Speech by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the meeting of climate, energy and environment ministers
“Climate diplomacy and the role of healthy seas in the fight against the climate crisis”
We have just heard from Antje Boetius a scientific explanation of what threatens us if we do not act on marine protection, and in particular if we do not act on climate change mitigation. We have heard that this is not just an environmental issue, that it is becoming a security issue on the ground. And Antje Boetius also underlined who we need to have on board as crucial driving forces: China and Russia.
We are seeing similar developments in other regions of the world where the problem is not too much water but the opposite, a need for more water – in the Sahel, in Africa, which has been affected by both droughts and arid conditions for years. When I visited Mali a few weeks ago, I stood on dried-up earth as farmers told me how cotton was grown there forty years ago and nothing now remains but dust and stone. Standing there provides drastic evidence of what these technical-sounding 1.5 degrees, two degrees really mean. In the Sahel, they mean five degrees warmer. And five degrees warmer means that it’s really not possible to go outside any more.
We are seeing drastic evidence on the ground that the changes that might threaten us in the Antarctic are already unfolding in the Sahel. That the climate crisis, the food crisis and security issues are becoming intertwined and making it clear to what extent the climate crisis is developing into a factor that exacerbates conflicts.
I believe that we now stand at a crossroads. On the one hand, this is a challenge – but on the other, it can be a major opportunity. Because with every tenth of a degree of global warming that we can prevent, we will be helping to preserve opportunities for development. And we will be bolstering efforts to fight terrorism, which exploits precisely this deficit – which recruits farmers’ children as child soldiers, because they can no longer work in their fields, because there are no more fields, and recruits fishermen’s sons who can no longer fish. If we at least begin to bring the climate crisis under control, that will also contribute to security policy in regions such as this.
We are now seeing Russia deliberately exploit precisely this connection between food security and security policy to drastic effect, with grain shipments now unable to leave not just Ukraine but also Russia, where an export ban has been imposed on grain in order to create a false narrative around the world suggesting that the G7’s sanctions are responsible.
The result is that we must urgently take action, in view of this highly explosive cocktail of crises that serve to compound one another. That is why we, the new German Government, have defined climate change mitigation not just as an issue of environmental protection, but also as a responsibility of the energy and climate action ministry – as is already the case in many countries around the world – and a foreign policy issue. Other countries have already blazed a trail in this respect, too, such as the United States with its Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, in order to make it clear that these areas are interconnected.
And as part of this G7 Presidency – and here I would once again like to express my gratitude that we are able to have this session here today, with three ministers from the German Government – we are establishing an interministerial approach to climate change mitigation, to make it clear that no single ministry or country can solve this alone.
The closing statement that we will issue here today will pave the way both for the Petersberg Climate Dialogue and for the Climate Change Conference in Egypt – and the latter will be crucial, because it is the first conference that will make it clear that we are prepared to go to the regions where the climate crisis is already having a drastic impact. And the good thing, in my view, is again that we can see this as a major challenge – or as an opportunity.
In Paris back in 2015 it was made clear, including by the industrialised nations, that if we electrify Africa using renewable energy, that will make a key contribution to our development goals. Since then, in seven years, not enough has happened. That is the brutally honest conclusion that we must draw. But an opportunity has emerged, too. Seven years ago, many of us were still spending time at the Climate Change Conferences working to persuade others that climate change even exists. We are now in a situation, highlighted by Russia’s war, where there is a race to be the frontrunner in the expansion of renewable energies, primarily hydrogen. We should seize this opportunity to reap the benefits of bringing together climate change mitigation, clean technologies, security policy and development cooperation policy.
It is on this basis that we will utilise our G7 Presidency for joint interministerial action, and we are pleased that all of the G7 countries are making it clear that we cannot arrive at the next Climate Change Conference empty-handed. In my view, the United Kingdom sent out a truly crucial message at the last Climate Change Conference – not only did we discuss the final texts with one another, but in addition, as we had already talked about at the Munich Security Conference, we initiated climate programmes with the idea that frontrunners will join forces so that we do not have to wait for those furthest behind to reduce methane emissions, to expand renewables.
