Sustainable development includes progess for people, climate protection and biodiversity, insists German minister | D+C

KfW Development Bank regularly organizes the “Development Finance Forum” (DFF) event on a current topic of global cooperation. Experts from all over the world are involved. On October 6th and 7th of this year, the focus will be on how climate protection and biodiversity protection are connected. To support the event, KfW publishes a supplement in D+C/E+Z. We will publish the contributions on our website. It starts with an interview with Svenja Schulze, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development.

According to your ministry, biodiversity loss is the second global crisis facing the world after climate change. Based on this, the future of mankind also depends to a large extent on global biodiversity. Why?

We cannot survive without fertile soil, air to breathe, clean drinking water and natural resources, and all of this is only possible with healthy ecosystems. They feed us, protect us from natural disasters and protect us from the multiple effects of the climate crisis. At the same time, biodiversity is suffering massively from the consequences of climate change. The climate is changing too fast – species and ecosystems are not keeping up. This is a vicious circle that we urgently need to break. Development for all people, climate protection and the preservation of biodiversity must be reconciled. This is a challenge that I have already dealt with as Federal Minister for the Environment and on which I can now continue to work specifically as Development Minister. Our work determines the future of the planet.

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Up to 150 animal and plant species disappear from the earth every day. Why is this relevant to people’s lives?

Species are dying at a rate unprecedented in human history. The affected animal and plant species are irretrievably lost. However, each species has an important function in an ecosystem, and with each species lost, the likelihood of the system collapsing increases. The consequences are dramatic. We are already seeing the harbingers: the hunger crisis, conflicts over scarce water, increasing heat.

The impacts are affecting us all, but especially poor countries and vulnerable populations – especially indigenous peoples and local communities. Their natural livelihoods are being lost and conflicts over resources are increasing. This is particularly unfair given that vulnerable populations have contributed the least to the causes of biodiversity loss.

Today, international attention is primarily focused on the war in Ukraine and the Corona crisis. How can more willingness to act and problem awareness for climate protection and the preservation of biodiversity be restored worldwide?

I see it differently: climate protection gets a lot of attention – in this federal government, but also in the population. Everyone experiences it. Climate change does not take a break even in times of war. We have just experienced a summer in Europe that was hotter than ever. We are working resolutely towards a future worth living for our generations and those of the future. Climate protection and biodiversity protection were top issues at the G7 meeting at Schloss Elmau. We are currently working at all levels on a successful global climate conference in Sharm El Sheikh in November and on a new global framework for preserving biodiversity, which will be adopted at the UN nature summit in Montreal in December.

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There are always conflicts between nature conservation and the fight against climate change, for example in the energy transition when building wind turbines. How can both be combined in the partner countries?

Of course there are conflicting goals. In this regard, the partner countries are dealing with the same issues as we are. A good balance between protection and sustainable use is necessary. The solution approaches are similar, e.g. B. Check environmental compatibility, determine environmentally friendly locations. And another crucial factor is that these processes must involve all relevant stakeholders, especially those who are most affected but have contributed the least: the indigenous and local populations in our partner countries. It’s a question of justice. Sustainable agriculture is another important factor. And with nature-based solutions, forests, oceans and mangroves can be preserved as natural carbon sinks while improving the adaptability of humans and nature to a changing climate. Of course, nature reserves are also of great importance for the preservation of ecosystems. For example, with the Legacy Landscapes Fund, a global natural heritage fund, we recently established an important instrument to enable selected outstanding protected areas to have long-term “ongoing financing” and crisis-independent planning security.

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At the moment, global warming is progressing and we continue to lose biodiversity. How optimistic are you that this trend can be reversed?

We have already been able to achieve a great deal in recent years. The global rate of deforestation fell by a third between 2010 and 2020 compared to the previous decade. Protected areas already cover more than 16% of land area and 8% of oceans. Without these and other measures, two to four times as many birds, amphibians, insects and mammals would have gone extinct. Our efforts are making a difference on a small scale, and we need to build on that. We still have a chance to preserve biodiversity and protect the planet from reaching tipping point. Biodiversity and climate protection are not a luxury, but essential for survival – for us and all future generations.


Development Finance Forum 2022

Svenja Schulze is Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The interview was conducted by Michael Ruffert from KfW Development Bank.

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