“Climate – Conflict – Clash of Crises: Weathering the Risks” - Speech by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the Berlin Climate and Security Conference
Floods sweeping a third of the territory of Pakistan – which corresponds to the size of the territory of Germany –, leaving ten million children in need of assistance.
The worst droughts in 40 years pushing millions of children, women and men in Ethiopia into hunger and starvation.
And storms and wild fires causing a trail of destruction in the United States and Europe.
These are devastating impacts of climate change – and only some of those we have seen during the last months.
The climate crisis is hitting with ever-greater force.
It harms, it kills and it displaces. It is a direct threat to human life.
But the indirect effects of the climate crisis go even further.
They destabilise societies, worsen conflicts in and between states and disrupt peace and stability worldwide.
In South Asia, for example, the climate crisis threatens social cohesion and development.
Research by UNICEF shows that after floods, the number of children dropping out of school to become labourers goes up – and so do drug abuse and gender-based violence.
This undermines families, communities and women’s empowerment – and thus society as a whole.
In the Sahel and in the Horn of Africa, climate impacts are aggravating armed conflict.
In Mali, during my visit this summer, women told me that farmers losing their income due to droughts often join terrorist groups – because they do not have any other choice.
With violence increasing, seasonal workers then stop migrating to farms because they fear being targeted – in turn reducing the harvests and incomes of farmers even further.
The result – everywhere around the world – is a vicious circle of violence and human suffering that undermines regional stability.
Climate impacts and violence have also forced 3.5 million people in the Sahel to leave their homes – and such massive migration has destabilising effects.
And Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has shown how climate change and conflict are linked at the global level:
By blockading ports and bombing silos in Ukraine, Russia has disrupted the international grain trade – and intensified the global food crisis triggered by bad harvests in different parts of the world.
Thanks to the grain deal negotiated by the United Nations and our Turkish partners, grain exports from Ukraine have now resumed – bringing more food to international markets and pushing down prices.
All these examples – and there are hundreds more everyone here today could speak about – make clear:
The climate crisis is the biggest security challenge the international community faces in the 21st century.
Its effects hit the most vulnerable particularly hard – those who are the least responsible for climate change:
Millions of women and men across Africa, the Middle East and Asia – who don’t know how to feed their children in the evening, who suffer from violence and instability.
That is why the German foreign office is placing climate and security at the core of its new climate diplomacy.
Reducing the threat climate change poses to security worldwide requires that we all work together on two priorities – exactly those we are also focusing on for COP27:
First, reducing emissions and keeping the 1.5 degree limit within reach – because every tenth of a degree less in global warming means less intense storms, floods and droughts – and thus more security.
And let me be clear: Russia’s war on Ukraine and its attacks on European energy security have not weakened our resolve to push for the 1.5 degree goal – on the contrary!
Yes – and I think it’s important to speak openly about these challenges –Germany has revamped coal-fired power plants – but only as an emergency measure for this winter, for a limited period of time.
More important, however, is that we are doubling down on energy efficiency and renewables.
Because every wind turbine and every solar panel mean not only fewer emissions, but also more energy security for our country and for the entire European Union.
In April, the German Parliament therefore adopted the most ambitious renewable energy legislation in decades.
And the EU is speeding up the Fit for 55 agenda to push for a faster European green transition – to green not only our energy sector, but the whole European industry.
Second, our action on climate and security has a guiding principle: solidarity – not as an issue of charity, but as an issue of justice. Because those suffering the most from climate impacts have done the least, historically speaking, to cause global warming.
Germany is therefore committed to moving forward on adaptation and loss and damage – at COP27 and beyond.
That means industrialised countries like mine living up to their commitments on climate financing – and it means tackling the security implications of climate change that are at the heart of today’s conference.
It’s crystal clear that much remains to be done – but together, we have already come a long way:
Last year, 113 states supported the resolution on climate and security in the UN Security Council – in the end it was vetoed only by one state: Russia.
