ECC Platform Library


Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the opening of the Berlin Climate and Security Conference 2019

07 June, 2019
Heiko Maas, German Federal Foreign Office

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the BCSC 2019

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the BCSC 2019
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas giving his opening speech at the Berlin Climate and Security Conference 2019 | © Jan Rottler/adelphi

On Tuesday, 4 June, seven foreign ministers, 19 ambassadors, several ministers and more than 200 experts met in Berlin to act on climate security risks at the Berlin Climate and Security Conference. "Achieving the international climate targets is the new imperative of our foreign policy”, the German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, said in his opening speech. This is the aim of the Berlin Call for Action which was presented at the conference.

Can you imagine how much a zero, followed by 33 more zeros after the decimal point and then a one, is? I certainly can’t. Perhaps the very slightest trace of virtually nothing – that’s perhaps the best way of putting it. This is the incredible number that German astronaut Alexander Gerst presented just a few weeks ago. He spoke to the Committee on Economic Affairs and Energy at the German Bundestag about the percentage of the known universe that is habitable. In other words, the habitable area is a tiny island in a sea of infinity. And we’re in the process of making even this island uninhabitable. We’re doing this above all with climate change, which is caused by us humans.

This realisation is far from new – and yet it is still called into question. But rarely has this reality been so vehemently expressed as in recent times. Every Friday, we hear a message ringing loud and clear from demonstrating school pupils: don’t ruin our future! Take action before it’s too late! And yes, the young people are right. We must change track. This isn’t a task for individual generations, individual political parties or individual countries. Climate change affects us all – around the world. When what came to be known as the Earth Summit took place in Rio 27 years ago, that was a historic moment. This was the first time that climate change appeared on the political world map. At the time, however, it was seen primarily as a challenge for environmental policy. I believe that what we need to understand today is that its impacts go far beyond purely environmental issues. Climate change is increasingly posing a threat to peace and security in many regions of the world. It is thus a key challenge, above all for foreign and security policy.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We don’t have to look too long to find current examples to illustrate this – unfortunately. It has only been a few weeks since Cyclone Fani laid waste to parts of India and Bangladesh. Cyclone Ida hit Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi even harder in March. It claimed more than 1000 lives and made around one million people homeless. Whole regions were consumed by the flood waters.

The Caribbean region is affected to a similar extent. I met the Foreign Ministers from the Caribbean here in Berlin at the Latin America-Caribbean Conference last week. They told me about the existential threat they face as a result of hurricanes that are becoming more frequent and stronger. We have therefore pledged 150 million euros to promote climate protection measures such as reforestation and e mobility in the region.

These are small but necessary steps. And we put the security risks of climate change on the agenda from the outset of our term on the Security Council – working together with one of the affected countries, namely the Dominican Republic. I could go on and on with this list of examples. Cyclones, floods and extreme heat waves are becoming increasingly frequent and intense and are destroying the livelihoods of ever more people on our planet.

Slower paced changes are no less dramatic than these extreme weather events. Water is becoming increasingly scarce in the Mediterranean region, the Middle East and Central America. Agricultural yields are declining. Yields from fishing are getting smaller and smaller. The upshot of this is that conflicts are predestined. Displacement and migration are the consequence of this and are an extra factor fuelling crises. The stability of entire regions is at stake already today.

It goes without saying that climate change is seldom the only reason for conflicts breaking out. There are usually a number of additional factors. However, climate change acts as a catalyst. It makes conflicts more likely.

But, ladies and gentlemen, it doesn’t make them unavoidable.

And this is precisely why we can, indeed we must, take action here – with forward-looking policies that not only respond when it’s too late, but which actively seek responses. And I mean now. In order to do just that, ladies and gentlemen, we have made the security policy impact of climate change one of the focuses of our membership of the UN Security Council, supported by a Group of Friends comprising around 50 countries from all continents. And this is why it was so important that Sweden has continued to take the climate and security agenda forward with a great deal of ambition in the past two years. Margot Wallström will doubtlessly talk about this when she’s here this afternoon.

Thanks to the Climate Security Mechanism, we have managed to enshrine this issue at the institutional level at the UN headquarters. That was an important step. At the end of the day, this underscores the fact that awareness of the interaction between climate and security is growing all the time.

