picture of what the energy transition means in practice. The company Astronergy, which has its production site in Frankfurt an der Oder not far from Berlin, has installed more than one gigawatt of solar power capacity in China over the years. At the Qingdao Ecopark, the company Vogel Clean Energy is working on decentralised solar energy systems for housing and industrial complexes. And the medium-sized business Aerodyn from northern Germany has, just a few weeks ago, installed a giant wind energy prototype in the Hangzhou delta – with an output of 5 megawatts and an incredible rotor diameter of 139 m!

Companies in Germany and China alike know that investors around the world have a very close eye on who has recognised the signs of the times. Countries that send reliable signals that they are successfully managing the transformation to the “green economy” are rewarded.


And something else is important, namely you, the talents of the future. I believe that economics and business students such as you will have great opportunities in the “green economy”. If you draw a little bit of inspiration from this exhibition or from discussions with my delegation today, then you could, one day, not only earn well, but also do your part to create a sustainable future for the people in China and throughout the world. Of course, I would prefer you to do this together with young people from Germany. The potential at German universities and in German companies is great – and perhaps tangible opportunities will already arise as part of the current Sino-German exchange year, which has just commenced.


The path to a global energy transition has only just begun. You, the young people, will shape it one day. Your ideas and the development of your talents will be decisive. On his visit to your country two weeks ago, the German President said the following: “[China’s] strengths draw on the life experience and ideas of every individual. [...] We in Germany put our faith in a modern China, a China of creativity and debate between competing ideas. And not only that – the whole of the international community needs this China.” I am certain that you will be part of this.

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