This shows that today, a broad majority of states agrees that we have to address the link between the climate crisis and security.
Yes, 113 states is not over 190 states, but it constitutes a large majority. And if we are not ready to stand up and fight, we are not responding to the biggest challenge, as well as the biggest opportunity, for global cooperation in this century.
So, therefore, let us now all translate this agreement into action:
In individual countries, in regions, at the global level.
From new heat-resistant crops to training peacekeepers on how climate change affects conflicts in their zone of operation:
There are so many starting points – and this conference is bringing together experts for every one of them.
So let me offer you just a few ideas for the discussions we are having today:
We know that the climate crisis and security are linked – but we still need more and better data on their multiple connections.
Since 2020, our “Weathering Risk” initiative has been using new methods such as machine learning to fuse data into risk analyses – for example on how droughts and heat harm agriculture in southern Iraq, leading to conflicts between local communities.
Based on such analysis, we can take action. For example, we will install solar panels in refugee camps in the Sahel, starting with our partners in the Niger – and I am very happy that we can be here together at this conference.
At present, the camps use costly diesel generators to produce electricity. These diesel generators, located in around 30 refugee camps across the Sahel, emit 18,000 tonnes of CO2 every year. To compensate for these emissions, we would have to plant trees on 1000 soccer fields – every year.
By switching to solar energy, we can save money, protect the climate and make peoples’ lives more healthy and more secure. In a security incident, if there is an attack on a camp, a diesel generator is more likely to fail than a solar panel.
More and better data is also key to improving early warning and early action.
Last month, I met a volunteer from the German Agency for Technical Relief, the THW. He had gone to Madagascar to protect people against a cyclone.
He told me: “For the first time, we managed to get on the ground before the storm hit – and that allowed us to save more lives.”
He’s right – and all practitioners know it. Early warning and early action do save lives: The more data we collect and share across borders – the earlier disaster relief can start, the earlier we can evacuate people and also their cattle and belongings.
Thus, Germany is stepping up its efforts for anticipatory humanitarian action – and we are investing in multilateral data sharing.
At the same time, there is no way around more climate finance and support for losses and damages – because we already live in a 1.1 or 1.2-degree world. Therefore, development, disaster risk, humanitarian assistance or financing options, including insurance solutions, are crucial.
As major industrialised actors responsible for most emissions, Germany and the European Union will listen to the needs of vulnerable countries, like Somalia or Guinea-Bissau, whom we are glad to welcome here today. We will not look the other way – we will be there with you.
The G7, together with the Vulnerable Twenty Group, is working on a “Global Shield against climate risks”. It will provide pre-arranged finance and protection against losses and damages – one example are micro insurances in Senegal safeguarding villagers from food crises caused by droughts.
Finally, fighting dangerous climate impacts requires more global coordination for effective action on the ground.
Today, we are therefore launching the Climate for Peace Initiative. I am really happy about this step. Because it shows that fighting climate change is, in the end, about protecting peace.
The Climate for Peace Initiative will help us better coordinate our projects, exchange best practices and start joint initiatives.
I am glad to welcome the initiative’s contributing countries and members here today. You can see it in this room and on the list of participants: We have here with us foreign ministers, ministers for the environment and climate and practitioners from all around the world – standing united to fight the climate crisis and stand up for peace.
We will hear about their different projects at the initiative’s launch ceremony later. Because there is no one-size-fits-all solution – and definitely not the one-size-fits-all solution that the north could transfer to the south. We need different experiences, ideas and answers from all around the globe.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Climate change is at the heart of a storm of crises sweeping across the world, hitting the most vulnerable hardest – from Pakistan to Ethiopia to the Sahel.
It is a threat to peace, stability and the lives of millions of children, women and men worldwide.
We have a responsibility to stand by their side – and to join hands for common action, beyond merely pledging our support.
That is our task ahead for COP27 – and that is what we are here for today.
I am deeply convinced: Together, we can make a difference.
Thank you, and again a warm welcome to everyone.