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Large Cities Climate Summit in New York: The Govering Mayor of Berlin takes part in the conference

Pressemitteilung vom 16.05.2007

Speech by the Governing Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, for the Large Cities Climate Summit on 16 May 2007 in New York:

I am very pleased to be taking part in this important conference with you, and I thank you for your invitation.

The realization that we are experiencing global climate change is not new. What is new, however, is the change in the political climate. At long last, no one is making a serious attempt to deny the dangers of climate change. People are finally realizing that we live in a global community of responsibility, and that each and every one of us has to make a contribution if we want to stop global warming.

“Cities are the place to start” was a recent headline in the International Herald Tribune. That is also the message of this summit. We all agree that large cities play a pivotal role when it comes to increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Here Berlin has been rather successful: between 1990 and 2003, we were able to reduce CO2 emissions by 16 percent. Our ambitious goal is to reach 25 percent by 2010.

To give you some details: What were we in Berlin able to achieve with our initiatives to reduce CO2 emissions, how were these initiatives financed, and how have they helped to strengthen the competitiveness of the German capital city?

Berlin is in a special situation: while the fall of the Wall 17 years ago was a stroke of luck for the people of Berlin, it was also, unfortunately, the beginning of the end for many industrial companies in Berlin and eastern Germany. All of a sudden, they were exposed to global competition, and they were not able to cope with this challenge. This resulted in tremendous structural change, which left Berlin renewed and reinvigorated. An important element of this modernization process is the profound ecological renewal we promoted with a set of political initiatives. Here I should point out that a few decisions made on the federal level, such as the Renewable Energy Sources Act, also helped our initiatives to take off.

Since 1990 Berlin has had an Energy Saving Ordinance that mandates the adoption of state energy programs on a regular basis. This has been the basis for our measures related to the renovation of private and public buildings. In 1990, coal-burning stoves were still in use in 400,000 apartments in Berlin; by 2005, that number had fallen to just 60,000! In that same period, we were able to raise the number of apartments supplied by district heating from 450,000 to 580,000. From 1997 to 2005, around €220 million was invested in expanding co-generation and enlarging the district heating network. And since we still see considerable savings potential, we intend to continue increasing co-generation (that is, linking power generation and heat production, which boosts the efficiency of primary energy input considerably). We also want to expand the use of renewable energy resources.

A key issue for our city’s ecological modernization is transport, where we are faced with growing CO2 emissions. This, too, is linked to Berlin’s special situation, because car ownership increased dramatically in the city’s eastern half after reunification.

Our goal is a transport system that guarantees mobility for all and at the same time meets climate protection standards. A core element of our strategy is building what we call an “environmental network,” which means shifting as much private motorized traffic as possible to local public transport and to non-motorized mobility modes. Today we are very happy that our farsighted ancestors laid the foundations for a perfect underground and suburban train network at the onset of industrialization. It was modernized and made faster over the following decades. For several years now, we have also been expanding our tram network. We are trying to make Berlin more attractive for cyclists, and we are seeing a significant increase in bicycle traffic. This, too, makes an important contribution to climate protection.

In addition, we are establishing an “environmental zone” covering the entire city center of Berlin. Starting on January 1, 2008, only vehicles complying with certain emission standards will be allowed to enter the zone. Vehicles with notoriously high emissions will have to stay outside that area. This measure is mainly aimed at reducing pollutants like particulate matter and nitrogen oxide and thus at improving air quality. However, we also believe this to be a long-term contribution to the reduction of CO2, since we hope it will encourage even more people to use our excellent local public transport network.

We are also trying to promote the use of natural-gas-powered vehicles whose CO2 emissions are about 23 percent lower than those of gasoline-powered vehicles. The Berlin Senate is currently supporting the use of 100 natural-gas-powered trucks used for industrial purposes. We now have 14 natural-gas filling stations, and we are planning to speed up fleet modernization for utility vehicles. About 1000 natural-gas-powered taxis are now in operation in Berlin. Our public transport company has started using buses running on natural gas, and the fleet of the city’s waste disposal company will also be converted to natural gas and, increasingly, biogas.

