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COMMENTARY

Energiewende - tackling climate change with new opportunities in business and development

ALTHOUGH German is the language spoken by the highest number of native speakers in the European Union, it is rare that I have an opportunity to use it as Ambassador to Singapore. And yet, some terms in my native language are recognised around the world - because they defy translation. For example, English speakers may refer to the wirtschaftswunder, the reinheitsgebot or the zeitgeist. More recently, they may also speak of the energiewende. Ever more frequently I am being asked: "How is energiewende working in Germany"?

Climate change is real - and it's having a global effect. Germany, like Singapore, is an ardent promoter of an international approach to climate protection policies. What Germany is setting out to accomplish through the energiewende is now an endeavour pursued on a much larger scale all over the world. We are witnessing no less than the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel age. Studies predict that, as early as the mid 2020s, global oil production will decline. At the same time, renewable sources of energy are becoming ever more competitive. This global energy transition is creating great opportunities - both for business and development. Today, more money is being invested in renewable energies around the world than in fossil fuels. Energy generated from wind, water and solar will give developing countries a chance to leapfrog the fossil fuel age, reduce their dependency on others and secure the energy supply that their populations and economies require.

However, there will be not only benefits and winners. With the decline of the oil and natural gas industries, the role of maritime trade routes is set to decrease, while networks to transport renewable energy will become increasingly important. Oil and gas, once powerful economic and political tools, may over time become as such, blunt swords. And some national budgets may require dramatic and sustainable reform.

CLIMATE POLICY

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Climate policy is not purely environmental policy. It is economic, health and even foreign and security policy as well. Speakers at this year's Shangri-la Dialogue warned about climate change as a new strategic security challenge as large parts of South-east Asia might become unproductive - if not uninhabitable. We must therefore take wide-ranging action to effectively deal with the respective geopolitical consequences.

Germany has defined five key actions to set itself on the right course in a post-fossil fuel world. Whether and how we succeed in doing so will be a key factor in determining our future.

  • First, we must resolutely pursue the path on which we have embarked and make our energiewende a success. Today, renewables already account for over 40 per cent of electricity production in Germany. This is a considerable step towards Germany's energy independence, and towards greater European sovereignty.
  • Second, climate change is becoming more and more of a danger to peace and security. Already now, drought, flooding and other climate-related disasters are having dramatic effects on peace and security around the world. Therefore, my government has made the impact of climate change on security policy one of the priorities of its current two-year UN Security Council membership.
  • Third, we will step up our efforts to promote global energy transition. If oil-exporting countries do not adapt their current business models in time, they risk political instability that may also spread beyond their national borders. We want to mitigate this through prudent policy, including by offering to establish partnerships that can help such countries diversify their economic models.
  • Fourth, we must press ahead with regional networking - within the European Union, for example, via targeted technology transfer, but also via new, denser energy networks with our neighbours, such as the countries in North Africa. As we want to successfully tackle the geopolitical effects of energy transition, we seek new strategic partnerships, including business partnerships. That is why we are prepared to take even more targeted action to promote investments in renewables in developing countries. This will create more energy security and will lower the number of conflicts.
  • Fifth, we will campaign for global standards on renewables. Especially in the light of its substantial economic potential, we have to make sure that this growth market stays open to companies from all countries and the necessary technology is available to all. On these issues, too, Germany is willing to cooperate, based on fair ground rules.

To many partners, we are an energiewende pioneer. We will harness this role even more strongly in the future to accelerate developments on a global scale. We are on the way to phase out coal. It is an ambitious endeavour which reflects the seriousness of the challenge, reducing global CO2 emissions and limiting global warming. We are convinced that the global energy transition harbours tremendous opportunity - for Germany and for our partners. "Made in Germany" will be a powerful driver in this field too. The Energiewende must become our new wirtschaftswunder - globally and to everyone's benefit.

  • The writer is German Ambassador to Singapore. The German Embassy's travelling exhibition 'The Energiewende: transforming Germany's energy system' will move to Nanyang Technological University campus on July 18.