And we would like to continue this work with our G7 Presidency, and make it clear that investments in climate change mitigation are investments in energy security. They are the crucial opportunity, if we now mobilise billions of dollars with a view to connectivity programmes – what in the US was previously called Build Back Better and has now found a new name, what we have initiated in the European Union with the Global Gateway, what the United Kingdom has initiated. We should approach these as shared investments in sustainability, environmental protection and climate change mitigation. But we should also approach them from a geostrategic perspective, and think carefully about which countries and regions we can invest in together as a community of shared values. This is the start that we, the G7 Foreign Ministers, have made – and that I would like to follow on from here. Rather than investing unilaterally and indiscriminately, we should adopt a geostrategic approach that takes into account the challenges of climate change mitigation.
My second point is our conviction within the German Government that we cannot continue to stall on the issue of Loss and Damage. At previous climate conferences – I think we must be honest about this, too – the conclusion was always: “Yes, we can go a bit further with Loss and Damage.” And the less developed countries, who are most affected, had to downright beg for something more to be done.
We are seeing that, in some regions of this world, not only can the climate crisis no longer be stopped but it is incredibly difficult for us to curb it. We cannot say to poorer countries: “Well, you’ll have to figure something out.” Our aspiration as the German Government – and this is also what we are campaigning for within the G7 – is to support these countries much more in terms of Loss and Damage in the future, these countries who are hardest hit by the climate crisis and who bear the least responsibility for it, because they still really have no carbon emissions of their own. This, too, is a geostrategic issue. If we leave these countries in the lurch now, then they will rightly say: Why should we support you when it comes to the war against Russia?
The third point that is important to us is climate funding and the promise of 100 billion US dollars. This is also a funding issue that affects developing and industrialising countries. This is also a promise that we made together in Paris. And on this promise, too, we are not yet where we should be. Our ambition, the ambition of the German Government and of the G7, is to finally fulfil this promise. I believe that the G7 has a key responsibility in this regard, too. In these times when democracies are struggling against authoritarian regimes, we must make it clear that we will keep our promises, we will honour our international pledges, because we stand up for our values in the world. In practical terms, this will involve rainwater collection systems, trickle irrigation, the question of how agriculture can be at all possible when the temperature reaches 45 degrees in the shade. In these difficult times, as the world threatens to fall apart, I believe it would be a vitally important demonstration of international solidarity if we could take a truly major step forward with a view to the G7 summit meeting in Elmau.
We in the German Government are committed to taking action across all areas and across all ministries as “Team Germany”, and we want to adopt the same approach at international level. And so I am delighted that our Indonesian friends, Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar and Energy Minister Arifin Tasrif, are here today! Your Foreign Minister also joined us virtually at our G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting – because it is clear that we can only tackle the major tasks ahead of us together, with joint action by the G7 and G20. Indonesia will be a key partner for us during our G7 Presidency, as well as beyond this, when it comes to our energy and climate partnerships. And not just with a view to reducing carbon emissions, but in particular when it comes to scientific exchange, technology transfer and financing.
Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed colleagues,
The coming weeks and months will be shaped by challenging negotiations. But they also offer a major opportunity for us as industrialised nations – as the ones responsible for the global warming already recorded – to show, at the G7 summit in Elmau, at the G20 summit in Bali and then at the Climate Change Conference in Egypt:
We can do this. We can shape the future together when we accept responsibility. We can ensure that millions of people see that international cooperation is worth it, because it makes their lives better for the future.
And we can ensure that we do not simply discuss technical figures of 0.1 degrees or two percent, but make it clear to the people of the Sahel in very practical terms that we will ensure that the technologies of the future – which can do so much: calculating rainfall, generating clean energy – will help make it possible for grain and cotton to one day be grown again in the Sahel, too. This is a big challenge.
It’s a big challenge – but it is our only chance to save the planet.
Thank you very much for taking part today.