Some weeks ago, I had a call with Professor Markus Rex, leader of the largest Arctic expedition of all time. After a year when he and his team of scientists had drifted all over the Arctic, he had just arrived back in the world’s northernmost human settlement - on Spitsbergen Island.
The team arrived earlier than expected. Because it took their ship only six days to reach its destination – and not several weeks, as planned.Usually you would be glad when a journey takes less time and you arrive sooner than expected. Usually. In this case, ladies and gentlemen, it is bad news.
Professor Rex informed me about the dramatic changes in the Arctic. In places where icebreakers were needed in the past, the researchers encountered open sea. Temperatures at the North Pole were seven to ten degrees higher last winter than during the time of Fridtjof Nansen 125 years ago. Those who continue to deny man-made climate change in the face of such dramatic developments are gambling with humanity’s survival.
Climate change is not taking a break - even if it seems as if the entire world is on hold during the pandemic. Greenland’s glaciers are still melting. Brazil’s and California’s forests are still burning.
And Siberia is still experiencing new record temperatures.
That is why the fight against climate change must be conducted just as intensively as the search for a vaccine against COVID-19. The EU must be a role model here – and as the current EU Presidency, Germany is doing its best to ensure this. We want the European Council to commit clearly to a more ambitious EU climate target for 2030. We are going to restructure the EU budget, with 30 percent of EU expenditure allocated to climate change mitigation in the next seven years. We are also lobbying our partners around the world to support “green recovery”.
Following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent commitment to more ambitious climate targets in China, we will take him at his word and explore the potential for a new climate alliance between the EU and China.
At the same time, we want to resume the climate dialogue with the US – regardless of who wins the presidential election. Svenja Schulze and I are planning to relaunch the Transatlantic Climate Bridge. It does not operate only at the level of government. It involves states, towns, members of parliament and Congress, companies and the research sector. The official launch is scheduled to take place in the first half of next year.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Arctic expedition I mentioned earlier owes its success to collaboration between scientists from 20 nations, including the US, Russia and China. I think this teamwork should be an inspiration to us to be more cooperative when it comes to protecting the climate. It should motivate us to work as a team at the international level.
I wish you a successful conference and welcome you warmly to this virtual event at the Federal Foreign Office.