Monika Griefahn, Mitglied des Deutschen Bundestages a. D.

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On this website you find information about my work as member of parliament (1998 - Oct. 2009)

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    29.04.2007

    Global warming: ten years after Kyoto

    Speech by Monika Griefahn for the 116th IPU Assembly in Bali


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    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    The glaciers are melting. Comparative images of the polar regions or mountain peaks show the extent to which the ice has retreated. Floods are occurring: only this February, hundreds of thousands of people became homeless here in Indonesia, in Jakarta, as a result of prolonged and heavy rainfall again. Some people died. Australia has just experienced a drought, the like of which has rarely been seen before. In some regions of Spain, the possibility of water rationing was considered when drought affected entire regions in 2005. And only a few weeks ago, a violent storm hit my home town near Hamburg. In my street, a single gust of wind tore up numerous trees, and the fence surrounding our garden was turned to matchwood.

    Climate researchers agree that natural disasters such as storms, drought and floods are likely to occur with increasing frequency and that our modern lifestyle is contributing significantly to this process. We are witnessing the consequences on a global scale, and our own lives and health are affected. Scientists are continuing to predict a sea-level rise which will make coastal regions around the world uninhabitable. All this is happening despite the fact that the Kyoto Protocol on the reduction of climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions was adopted ten years ago and has since been ratified by almost every country in the world. Is the agreement useless?

    It is true that some countries are falling far short of meeting their climate targets. Others have managed to reduce their CO2 emissions, while a third group has experienced an economic boom which has resulted in higher emissions. Over the past few years, Germany has adopted many of the policies that are essential for better climate protection. In this respect, the Kyoto Protocol has been effective.

    The policies which we have adopted in this context are based on the principles of sustainability. This was enshrined by the governing parties in their coalition agreement of 2005, and we are reaffirming it in our current policies. Acting sustainably means safeguarding the quality of life of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable development links economic progress with social justice and the protection of natural resources. All this not only applies to our own city or country, but is a concept which should apply across the globe.

    We know that the industrialized countries are responsible for the highest emissions of greenhouse gases. In that respect, the German position is difficult when we urge countries such as China or India to curb their emissions. However, the Kyoto Protocol takes account of these different possibilities.

    We also know that the impacts of natural disasters hit the poorest and most vulnerable groups especially hard. The world's countries do not all enjoy the same starting conditions for sustainable development, and nor can they all protect themselves equally well from the impacts of floods or drought. Our development assistance therefore seeks to address this issue. For example, we are cooperating with newly industrializing countries such as China or India in order to promote renewable energies and greater energy efficiency there. The so-called Adaptation Fund, on which the delegates attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Nairobi in 2006 agreed in principle, is also intended to improve the developing countries' capacity to cope with the impacts of climate change.

    There are many countries around the world which, due to their geographical position, are in a far better position than we are to utilize natural resources such the sun or wind in order to meet their energy needs or even export energy. This offers a wealth of opportunities for developing countries - a wealth of opportunities for today's poor! If these opportunities could be exploited, this would demonstrate that economic growth does not have to go hand in hand with higher consumption of climate-damaging energy but that it can be climate-compatible. There are many different approaches to sustainable development: microcredits are one example, which in developing countries focus especially on the social aspects of sustainability. Muhammad Yunus pioneered this approach in Bangladesh in the 1970s. Other examples are all the environmental and human rights initiatives which, every year, receive Right Livelihood Awards - the Alternative Nobel Prize. I myself am a member of the jury and am always delighted to see what the commitment of a few individuals can achieve. Let me give you some examples: back in 1984, Wangari Maathai won the Award for founding the Green Belt Movement, a grassroots environmental initiative which has now planted millions of trees across Kenya to prevent soil erosion. The initiative is now being emulated in other African countries as well, and the tree-planting is an economically relevant factor. Another is Jos Lutzenburger, who won the Alternative Nobel Prize in 1988 and is viewed as the founding father of the environmental movement in Brazil. His achievements related to organic farming and the use of natural fertilizers. And in 1999, Hermann Scheer, a German, won a Right Livelihood Award for his tireless efforts to promote solar energy.

    These awards not only demonstrate these individuals' personal commitment: they teach us something else as well. They teach us that the climate debate is not new. For at least 30 years, environmental activists have been working on many different aspects of climate protection: against logging in the rainforest, against dangerous nuclear energy, and against the use of CFCs which damage the ozone layer. The fact that the activists of earlier years appear to have been right about so many issues really should spur us on to take swift global action now.

    In relation to climate protection too, awareness-raising among individuals can achieve a great deal as everyone can make changes in their own lives which have a significant impact. Depending on our life situation, we can all avoid waste, save electricity, cycle instead of taking the car, or conserve water. It is unacceptable that 1.2 billion people around the world do not have an adequate clean water supply when we Europeans are using it to water our lawns! Governments, international agreements and we parliamentarians can all help to raise this awareness. No matter how slow the process, no matter how difficult it is to achieve a common position, agreements and commitments are very important in defining a basic direction and promoting the emergence of national and personal values.