An extraordinarily innovative instrument that has become a highly successful export is a contracting project called energy saving partnerships. We are using these in about 1,300 public buildings, where our energy savings have averaged 27 percent. In 1996, for example, we began renovating the Berlin Town Hall to make it more energy-efficient within the framework of the “Berlin energy saving partnership.” By upgrading the building’s heating system, ventilation, lighting, and systems control technology, we were able to make significant cuts in energy consumption and energy spending.

Let me tell you how these energy partnerships usually work: private partners finance the changes necessary to increase energy efficiency by, for example, renovating heating systems, installing measurement and control technology, and improving heat insulation in public buildings. The efficiency savings are then shared by the private partner and the state. This means that the federal state of Berlin incurs no new debt to modernize its buildings, while both energy costs and CO2 emissions are reduced. Ecological renewal and good economic sense are often two sides of the same coin. We are therefore trying to convince industry to also take advantage of the opportunities offered by this energy partnership.

Let me give you another example of a successful measure we have taken: when we sold our large utility companies, we allocated part of the proceeds to an energy savings fund. This fund helps to finance various kinds of projects aimed at saving energy, from optimizing energy management in public buildings to better counseling on energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, to installing solar panels when renovating housing and the use of natural-gas-powered vehicles I just mentioned. This fund alone contributed €15 million to help finance energy efficiency measures.

What are the political advantages of initiatives for the reduction of CO2 emissions?

Cities working for climate protection benefit in every respect:
 they reduce energy costs in their buildings,
 they promote innovative industries offering ecological heating and transport technology,
 they create jobs in construction and the skilled trades by renovating buildings,
 and, most importantly, climate protection enhances the quality of life. In the winter of 1990/1991 the air in Berlin was still filled with the smell of burning coal. But these days are over. A song composed by Paul Lincke 100 years ago praised Berlin’s air (“Berliner Luft”), and we now have every reason to keep singing it.
 With all this in mind, we believe that a policy for active climate protection helps to improve the image of any city that tries to tackle this pressing issue.

Is there a connection between climate initiatives and major urban problems? How does dealing with these two topics simultaneously create new opportunities for enterprises and what political and financial opportunities can emerge as a consequence?

Let me answer this question for Berlin: Berlin lost a large part of its traditional industry as a result of the war and the division of the city. Our most urgent economic and political challenge is thus to bring production activities to Berlin with the aim of creating new jobs.

This new production won’t be marked by factory smokestacks, but will be part of a knowledge and technology-driven industry, and here we have made good progress. With its universities, its public and private research institutions, and its science and technology parks, the German capital city region is one of Europe’s most innovative regions. Apart from biotechnology and medical technology, information and communications technology, transport and optical technologies, the environment and energy have become two of Berlin’s areas of excellence.

When trying to meet the challenges of the future, it is very important to find solutions that can be exported to other countries. Our energy saving partnerships are a good example of this in the energy sector. Another example is the modern means of public transport being built by regional companies. We are currently setting up a center of excellence for “thin-film and nanotechnology for photovoltaics” that develops prototypes for industrial use and innovative solar cells and manufacturing procedures. Its pilot production is now being converted to mass production. A 40 percent reduction in the modules’ cost is anticipated, which will mean a major breakthrough for this technology.

So my message is: paying close attention to climate protection also makes good sense in terms of business promotion; it fosters closer cooperation between regional businesses and scientific institutions and promotes technology transfer. It improves quality of life, which is invaluable to making our cities more competitive, now and in the future. Even more important, however, is that the global strategies intended to prevent disaster have a chance only if the cities change course and start protecting the climate.

I therefore appeal to the national governments worldwide: Bring urban decision-makers on board! Tap the innovative potential of cities! Promote an exchange of experience between the large cities of the world! Aim at win-win situations in which the state benefits as much as private investors and the people of our cities!

Follow the example of his conference: create a political environment that motivates people to take determined action! It is in our hands! “Cities are the answer!”

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