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First of all I would like to thank the World Health Summit for hosting today’s exchange on Climate Change and Health.
The Summit takes place at a crucial point in time: We find ourselves confronted with two very serious and truly global crises, both with long-term effects:
The Covid-19 pandemic is far from over, it has even forced us to hold this event in a purely virtual form.
And climate change keeps accelerating at a dangerous pace. The “United in Science 2020 report”, compiled by the World Meteorological Organization clearly states that climate change has not stopped for Covid-19.
On the contrary: Atmospheric CO2 concentrations continue to increase to new records. We are already 1,1 degrees Celsius above pre industrial levels.
If we continue on our current path, temperature is expected to increase by 3 to 5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century with dramatic and irreversible consequences for our planet.
The Covid-19-pandemic and climate change are interlinked in many respects. They have something very important in common:
While action needs to be taken at many levels (local, national, regional), we are dealing with global crises that won’t spare any country and that cannot be tackled by single countries.
We need international solidarity, multilateral cooperation and strong international institutions. Germany is at the forefront of international efforts to achieve international cooperation.
But both crises are also intertwined in several other respects:
One is what we call “One Health”: the need to take a holistic approach to Health – looking at humans, animals and the environment, especially biodiversity - which in itself is closely linked to climate change.
Another aspect concerns our response to the economic crisis stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic:
I strongly believe that we now have a window of opportunity to “build back better” – stimulating economies and creating jobs while accelerating the green transition in a cost effective and sustainable way.
Allow me to focus on the “One Health” aspect today:
The destruction of habitats, the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystems are major drivers for new diseases and climate change.
Preserving biodiversity is therefore the key if we want to stop the rise of disease spillover from animals to humans around the world.
Moreover, climate change is negatively affecting public health: Global warming and extreme weather events can create new diseases and cause additional stress to our health systems. Including an infrastructure that is not built to withstand heat waves or floods.
This is why Germany’s new “Global Health strategy” explicitly includes a chapter on health and climate change, calling for interdisciplinary cross- sector approaches.
By fighting climate change and protecting our environment and biodiversity, we will also improve public health.
“One Health” will also be a key topic at the next event of the Alliance for Multilateralism, jointly organized by France and Germany and to be held at the Paris Peace forum on November 12th.
We will build on the “Berlin Principles” adopted at a conference hosted by the Federal Foreign Office almost exactly a year ago.
Today, with the Covid-19 pandemic - which scientists strongly suspect to be of animal origin - in full swing, the summit declaration has unfor-tunately turned out to be prophetic.
Allow me to quote just a few words:
“Rapid and profound socio-ecological changes are driving a species extinction crisis while severely impacting the health - of people, wildlife, domesticated animals, and plants. This is happening not in a remote landscape or in some distant future, but here and now—and immediate action is imperative.”
This very much holds true for tackling global health issues, climate change and its interlinkages.
To conclude, I would like to come back to the need of multilateralism and global solidarity:
Germany is committed to tackling Covid-19 through multilateral mechanisms like the “Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator” in order to ensure equitable global access to vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.
If the international community can overcome this pandemic in a spirit of solidarity, it will also help us to tackle climate change the same way.
But we need to demonstrate that multilateralism delivers better, faster and more sustainably than if we all just looked after ourselves.
And for that we need – as a famous Californian Governor put it - “Action, Action, Action” or as the Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros, doesn’t tire to say: “Solidarity, solidarity, solidarity.” You can count on Germany.
And now I am looking forward to our discussion and to learning from all the distinguished experts present today.
Thank you very much.