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Speech of Federal Minister Barbara Hendricks at ICCA 2015

Porträt der Bundesministerin
Speech of Federal Minister Barbara Hendricks at ICCA 2015 International Conference on Climate Action

International Conference on Climate Action

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Minister Wenzel,

Professor zur Nedden, 

Thank you very much for the warm welcome.

I would particularly like to welcome his Excellency Henri Djombo, Minister of Sustainable Development, Forest Economy and Environment of the Republic of Congo.

Combating climate change is our common challenge. But each country has its own point of view. For that reason I am pleased that we will also hear from an African country here at ICCA 2015.

Professor Schellnhuber,
Rob Hopkins,
Ladies and Gentlemen, 

I am very impressed by the lively group that has come together here in Hanover. You have worked hard in addressing the core challenges facing local climate action. In addition, we are hearing a wide variety of ideas and voices in the Climate Neighbourhoods next door. You have drawn up important conclusions which we, as negotiating actors, will take to Paris. 

Climate change is a challenge for every one of us. We need willingness on the part of all governments, and we need commitment at municipal level. A transition is taking place in our cities and municipalities towards a new way of life that respects the ecological boundaries of the planet. A transition towards a carbon-neutral energy supply, sustainable mobility and environmentally sound buildings. We need municipalities that know how important climate action is for the future. And we need municipalities that network beyond national borders and learn from each other.

At the beginning of the week I returned from the UN summit in New York, where we adopted the 2030 Agenda. At the summit the United Nations made combating climate change and protecting the environment a priority. That sent a strong signal. We are currently receiving the good news that countries are making a commitment to climate action – including countries such as Brazil, China and the United States.

In the EU we agreed to reduce CO2 by at least 40 percent by 2030 and by 80 to 95 percent by 2050. Germany is aiming to be at the upper end of that range. I am convinced that restricting climate change is a prerequisite for combating poverty, hunger, war and the movement of refugees. Pope Francis made that impressively clear in his encyclical. Professor Schellnhuber, you were instrumental in that. Francis writes: "We are not faced with two separate crises…. but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental." And that is precisely the point – climate action and eliminating poverty go hand in hand.

We need an agreement at the climate change conference in December. That is why I would like to thank you in advance for all the important impetus which you will send with us to Paris. I will make sure that the Declaration of Hanover is heard there. 

We want to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius. For this, we need an agreement in which all countries – developed, developing and emerging economies – make a commitment according to their capabilities. Richer countries must help those that are financially weaker. Our long-term goal is a world without fossil energy sources.

The local, municipal level will be the first to feel the impacts of climate change, which will be apparent in those places where streets are flooded, heat islands form or where drinking water is becoming scarce. One thing is sure, climate change is not some scenario of the distant future. We are already experiencing its effects today. And we are the last generation that will still be able to restrict its impacts to a manageable level.

Last December I was at the climate summit in Lima, a city of nearly 8 million inhabitants, which draws its water from the glaciers of the Andes and from precipitation. Climate change will make rainfall patterns more unreliable and shrink the glaciers. The city faces enormous difficulties in securing its drinking water supply for the long term. A second example is the Philippines, which is extremely vulnerable to typhoons due to its location in the Pacific. When the Philippines was hit by Typhoon Hayan in November 2013, from one day to the next 4.3 million people in the provinces of Leyte and Samar were made homeless, while more than 10,000 lost their lives. 

Climate change has arrived in Germany too. Of course we cannot always blame climate change for every extreme weather event. Nevertheless, North Rhine-Westphalia alone was hit by 2 devastating storms last year, crippling towns and cities for days. Düsseldorf and the Ruhr suffered Storm Ela, while one storm in the Münster region caused 292 litres of rain per square metre in just seven hours. In Germany too, such events will become more frequent.

Climate action and climate adaptation strategies must have sound foundations at local level. And they need to involve all stakeholders. That is why I have made municipal climate action a focus for support. Last December we adopted the Climate Action Programme 2020. It comprises a range of measures aiming to ensure that we achieve our target of reducing CO2 emissions by 40 percent by 2020.

A key aspect for me in this context was the expansion of our National Climate Initiative. We have increased its funding to over 300 million euros. Just yesterday, new funding guidelines entered into force which improve support for poorer municipalities and for the modernisation of municipal facilities.

What precisely are we supporting? One example is enabling municipalities to employ climate managers. Climate managers bring municipal administrators together with stakeholders from outside, and put measures into practice. We have found that the enormous potential still available in many areas is still not widely known. For instance, energy efficiency. We are supporting measures here too, such as switching to LED street lighting, energy modernisation of building services and bicycle path construction. Since 2008 we have implemented over 8,000 projects.

Another focus is on networking. Again and again, when I visit municipalities, I meet people who have launched amazing projects. The city of Bottrop, for instance, where the main industry used to be mining, decided to be a leader in the field of climate friendly urban development. Over 200 projects were implemented, including the socially sound modernisation of residential buildings of the 50s and 60s. Today Bottrop rightly calls itself the "innovation city". Cities will only be attractive in future if they accept the challenge of climate change. Cities like Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Freiburg and Münster show that green urban spaces and sustainable mobility enhance quality of life for those living in cities.

And climate action pays off. It is an economic stimulus package for SMEs and skilled trades. It makes cities cleaner and more worth living in. It makes infrastructures future-proof.

Every two years, the Federal Environment Ministry conducts a survey of environmental awareness in Germany. One result of the 2014 survey stands out: four out of five of those questioned want to move away from car-centric cities and promote cycle paths and public transport. Most people no longer see the car as a status symbol but as just one mode of transport among many. 

And speaking of cars: If we are talking about Germany's pioneering role in climate action these days, we have to say a few words about the Volkswagen affair. I would like to state loud and clear that cheating on the limit values is a short-sighted action. In the  long term we will need cars that do not emit any pollutants at all. We should work on developing cars like that rather than trying to circumvent prescribed limit values. 

We have to ensure the climate change conference in December is a success. In one year's time we will adopt a New Urban Agenda in Quito. It is to form the basis for globally sustainable urban development over the next 20 years. The transition must begin where people live and work. 

ICCA 2015 has shown that municipalities and local players are ready to tackle climate change. Here in Hanover we have succeeded in developing concrete recommendations for local climate action. That gives us momentum for a positive outcome in Paris. I promise you that your voices will be heard – across borders and continents. I can only encourage you to continue your cooperation – across borders and continents. This conference is an excellent example of how fruitful such exchange can be.

Thank you very much for your commitment.

Minister Henri Djombo, 

I am delighted that we will hear first-hand from a country with such great potential, and which has ecosystems that are both valuable and vulnerable. When it comes to the future of our planet, the position of the Republic of Congo is clear and constructive.  

I look forward to your statement. 

Thank you very much!

13.08.2015 | Speech Dr. Barbara Hendricks | Hanover