We want to take a further step with today’s conference. And we want to do so by making it clear that achieving the international climate targets is the new imperative of our foreign policy. This is the aim of the Berlin Call for Action that we are presenting today. It is jointly supported by the Federal Foreign Office and our conference partners – the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and adelphi.

And I would like to call on you right now to support this Call for Action. Three points are at the heart of this.

Firstly, we want the international community to have a better understanding of how climate change exacerbates conflicts. We need sound analyses for this. In concrete terms, we are proposing that a regular UN report be drawn up – a Global Risk and Foresight Assessment. This report is intended to summarise knowledge about climate and security and to flag up solutions for decision-makers. An international network of experts that we have set up is already working on a number of regional analyses, including studies on the Amazon Basin and on the specific situation of the small island states. Moreover, at the beginning of April the Federal Foreign Office hosted the very first UN workshop looking at how the impact of climate change can be better taken into account in conflict analyses. As a result of this, the UN is developing a new analytical tool that we will soon be testing in the Horn of Africa.

Without wanting to pre-empt what Prof. Edenhofer and Prof. Rockström are about to say, I would just like to mention at this juncture that the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research is currently in the process of developing an early warning system for the particularly affected Sahel region with the support of the Federal Foreign Office. This system will analyse climate-related security risks, particularly with regard to food security. This will enable us to take more targeted countermeasures from an earlier stage in times of crisis. This brings me to the second element of our Call for Action. We want to continue to strengthen the UN’s ability to act in the area of climate and security – in New York and in the affected regions. With experts working in the field, for instance. The first expert on environment and security will soon take up his work as part of the UN assistance mission in Somalia. His position will be funded by Germany in cooperation with the UN Environment Programme, and he will support the UN team in Mogadishu. This is hopefully just the beginning. A small step, but one that can have a major impact if it becomes the norm in all peacekeeping missions and conflict regions.

My third and last point is that we need greater political coherence. In the future, we must consider the climate, sustainable development, security and peacebuilding much more as related issues – in all of our projects and programmes. Allow me to mention an example from Nigeria. The Federal Foreign Office has supported a mediation project in Nigeria’s Middle Belt since 2016. The aim is to defuse the conflict over land use between predominantly Muslim herdsmen and predominantly Christian farmers – a conflict that seems small at first glance, but is anything but. A conflict that is not so much about religion as the ever scarcer resources in the Sahel region. We are working directly in and with the communities. Climate protection and conflict prevention are objectives that are now being pursued in tandem in the region. I believe that this approach could also be most promising for other regions that are already suffering from scarce resources.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what this is all about, namely taking tangible action as quickly as possible and finding responses to the most pressing issues. This is the objective of our Call for Action. And this should also be the objective at the Secretary-General’s Climate Change Summit in September. Allow me to take this opportunity – also on behalf of Nauru – to invite you to a foreign ministers’ meeting on the fringes of the Summit at which we will continue our discussion today and also inject most tangible momentum into this issue.The fight against the security policy impact of climate change will require a global effort, one in which Germany intends to play a leading role.

Last but not least, allow me to add that we must be credible if we are to succeed here. And so, for instance, if France, our closest partner in Europe, comes up with ambitious proposals here, then we cannot put the brakes on this. We must prove that we take this seriously ourselves in the regions where we exercise responsibility. We must work together to pick up the pace – especially when others call their commitments into question. This is another reason why we set up a climate cabinet here in Germany at the beginning of the year. And we want to adopt a climate protection law this year in which we will enshrine our national climate objectives in law and lay down our approach to mitigating climate change up until 2050. By then we want to, indeed we must, achieve the transformation towards complete climate neutrality. A key part of this is the phasing out of coal-based power in Germany, for which we have developed a clear road map in a discussion with all groups in society. A further instrument that we should all work together to achieve is an adequate price for CO2 emission, preferably worldwide.

Ladies and gentlemen,
We have no time to lose, to put all of this in a nutshell. We have long since started to pay a high price for our past shortcomings, the damage we have inflicted on earth. The impacts are already threatening the lives of millions of people. If we don’t change course, then we are heading towards a hot age with barely manageable consequences for peace and security. The good news is that it’s not yet too late to change course. And this is worth it. It may be a small island in space that we’re living on, but it’s all we have.

