Speech by Steffi Lemke at the Global Solutions Summit 2023

Steffi Lemke hält eine Rede auf dem Global Solution Summit 2023
German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke hold a keynote on "Successful multilateralism in challenging times" at this year's Global Solutions Summit.

– Check against delivery –

Dr Engels,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you very much for your invitation. I am delighted to talk today about the possibilities that multilateralism offers, and about good examples of global solutions.

In challenging times, multilateral cooperation is more important than ever. This applies both to geopolitical issues and to protecting the natural foundations of our lives. These are under threat from a triple planetary crisis: the climate crisis, biodiversity loss and pollution. These global challenges require global solutions.

I am delighted that at international level we have achieved major successes for the future of our planet over the past weeks and months.

  • In March in New York, the international community agreed on provisions to protect nature on the high seas for the first time ever.
  • In December last year, we established a protective shield for nature with the adoption of the Global Biodiversity Framework in Montreal.
  • In spring last year, we launched the start of negotiations on an international treaty to end plastic pollution in our seas and oceans.
  • And, most recently, in the G7 Communiqué in April in Japan, we were able to send a strong, united message on the fight against biodiversity loss, global plastic pollution and the climate crisis.

It is very encouraging that we were able to reach these global agreements. They show that despite all geopolitical tensions, cooperation between countries on environmental policy works. These achievements mark four true milestones in nature conservation. I would like to elaborate on these milestones.

Firstly, the UN-Treaty "Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction" (BBNJ) is a ground-breaking success for marine nature conservation.

The high seas – the waters beyond the jurisdiction of individual countries – cover almost half of the planet. The ocean produces oxygen and stores carbon dioxide. It is very important for our climate. It is home to countless species. It secures food and incomes.

But we humans are placing a massive strain on the ocean: through overfishing, pollution – especially plastic waste – and through human-induced climate change.

So far, the destruction of the ocean has only been halted in around one percent of the high seas – through individual, fragmented protected areas. The BBNJ Treaty aims to change this.

It creates the first ever legal framework to designate comprehensively recognised and legally binding marine protected areas. Outside of the protected areas, the Treaty also prescribes mandatory environmental impact assessments for all human activities on the high seas that may have harmful impacts on marine biodiversity. The formal adoption of the Treaty is planned for June 2023. Germany, together with the G7, advocates swift ratification.

Secondly, protected areas on the high seas are also key to achieving the goal set by the international community at the UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal last December: placing 30 percent of the Earth’s terrestrial and marine areas under protection by 2030.

With the Global Biodiversity Framework adopted in Montreal, the international community agreed to finally put a stop to the destruction of nature and biodiversity loss. This marks a turning point. As well as establishing protected areas, we have also committed to restoring 30 percent of degraded natural areas.

The Kunming-Montreal GBF has given me and many others involved in nature conservation a huge boost. What is crucial now is how we actually implement the trend reversal and how we ensure targets are achieved. I am very pleased that it was possible to agree on concrete monitoring and review mechanisms.

In Germany, we have already started implementation. We are currently revising our National Biodiversity Strategy. We have also adopted the Action Plan on Nature-based Solutions for Climate and Biodiversity. The goal is to preserve, strengthen and restore ecosystems. Intact forests, floodplains and peatlands not only provide key habitats for animals and plants. They can also absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it for the long term. And they protect us against the impacts of the climate crisis.

Global implementation will only be possible if we work together. This is why we are also helping other countries implement the decisions taken in Montreal. The NBSAP Accelerator Partnership, a forum for cooperation among countries from all regions of the world, is just one example.

Thirdly, we want to enhance cooperation in the international community on tackling the pollution crisis. Last year, we launched a key initiative with the mandate for a legally binding UN treaty to combat plastic pollution in the environment and oceans.

Germany has long been an advocate at international level of achieving sustainable management of plastics and putting a stop to marine litter. During our G7 and G20 presidencies in 2015 and 2017, we put oceans and plastic waste on the agenda for the first time.

I am delighted that at the meeting of G7 environment ministers in April under Japan’s presidency we were able to agree on the specific goal of reducing additional plastic pollution to zero by 2040. This will also provide momentum for the next round of negotiations on a Plastics Treaty in Paris in May.

And finally, at the G7 meeting of environment ministers we committed to driving forward the Global Biodiversity Framework adopted in Montreal. And we agreed to increase the pace and scale of renewable energy deployment. 

It is not always easy to negotiate joint targets and measures within the G7 and G20. But the powerful message of unity in the fight against biodiversity loss, plastic pollution and the climate crisis sent by the recent G7 meeting in Japan showed once again that these negotiations pay off.

Established multilateral formats like the G7 and G20 offer a special opportunity. Continuous exchanges between the leading economies and industrialised nations on common goals, but also on differences, support future international agreements and secure implementation of existing ones.

Building on this commitment to joint action and a desire to bring about change, we now have to continue working on viable solutions that equip us for the future, not for battles of the past. Solutions that work in harmony with nature and not against it. I want to help advance such solutions, including at G20 level.

I am delighted that the Indian G20 presidency has made the environment a clear focus this year with the theme of "One Earth, One Family, One Future". India is striving for the adoption of a Green Development Pact. The goal is to harmonise growth and development with robust climate action targets, and to draw up a roadmap for green development measures in the coming decade.

For me it is especially important for the G20 to agree on concrete contributions to implementing the GBF. We have to take a clear stance on curbing land degradation, restoring ecosystems and tackling pollution, including through sustainable chemicals management.

The leading economies and industrialised nations have a particular responsibility to take resolute action against the triple planetary crisis and to make progress on global solutions. We need them to prepare these global solutions.

Thank you very much.

16.05.2023 | Speech International

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