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Germany urges universal climate agreement at UN Warsaw conference

Germany’s environment minister has emphasized the need for a global agreement aimed at stopping climate change during the UN climate conference in Warsaw. But Germany’s international climate credentials are slipping.

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Focus on climate protection funds

In a speech to the United Nations Climate Change conference in Warsaw, Poland, on Wednesday Germany's environment minister Peter Altmaier stressed the importance of reaching a historic worldwide climate protection agreement in order to curb global warming.

“We must succeed in adopting a climate agreement that is binding for all states, for all of us. We must do everything in our power to ensure that a historic agreement covering all states is going to be adopted in Paris in 2015,” Altmaier said. “Securing this agreement is probably the most important duty of humanitarian solidarity in our century.”

Solidarity with the Philippines

The summit follows the devastation caused in the Philippines by typhoon Haiyan, the most powerful typhoon ever to make landfall. Altmaier highlighted links between extreme weather and climate change.

“Climate change is ruining the hopes of prosperity and development for millions, if not billions of people. The devastating typhoon Haiyan which hit the Phillipines is the latest staggering example,” Altmaier said, expressing “sincere solidarity” with the country “but also with the hundreds of millions of people still exposed without decent protection to similar typhoons still to come. This means that we have a responsibility to act,” he said.

Climate credentials slipping

However, Germany's international climate credentials could be slipping. The country recently dropped out of the top ten best-performing nations in terms of climate change for the first time.

It has fallen from place 8 to place 19 in the latest annual Climate Change Performance Index, compiled by environmental organizations Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe and released on Monday, coinciding with the Warsaw talks.

The report criticized the “drastic reduction in the ambitions of the German government that led Germany to lose leadership regarding climate protection in Europe”

“In the past year, it played a less constructive role in the European energy debate and furthermore successfully blocked urgently needed reforms of the European emissions trading scheme.”

The index rates the 58 largest-emitting countries' efforts to reduce carbon emissions. This year, no country was deemed to have made enough effort to reach the top three places on the list.

However, in his speech, Altmaier reaffirmed Germany's commitment to climate change progress. “You have my assurances that the new German government will stay by its climate targets.”

Leadership shake-up

Meanwhile, Poland's environment minister Marcin Korolec, who is currently presiding over the UN talks, was replaced in a major government reshuffle by Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Korolec will keep his role at the climate change conference and remain Poland's official for global climate talks.

He responded on Twitter by saying the government reshuffle had “changed his responsibilities," which "will focus now on climate"

"Having more time for such a huge task was needed.” Korolec added.

se/dr (AFP, dpa)

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