Thank you very much.


[This speech originally appeared on]


To read more, download the background paper to the Berlin Climate and Security Conference and the Berlin Call for Action.

ArticleClimate Diplomacy
Climate Change
Climate Diplomacy

Global Issues


Adaptation & Resilience

All countries will need to adapt to some of the environmental, social and economic impacts of climate change that are already unavoidable. Food security, livelihoods, water resource availability and public health are some affected areas. People living in poverty are more vulnerable, having a lower capacity to adapt. Thus, it is essential to promote resilience building. The adaptation and resilience aspects need to be mainstreamed into planning by policy makers and the private sector as well as integrated into development strategies.

Biodiversity & Livelihoods

Nature protection is most sustainable if it essentially contributes to the long-term stability of human needs. Today many regions around the world are confronted with increasing destruction of the natural foundations of life. The consequences of wide-ranging resource destruction are no longer regionally limited, but rather represent a global threat. Those affected are mainly rural populations, who find the sources of their income and the foundations of their way of life swept away. The depletion and destruction of natural resources goes hand in hand with decreasing agricultural yields and increasing poverty, which in turn forces the affected populations to deplete the remaining resources.

Read more

Capacity Building

On the one hand, conflicts are caused by structural factors, such as economic and social inequality or environmental destruction. On the other hand, conflicts are fuelled by a lack of democratic structures, deficient mechanisms of non-violent conflict settlement, inadequate rule of law, the destruction of social and cultural identity and the disregard of human rights. Against this backdrop, development policies have been dedicated to a broad concept of security, which comprises political, economic, ecological and social stability. As a consequence, development cooperation agencies and actors have developed a broad spectrum of approaches for conflict prevention and transformation as well as for sustainable use of natural resources.

Read more


Sorry, no description found.

Civil Society

Civil society is the first victim of environmental pollution, under-development and conflicts. Economically disadvantaged and politically marginalized population groups are particularly affected by violent conflicts as well as increasing resource degradation. Simultaneously, civil society is a fundamental pillar for implementing sustainable development. It contributes in many ways to strengthening conflict prevention and plays a significant role in the peaceful and democratic development of states. It must be supported to strengthen civil rights, adherence to human rights in general and democratic participation.

Climate Change

Climate change resulting from the emission of greenhouse gases represents one of the vital challenges for international environmental policy. Flooding, droughts, shifting of climate zones and increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather events will have serious economic and social consequences for entire regions. The climate problem is also directly linked to the question of future energy generation.

Read more

Climate Diplomacy

To address the challenges posed by climate change, a new profile of climate diplomacy is evolving. This utilises a full range of policies, including development cooperation, conflict prevention efforts, and humanitarian assistance, in addition to more traditional measures of climate change adaptation and mitigation. Moving from a risk analysis of climate-related threats to well-timed preventive action requires a greater commitment to integrating climate change concerns into development, foreign, and security policies. Examples include strengthening diplomatic networks, building new alliances with partners, and raising awareness – not only of potentially negative climate change impacts, but also of opportunities to embark on a sustainable transformation of our societies.

Read more


Climate action entails an array of economic, social, political and environmental co-benefits. It provides an opportunity for economic growth and new jobs. Many investments can take into account climate considerations without becoming more costly. Further important co-benefits include: improved energy security, less local air and water pollution, health benefits as well as ecosystem and biodiversity protection.

Conflict Transformation

In order to overcome the structural causes of violent conflicts and thus bring about an improvement in the framework conditions for peaceful and fair development, it is essential to have long term and broadly planned peace development and peace advancement. Various governmental and non-governmental, national and international actors and groups are involved in these processes.

Read more


Climate change and development are inextricably linked. Climate change endangers the development agenda and has the potential to reverse development goals. Furthermore, successful mitigation of climate change heavily depends on development choices around the world. Therefore, development strategies need to be climate-compatible to provide long-term success, and there are viable policy options that support this compatibility. Many mitigation and adaptation activities can present development opportunities to developing countries and avoid the lock-in to environmentally damaging technologies.