    Statistics can help to convince people as well: the British economist Sir Nicolas Stern has studied the macroeconomic impacts of climate change and concluded that it is possible to mitigate climate disaster and achieve economic growth at the same time. According to his calculations, the costs of the requisite action to curb carbon emissions amount to around 1 percent of global GDP. However, inaction and failure to protect the climate would cost between five and 20 percent of global GDP!

    I believe that with the policy course which it has set, Germany has already demonstrated that economic growth and environmental protection are a viable combination. In this respect, the German Government is focussing on two key areas:

    1.
    Use of renewable energies such as wind, solar and hydro power and biofuels/biogases: the proportion of renewables in Germany's primary energy consumption has risen from around 4.7 percent in 2005 to 5.3 percent in 2006. In 2000, the figure was just 2.6 percent. This results in a reduction of around 97 million tonnes of CO2 for 2006, which is achieved through the substitution of other energy carriers in electricity generation, heating and fuels.

    The proportion of renewables in electricity consumption stands at 11.8 percent, mainly due to the expansion of wind power. Overall, Germany is already very close to achieving its Kyoto target, namely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 21 percent against the 1990 baseline (end of 2005: 19 percent).

    2.
    Better energy efficiency: here, cogeneration is perhaps the most important measure; this means using a power station to generate both electricity and useful heat simultaneously. More intensive use of cogeneration means decentralizing energy generation, which is likely to change the structure of the market. This will open up new and exciting opportunities for many smaller suppliers. And let me take a very clear position on nuclear power: the aim of improving energy efficiency is not compatible with the use of dangerous nuclear power, as nuclear power is only good for generating electricity. Nuclear energy cannot power our cars or heat our houses. The waste heat from nuclear power plants is not being used, so there is no sign of any energy efficiency here. What's more, the development of uranium resources produces climate-damaging CO2, as do extraction, transport and purification - and I haven't even mentioned reprocessing and the search for safe final storage sites. Gambling on nuclear power to save us from climate change will not take us anywhere. This is my own personal position, and it is also the position of the German Government, which began the phase-out of nuclear power long ago.

    So what else are we doing in Germany to create the framework for climate-compatible development? We have launched a CO2 Building Renovation Programme, whose aim is to reduce energy consumption through better insulation of buildings. This is also economically advantageous for companies in the region which are contracted to carry out these measures. To ensure that people are able to undertake the necessary investment, we have substantially increased the funding available, from 360 million euros to 1.4 billion annually. If we use less energy and also increase our energy efficiency, we actually save money. This increases firms' profitability, while private individuals have more money in their pockets which they can use for other purposes.

    We are undoubtedly still on the starting blocks here, and we are working on further decoupling economic growth from uncontrolled energy use. Examples of further measures include linking our vehicle tax to cars' emissions, and further developing emissions trading. We are also making increasing use of biofuels which, by law, should be mixed in with the petrol and diesel that power our vehicles.

    I myself view this latter measure very critically and do not believe that it is a sustainable solution. It is already clear that areas of rainforest are being cleared for cropland to grow plants for biofuels, and there is already a shortage of arable land to grow the food crops that are vitally important in some developing countries. In my personal opinion, we will not be doing sustainable development and climate protection any favours if we continue along this path. What we should be aiming for, instead, is a different type of drive system altogether - a different form of mobility.

    Let me just explain what we gain from our investment in climate protection, such as our spending on funding programmes: in Germany, renewable energies are now a measurable economic factor. In 2006, domestic turnover increased by 19 percent compared with the previous year, to 21.6 billion euros. This also signifies a clear growth in employment. In 2006, around 214,000 people worked in the renewables sector: 57,000 more than in 2004.

    This is all very positive in terms of the objectives which we have set ourselves across the EU. The European Union is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent to 2020. Provided that commitments are forthcoming from other key developed countries, notably the USA, a 30% reduction target will be adopted. In that event, the German Bundestag has voted to commit to a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. With these targets, we should be able to limit the rise in near-surface air temperature to a maximum of 2C relative to the pre-industrial value. A study commissioned by Greenpeace confirms that our targets to 2020 are feasible. During Germany's EU Council Presidency, Chancellor Angela Merkel is working to ensure that in achieving these reduction targets, a system of burden-sharing is established which is in line with the opportunities available to the EU countries.

    It is clear that Europe cannot save the climate on its own. Europe only produces around 15 percent of the world's CO2 emissions, and in global terms, Germany's share is proportionately smaller. But Germany is a world leader in environmental technology. We can make it easier for other countries to embark on a course towards a more climate-compatible economy. We can set a good example of how economic success, social justice and environmental protection can work in tandem - and show that the principle of sustainability is therefore viable in practice. For that reason, we must take the lead in climate policy. We are encouraged by the signals coming from the local authorities, federal states and corporate sector in the USA, which show that here too, a new attitude is emerging in favour of more climate protection. Just two weeks ago, several thousands of Americans took to the streets to demonstrate for better climate protection. If this intensifies the pressure on the US Government and parliamentarians to take action, so much the better! The fact is that failing to take action to protect the climate is a risky business in economic terms as well. When it comes to climate protection, we are all in the same boat. That is why we all need to be pulling together in the same direction.