By Annalena Baerbock
Following is the text of a speech by Germany’s Minister of Foreign Affairs at the “Sustaining Peace amidst the Climate Crisis: The Role of Data Science, Technology & Innovation” Conference on May 2-3 in Berlin.
BERLIN (IDN) — The climate crisis is a threat to our world, to our lives.
Many of you have known this for years.
Many of us in Germany realised that vividly last year, when deadly floods killed almost two hundred people in our country.
But for millions of men, women and children across the globe, the climate crisis has been a dangerous reality for a very long time.
When I was in the Sahel last month, courageous women in Mali and Niger told me how droughts and extreme weather events are threatening their livelihoods.
In Niger, north of Niamey, we stood on vast plains, where cotton used to grow some 60 years ago. Local villagers told us that the trees used to be so dense that you could hardly see beyond 20 metres. When we stood there – nothing blocked our view of the horizon: All we could see was a crust of red, infertile soil—hardened by droughts, erosion, and extreme rains.
When you stand, baking, on that soil in the 45-degree heat, you realise what climate change means for the people living in those villages:
To them, to many people around the world, the climate crisis is not measured in terms of percentages and emissions targets.
To them, the climate crisis means that a mother does not know what she will feed her children the next day.
It means that a farmer is worried that his son might join extremist groups since their source of income has gone.
And now, Russia’s war in Ukraine is only making this crisis worse, with supply breakdowns driving up food prices in regions where people are already suffering tremendously.
It is a storm of multiple crises that is sweeping across the communities in the Sahel and other vulnerable regions of this world.
And the climate crisis is at the heart of that storm, acting as a multiplier that makes other crisis even harder to weather.
That is why we must also place the battle against this crisis at the heart of our political action.
In Glasgow, at the last climate conference, the world agreed to reduce global emissions by 45% by 2030 to meet the 1.5-degree target.
The crucial thing now is to use the next climate conference in Egypt to fully turn these ambitions into action.
With that in mind, we have appointed a Special Envoy for International Climate Action, Jennifer Morgan, who is joining us here at this conference.
Jennifer and her colleagues in Berlin and at our embassies will be at the heart of setting up climate partnerships and dialogues with countries around the world—to share knowledge, to share technology, to build resilience in this extreme storm. Because at the scale and speed of action needed to curtail the climate crisis, we can only do it together around the world.
But the honest truth is—as we can see in regions like the Sahel—, that curtailing the crisis will not be enough. Some damage done is here to stay.
That is why we must also help people to adapt to climate damage. And to reduce climate risks.
This is why today’s conference will deal with early warning and risk analysis, and why this is so crucial:
Scientific analyses, big data, artificial intelligence—all that might sound abstract, technical—and a bit nerdy.
But these are tools that can actually save lives:
If we know where and when extreme weather events are likely to occur, we can better gear our response—not just to rebuild retroactively, but to protect proactively:
If we can predict rising sea levels in places like the Gulf of Guinea, we can plan the evacuation of people from coastlines before it is too late.
If data analysis shows where exactly food is likely to become scarce because of severe drought in Somalia, we can prepare our emergency relief much more effectively.
Early warning mechanisms and risk analysis can—quite literally—gauge the temperature of a boiling crisis and help us to save lives.
That’s why we are strengthening these tools.
In Niger, for example, UN experts use highly detailed satellite data and artificial intelligence to identify sites for schools that are less vulnerable to storms or heavy rain.
In Central Asia, Germany supports the monitoring of glaciers—to predict floods and changes in water resources.
And: that’s why you are all here—we have set up PREVIEW here at the Foreign Office, a highly-targeted data analysis platform. With the help of artificial intelligence, our colleagues are evaluating billions of data points to forecast and analyse violent conflict, political trends and climate change patterns. One such method they explained to me is text mining. That means, for example, that we are filtering thousands of resolutions that have been passed by the UN General Assembly to understand how countries’ voting patterns are developing.
PREVIEW is an interdisciplinary analysis tool that is unique in its scale and ambition within the German government, bridging the gap between scientists and politicians, between science and politics. And I believe the Foreign Office is exactly the right place for this—because data analysis is key to understanding and addressing our global challenges.
One thing is clear: When it comes to risk assessment, we will be most effective if we work together.
We are not the only ones who think so. ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, is leading the way through its regional ECOWARN network…
We need to join forces—in regional formats, in the United Nations. But also in the G7—because I believe that rich and industrialised countries, who have pushed this climate crisis, share a particular responsibility in battling the climate crisis.
It’s true—the crisis does affect all of us around the globe. However, it does not affect all of us in equal measure. The climate crisis is hitting the most vulnerable hardest.
Climate action is a matter of global justice.
That is why we will use our presidency of the G7 to launch a global and inclusive “Climate, Environment, Peace and Security Initiative”.
We need to move from rhetoric to action.
That is also why we worked hard to agree the Complex Risks Analytics Fund last year, together with the UN and close partners: to combine funding power and expertise. One of the first measures we are funding is a comprehensive data set on conflict events—such as terrorist attacks, riots and protests—that is updated weekly and can be accessed across the globe.
Our priority is clear: work together to share knowledge and support timely action and protection on the ground.
This conference is an important step on that road to better action: a space to share knowledge, to connect decision-makers, scientists and practitioners.
We want to hear from those of you who are most directly affected by the climate crisis—be it through rising sea levels, extreme weather or frequent droughts…
I would also like to thank our U.S. partners who are hosting this conference together with our ministry’s PREVIEW unit. We are looking forward to hearing the insights of John Kerry, the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, in a few minutes.
Yes, this conference is about data, about analytics and scientific tools, about artificial intelligence.
But it is also and primarily about the people behind the data—about the men, women and children for whom the climate crisis is not abstract, not artificial, but a concern to their daily lives
- like the women in Mali and Niger who are worrying about their livelihoods, their children’s next meal.
- like the farmers unable to work their hardened soil.
It is data and scientific analysis that enables us to face our future better-prepared and open-eyed—and to help us protect lives together. [IDN-InDepthNews – 03 May 2022]
Image Credit: Alliance Sahel
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