Early Warning & Risk Analysis

The reasons for the development and escalation of conflicts and the incidence of risks are multifaceted and complex. Simultaneously, the assessment of the specific causes in the form of risk and conflict analyses can contribute to a better understanding of these processes and make it possible to provide warning of negative developments, or ideally help prevent them. In the context of natural resource use, risks and conflicts have gained increasing attention in the past years. The debate on possible future water wars is merely one example.

Read more


The well-being of individuals, communities and nations depends on the availability of energy resources. The gap between energy supply and demand appears to be growing, making the world vulnerable to serious economic shocks. At the same time, the burning of fossil fuels causing climate change is one of the vital challenges of international environmental policy. So far, only rudimentary approaches exist for shaping climate and energy security in a sustainable way. The components of a strategy that can contribute to reducing vulnerabilities related to climate change and energy policy include a greater role for renewable energies, the improvement of energy efficiency and a stronger decentralisation of energy supply.

Read more

Environment & Migration

The economic, social and environmental consequences of climate change aggravate the breakdown of eco-system-dependent livelihoods and are likely to become dominant drivers of long-term migration. Natural disasters already cause massive shorter-term displacement and the number of temporarily displaced people is likely to further increase with climate change. For vulnerable populations in vulnerable regions, such as the Sahel zone or the Ganges delta, migration often becomes the sole survival strategy. In order to address climate-related displacement and migration successfully, knowledge of effective adaptation and an improved understanding of how environmental change affects human mobility is essential. 

Read more


Climate finance, from all sources, plays a key role in supporting and enabling adaptation and mitigation action as well as climate and energy innovation. The Paris Agreement ensured that the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility are at the core of climate finance architecture as entities entrusted with the operation of the Financial Mechanism of the UNFCCC. Increasing climate finance from all relevant public and private sources is crucial. Furthermore, much needs to be done to redirect finance flows to sustainable paths, e.g. reducing fossil fuel subsidies, introducing maritime and air transportation taxes. The conditions for green investment in developing countries should also be improved.


Forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Competition for forest resources triggers, exacerbates, or finances numerous crises and conflicts in tropical developing countries. Illegal logging and timber trade foster instability and sometimes violent conflict by strengthening illegal and armed groups, increasing corruption and exacerbating use and claim conflicts among local communities, the state and the business sector. Forests are a vital resource to poor people but they can also become areas of conflict. Sustainable management of forest resources is therefore key to preventing violent conflict over and within forests.

Read more


Gender plays an important role as a category of conflict for many reasons. The interlinkages between gender, environment and conflicts are complex and much research is still needed. Existing insights suggest that conflicts may worsen gender inequalities that existed before the outbreak of violence. The unequal distribution of land property rights in many parts of the world serves as an example. Moreover, women (and children) are among those most affected by both violent conflict and natural disasters. At the same time, women carry much of the burden of trying to implement rehabilitation measures after crisis events.

Read more

Land & Food

Increasing water scarcity, desertification and crop failures due to extreme weather events are becoming more and more of a threat to global food production. While the world’s population continues to grow rapidly, food production is unable to keep pace. Due to the global food crisis in 2008, the number of hungry people reached the symbolic one billion threshold for the first time – corresponding to about 16 percent of world population. Food insecurity may be a consequence or cause of conflicts. Violent conflicts often lead to the destruction of agricultural infrastructure and means of production, as well as to the displacement of local communities.

Read more

Minerals & Mining

In the past, the discovery and tapping of valuable or strategic resources like valuable minerals, oil and natural gas, particularly in developing and emerging countries, has often led to large scale environmental contamination and negative development. The "resource curse" of some countries shows that the wealth from resource yields is frequently unfairly distributed; instead of serving development it advanced the formation of corrupt elites and in some cases even led to conflicts and civil wars. Measures in various sectors and at all levels are important in order to use the potential of these natural resources in a manner that is sustainable and prevents conflicts.

Read more

Private Sector

The spread of violent conflict not only affects people but also companies located in such regions. Destruction of investments and infrastructure, collapse of markets and trade partnerships, flight and expulsion of employees are phenomena of conflicts and environment-induced crises that directly affect companies in unstable regions. Almost all branches of the economy thus have a clear interest in a stable and peaceful environment for their activities. Conversely, the business sector plays an important role in the interaction of economic growth, social development and a healthy environment, all of which can advance peace and sustainable development. 

