Georg Schmidt, German Ambassador to Thailand gave special interview with Nation Thailand
1. The German Commitment to Achieve Net Zero:
Climate Change and Climate Action played an important role in the recent general elections. The floods in summer with more than one hundred deaths were a reminder of the dire consequences of extreme weather. Germany pulled forward its climate neutrality target to 2045 while more than 110 countries including the EU committed to reach net zero emissions by 2050 (i.e. the amount of emissions added to the global atmosphere is no more than what is taken out). Globally, Germany is one out of eight countries with such ambitious goals. By 2030 Germany aims to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 65% in relation to 1990 levels. This involves a shift of paradigms in transport, production and consumption patterns. The pandemic might have served as a wake-up call for some to change their ways. The German government borrowed heavily in order to support its citizens. It can also use the money to push for modernization in fields such as digitalization and infrastructure.
As Germany is a highly industrialized country decarbonizing the economy is an enormous challenge. Germany began its “Energiewende” (energy transition), the shift to more renewable energy, already some time ago and it is a goal shared by all relevant political parties. The Energiewende is an integral part of our climate policy. We are switching our energy system to climate-friendly solar, wind and hydrogen. Less carbon, more renewables and more value added and jobs created. In Germany half of the electricity is already generated from renewable sources (2020: 50.5%), mostly from wind and solar. More than 300,000 people work currently in the generation of renewable energy. To reach our ambitious climate goals, 270,000 new jobs could be added in the next 10 years.
But it is not about producing energy alone. It is about storing it and distributing it in a stable and economically viable way. The unveiling of Germany’s new national Hydrogen Strategy underlined the importance of going new ways in that field. However, we cannot afford to destroy our industrial base – we can also not afford to destroy our planet. The new German government will have to master the task to steer this transformation with the right mix of incentives (subsidies, tax breaks, increased procurement) and disincentives (higher prices, taxes, prohibitions). The experience so far has shown that the incentives work much better. A sweeter carrot outweighs a bigger stick.
2. The German assistance to developing countries to help them comply with the COP26 pledge:
It does not help at all if Germany alone works to reduce its carbon footprint. Every country has an important role to play. COP26 in Glasgow is crucial in order to mobilize global actions towards to combat climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we have only until 2030 to cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 45-50% if we all really aim at limiting global warming to 1.5 C.
Warming beyond this will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and sea-level rise, and will exacerbate poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Thailand has seen this: Currently, many people in Thailand are hit by a heavy flood. Last year, Thailand experienced its worst drought in forty years. Thailand is among the ten countries most impacted by extreme weather events linked to climate change
Germany is one of the most active countries globally to support other countries in their combat against climate change. Most of the projects are funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the Ministry for the Environment. IKI is a key element of Germany’s climate financing mechanism and the funding commitments were made under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Climate change mitigation, adaption to the impacts of climate change and the protection of biological diversity are focus areas. To date, IKI has approved funding for more than 750 climate and biodiversity projects in over 60 countries worldwide, with a total funding volume of 4.5 billion euros (2008–2020). Add to that Germany’s contribution of the European Union and you see that we put our money where our mouth is.
But public sector is only one side of the coin. The transformation cannot be done against business. German companies are world-wide leaders in high-technology. It is their know-how and engagement that enables us to achieve sustainability. With the right national, European and international framework companies can develop and apply products and services compatible with our race for sustainability.
3. The German Cooperation with Thailand to help Thailand achieve the Bio-Circular-Green Economy.
Germany has been Thailand’s largest bilateral climate partner for more than ten years with more than 140 million euros spent. We are happy to share our experiences as well as technical and management expertise on renewable energy, resource efficiency and sustainable production and consumption. This includes policy advice as well as model projects such as on waste management, flood prevention, the production of energy efficient refrigerators or low-emission rice farming as well as the development of standards for sustainable rice. For the next phase we will focus on sustainable urban transport und renewable energy.
4. Examples of German green technologies in Thailand:
During the last years as German Ambassador I had the privilege to visit many of the projects: To begin with, NAMA rice in Suphanburi reduces green-house gases and increases the yield of farmers. Smart farming also includes the use of drones on rice fields – German companies are active in offering technological solutions here.
We regularly award buildings in Thailand constructed according to German energy efficiency standards. It is possible to save a lot of money by better insulation, circulation and changes in cooling methods. Cooling is one of the main consumption points for electricity. Check out the RAC Nama Cooling program offering air conditioning with reduced ecological footprints. And to round the examples up, the German-Thai Chamber of Commerce runs a Clean Air Initiative focusing on ways to improve the air quality in Thailand.
Change is possible, but it starts from change in individual behavior. By now many people know about my personal penchants for electric scooters – much faster in the tight traffic of Bangkok than any cars. That does not mean we are not using cars anymore. We are proud of our electric and hybrid vehicles at the German Embassy. Our small BMW is powered by the electricity generated by our solar panels on the rooftop of the Embassy. We get a lot of support for these measures. Believe me, a vehicle with a small carbon footprint will soon be much cooler than a 400 hp. sports car !
I feel that there is already lot of good will to do things differently in order to protect our environment. Once people have more information about the ecological impact of their behavior, they can make choices accordingly. Of course, prices do play an important role. A combination of government nudging - so that prices reflect externalities - with companies offering affordable alternatives could pave the way. For instance, if people are aware of the carbon footprint of their food, they might change their behavior to taste the delights of sustainable food. After all, a sustainable lifestyle should be not only cool, but also comfortable.
Published : November 04, 2021
By : THE NATION