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New impetus needed

July 17, 2012

In her keynote speech at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, Chancellor Angela Merkel told participants that they would need to regain momentum to agree on a new climate treaty.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel remained noncommittal on Monday about whether she would make it to the next UN climate conference in Qatar, due to take place at the end of the year. Nevertheless, she stressed that Germany would be well represented by new Environment Minister Peter Altmaier.

Merkel delivered the keynote speech at the third Petersberg Climate Dialogue, which is taking place in Berlin in preparation for the Qatar conference. The dialogue is the first international test of Germany's new environment minister, though Altmaier can no doubt count on the chancellor's support. Merkel was environment minster herself from 1994 to 1998, and she told the guests that the position is one that she will never forget.

The conference participants, from 30 different countries, paid close attention to Merkel's 20-minute speech, since Germany plays a pioneering and leading role in the international and European Union climate change circles.

Merkel said that the last UN climate conference in Durban brought good news and bad news: It raised the possibility of a new climate treaty, but only after the Kyoto Protocol runs out at the end of this year. She added that the Qatar conference must bring a much-needed new impetus to the climate talks.

Germanyas an example

In her speech, Merkel placed special emphasis on the so-called green economy. "We must manage to decouple economic growth from increased resource use," she said, adding that the focus should be on qualitative growth, not quantitative growth.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Merkel said industrialized countries had the duty to lead by exampleImage: dapd

In order to achieve this, she said innovative technologies and sustainable thinking are key. Merkel brought up the energy revolution in Germany as an example of such policy. "This is no easy task, but we managed to master the transition and other countries can learn from our experiences," she said.

When asked by a British conference participant about what other measures Merkel would propose to combine climate protection and economic growth, the chancellor spoke of four points: better technology, a clever subsidies policy, smart logistics and energy-efficient building improvements.

In general, Merkel said industrialized countries like Germany had the duty to lead by example. "In the end, a large share of the global environmental damage can be attributed to the industrialized nations," she said.

'Change cannot come all at once'

"I emphatically believe in climate change," said Merkel, referring to scientific data that places the link between carbon dioxide emissions and global warming into doubt. She does not want to waste time with various interpretations of various studies, time which could be better spent on discussions of climate change. Data or no data, the important debate was about the use of the Earth's resources.

Participants at conference table at Petersberg talks in Berlin
Conference participants from 30 different countries are in Berlin to prepare for the next UN climate talksImage: dapd

Merkel expressed her wish that the outcome of this year's dialogue would lead to a roadmap for the work that needs to be done before a new climate treaty in 2015. She called for clear goals in the reduction of carbon emissions.

"There must be no more cheating," she said, adding, however, that reductions should take place gradually. "Change cannot come all at once."

Important dialogue

Merkel went on to say that it wouldn't be easy to get 180 countries to agree to a new climate treaty, but expressed optimism, saying there were many projects underway all around the world. "Every project dealing with climate change creates a new sense of understanding and trust," she said. "All this energy just needs to be brought together."

The two-day Petersberg Climate Dialogue comes to an end on Tuesday, when Altmaier is expected to present the results of the conference in the afternoon. However, specific concrete measures aren't to be expected - after all, the Petersberg Dialogue is an informal event, with the majority of the events held in private.

This creates a safe environment for participants to talk about the difficulties and problems related to global climate protection - among those, the challenges presented by industry and emerging economies always create controversy. By 2015, these difficulties will have to be overcome so that a new, worldwide climate treaty can come into effect by 2020, at the latest.

Author: Kay-Alexander Scholz / cmk
Editor: Spencer Kimball

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