Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the opening of the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue

09.04.2019 - Speech

I’d like to apologise for the fact that you were not able to see the opening film in full. That was our first contribution to saving energy. However, we will show the other half in the course of the day.

Ladies and gentlemen,

“Change is on the horizon, but to see that change we also have to change ourselves.”

I believe this is the first time I’ve started a speech with a quote. But it’s not from a great philosopher, an award-winning scientist or a respected politician. Rather, it’s from a 16 year-old-schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg.

For many weeks now, Friday after Friday, young people around the world have made it look as if we, the political class, have fallen behind the times. They’re demanding that we do more to protect the climate. They’re demanding that we not only recognise the realities but also do something to change them. That we change ourselves. They believe that our very existence is at stake.

Climate policy has long ceased to be merely environment policy. At the latest since #fridaysforfuture, we’ve come to realise that it affects society as a whole.

It’s economic, health but also, and this is becoming increasingly clear – also here in this Ministry – foreign and security policy.

For droughts, forest fires, flooding and extreme weather events are occurring ever more frequently and with ever greater intensity as a result of climate change. In many places around the world, people are losing their livelihoods and are being forced to flee. The competition for ever scarcer resources is intensifying. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen far too often, the risk of violent conflicts rises in such situations. Climate change increases risks, especially in situations which are already fragile. It jeopardises peace and the stability of entire regions in the world.

That’s why we’ve made the impact of climate change on security policy one of the priorities of our UN Security Council membership over the next two years.

We’re working especially close together here with the small island states, for which climate change poses a direct existential threat.

I’m therefore delighted to welcome my colleague Abdulla Shahid from the Maldives here today.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We, too, are confronted with climate change during our trips abroad. A few weeks ago while in Sierra Leone, I met Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, the Mayor of Freetown. She really does have every reason to complain. For the city has a huge environmental problem. Around one thousand people died about a year ago when a mudslide swept through Freetown.

The city is groaning under massive mountains of rubbish. Electricity is supplied by a dirty ship, a swimming diesel power plant whose funnels blacken the blue sky.

But the Mayor didn’t complain. Instead, she spoke about opportunities. About change. About sustainable policies – and how Freetown can benefit from them. She had even set up an own climate programme for the city, one faced with many complex problems. And she said to me, “Tell me more about the Energiewende!”

Ladies and gentlemen,

It always sounds a bit unusual when, on your travels and far from home, an interlocutor suddenly answers in German or uses German terms. I’m sure that every German brewer has a similar experience abroad when they’re asked about the German Reinheitsgebot. This is regarded as typically German to people around the world.

And for a long time the same applied to the Energiewende.

More than 50 ministers from around the world are taking part in this conference today. That shows that the German Energiewende has long since become a global Energiewende.

Today, more money is already being invested in renewable energies than in fossil fuels around the world. Studies predict that, from the mid-2020s, global oil production will fall. The beginning of the end of the fossil fuel age has long since started.

The Energiewende will have a major geopolitical impact. On the one hand, it will of course have a positive impact: for renewable energies will be available throughout the world. That also means that access to them is less likely to lead to conflicts. It will also be more difficult for states to use energy sources to exert pressure.

However, there won’t only be winners. We have to remember that and keep it in mind when planning for the future. What will happen, for instance, to those states which are heavily reliant today on revenue from oil or gas exports? The risk of economic crisis and thus also the risk of political instability can increase very quickly. It’s in our interest to ensure that conflicts don’t break out when the economic models of entire states collapse.

The best prevention is to start making substantial investments now in competitive renewable energies. The German Government and German business are ready and willing to act as partners and support others as they diversify their economic models. And I’m sure that Mr Kaeser will have more to say about this later from a business point of view.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There are still just under one billion people in the world with no access to electricity. Renewable energies can help ensure that this number falls quickly. The Energiewende presents many countries with an opportunity to take a leap forward in terms of development.

Existing dependencies can be reduced and the growing demand for energy met.

The Energiewende is a gigantic engine for growth. In Germany alone, during the next 19 years we will replace more than 40 gigawatts generated in coal-fired power plants, mainly through renewable energies. Other countries have even more ambitious plans. That means investments, jobs and economic growth. Even today, more than ten million people around the world are working in the renewable energies sphere. This figure will rise considerably in future.

Especially in light of the substantial economic potential, we have to make sure that this growth market stays open to companies from all countries and the necessary technology is available to all. That’s why we’re calling for global standards and are placing our confidence in particular in international organisations such as IRENA and the IEA to create these standards.

I’m therefore especially pleased that Francesco La Camera is with us here today. And I’m all the more pleased because this is his first official trip as the new Director-General of IRENA.

A global Energiewende also means regional networking and cooperation. We shouldn’t forget that. Our energy should mainly come from wind power and photovoltaics. However, the wind does not blow constantly, nor does the sun shine all the time. As long as storage technology hasn’t advanced enough, we have to transport energy over long distances. In Europe, that means that we have to network more closely than hitherto, also with our North African neighbours.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We in Germany have already made significant progress. Around 40 percent of electricity generated here already comes from renewables.

However, that is just the first step – much work lies ahead. Just think of the reductions in emissions in the fields of transport and heating, the phasing out of coal-based power and grid expansion.

Despite all the challenges, we firmly believe that the direction we’ve chosen to take is the right one. We have to succeed in further increasing our renewable energy share while remaining an industrialised country with a high level of prosperity.

To many countries, we are an Energiewende pioneer. We intend to make greater use of this role to accelerate developments on a global scale.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’m certainly not saying anything new to you here today but it cannot be stressed enough that global challenges demand global solutions rather than go-it-alone efforts by individual countries. Climate change simply doesn’t stop at national borders. Nor should the Energiewende.

We therefore need to work much more closely together at all levels – in the United Nations, as well as among countries, regions, cities and municipalities. And everyone – policymakers, civil society, business and research – must be on board.

So use this conference and the many side events during the Berlin Energy Week, make new contacts and develop ideas in order to globalise the Energiewende in the best possible sense.

Join the dialogue and be a part of the global Energiewende!

Thank you very much. A very warm welcome to you all! It is a great pleasure for me to give the floor to Peter Altmaier now!



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