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I warmly welcome you to the “One Planet, One Health, One Future” conference at the Federal Foreign Office.
We are very pleased that so many participants from different parts of the world and a wide range of institutions and academic fields have gathered here for this event. I particularly want to thank the Wildlife Conservation Society, which has co-organised today’s conference.
Our discussions today will focus on health and the environment. Both issues are not new to the Federal Foreign Office or to foreign policy at all. In fact, quite the opposite is true: Health risks do not stop at national borders. They have severe economic and social consequences, and they can pose a threat to the political stability of entire regions. To address these challenges, governments must work together closely. This is why Germany, through bilateral initiatives and in the United Nations, as well as in cooperation with the World Health Organization and in the context of the G7 and G20, is helping to ensure that health care systems around the world are prepared to deal with and swiftly address threats to public health.
Environmental and climate change are other issues that have for many years been integrated into our foreign and security policy.
As a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, we have made climate change and its impact on security one of the focuses of our work.
At the end of September, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in his address to the UN General Assembly in New York underscored that climate change is increasingly becoming a matter of war and peace – that is, a question of the survival of humanity. In future, climate protection will therefore need to become an even greater focus of foreign policy and an imperative in a sustainable foreign policy. We have put changes that are occurring in the environment due to climate change and the loss of biodiversity on the agenda of many international fora – because we believe that problems can only be solved through joint efforts.
Destruction of the environment, climate change, threats to the health of people, animals and ecosystems – all this cannot be kept separate from foreign policy: Ebola outbreaks in recent years show how quickly health care systems can be stretched to their limits – which, in turn, can have a severe impact on global security. These outbreaks thus also became foreign policy issues. We are here to discuss the consequences of man-made changes to the environment, and to jointly develop solutions for the prospective challenges we face.
Our focus is on health – not only human health, but also that of the environment.
Drying wetlands – the largest carbon sinks on the mainland – are not only releasing large amounts of additional greenhouse gasses, but are also destroying the habitat of countless animal and plant species. Sealing and degradation of soils create water shortages and more difficult conditions for agriculture, and this is further exacerbated by climate change. The 2019 Global Hunger Index shows that climate change leads to more hunger, and hunger in turn is severely detrimental to health. The effects of climate change and the loss of biodiversity are being felt around the world. We will talk about the possible negative health impacts. We should also not underestimate the complex issues that arise for our economic system and our security.
Today we will hear presentations by international experts on how emerging diseases can severely afflict both people and animals. We will also hear about the incredible ability of a healthy ecosystem to defuse such health threats. In view of the many challenges we will face in the coming years, what we must do now is keep our eyes set on the future and take action. People’s well-being and security cannot be separated from the well-being of their environment. Preserving the ecosystems on which our life depends, and ambitious action to adapt to changes that can no longer be reversed, are the key challenges for humanity.
I invite you – this afternoon – to adopt a call to action that has been jointly developed by a panel of international experts: the Berlin Principles. This declaration again underscores the significance of a healthy environment for health, sustainable development and political stability.
Some of the scientists who have contributed to the declaration are with us today. Thank you.
I hope you will have informative, interesting and in-depth panel discussions and debates.
Thank you very much.