Read more


Environmental issues have a significant security dimension. Access to, and overuse of, natural resources often play a key role in civil wars or other forms of internal domestic conflict. This is compounded by climate change and environmental degradation. Climate change is now widely recognised as a non-traditional, risk-multiplying threat that will have increasing security impacts. Key risks with possible implications for human and national security include water scarcity, food crises, natural disasters, and displacement. More preventive diplomacy and advocacy is needed to address the strategic implications of climate and environmental change.

Sustainable Transformation

Sustainable Transformation allows societies to profit from a growing, environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economy – especially in emerging and developing countries. This requires a higher up-front investment, but the benefits of a sustainable transformation in the medium and long term are significant. For instance, energy cost savings and reducing the impact of price volatility offer major incentives for deploying renewable energies and promoting energy efficiency. Such benefits exist in all key sectors of the economy.

Technology & Innovation

Innovations and technologies are already readily available and affordable but their global diffusion and uptake remains a challenge. Innovation and technology are crucial to achieving ambitious climate change mitigation and adaptation targets. However, research and development often do not receive appropriate public support. Developing countries can leapfrog high-carbon industrialisation phases by adopting, deploying and improving existing innovations and technologies. For this, it is essential to minimise financial, administrative and political barriers.


The availability of freshwater resources in sufficient quantity and quality is essential for the preservation of human health and sound ecosystems. The use of water resources is also vital, however, for economic development: whether for agriculture, industrial production or for electricity generation. The world's freshwater resources are distributed very unevenly in terms of geography and seasons. In addition, water shortage is becoming more prevalent in several regions due to population growth, economic development, urbanisation and increasing environmental pollution. Thus, water resources can hold potential for conflicts between parties who have different interests and needs.

Read more



The environment in Asia is already under tremendous pressure as a result of the unsustainable use of land, forests, water and even air in many regions. Climate change will only exacerbate these challenges. Rising sea levels will likely endanger densely populated areas, changes in the monsoon patterns can strongly impact agriculture, melting glaciers will increase long-term water scarcity, and extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall and cyclones can pose further hazards.

Read more

Central America & Caribbean

Natural disasters and water scarcity are key challenges for most of Central America and the Caribbean. These challenges will become even more pronounced as the climate changes. Weak resource and disaster risk management and land disputes pose additional security challenges for large parts of the region. Several countries of Central America and the Caribbean have limited adaptive capacities as they face political instability caused by high social inequality, crime, corruption, and intra-state conflicts.

Read more


As one of the most developed and most densely populated regions in the world, Europe makes heavy use of its resources, resulting in difficult trade-offs and negative consequences for the environment and ecosystems. Land is used for settlements, agriculture and dense infrastructure, creating problems of soil degradation. Water resources are stressed due to unsustainable agricultural practices. Despite nature protection policies, Europe continues to lose biodiversity at an alarming pace. Some of these trends are exacerbated by climate change, which is expected, for instance, to lead to shifts in water availability.

Read more

Global Issues

Resource scarcities, environmental pollution and climate change are not limited by national borders, but often have a transboundary or even global impact. These issues interact with political stability, governance structures and economic performance, and can trigger or worsen disputes and violent conflicts. Exacerbating some of these trends, climate change is likely to lead to the degradation of freshwater resources, declines in food production, increases in storm and flood disasters and environmentally induced migration. All these developments pose potential for conflict.

Read more

Middle East & North Africa

The geopolitical position of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), its fossil fuel resources, high population growth and the political changes spurred by the Arab Spring all make the region one of the most dynamic in the world. Nevertheless, it is also one of the most arid and environmentally stressed. Dwindling water resources, limited arable and grazing land, high pollution from household and industrial waste, remnants of conflicts and increasing desertification are key environmental challenges.

Read more

North America

Climate change has various impacts on the three North American countries of Canada, Mexico and the US. Canada and the US have well-developed adaptive capacities and foster the strengthening of capacities in other regions as well. With high per capita emissions, these two countries also bear a greater responsibility for a changing climate. Mexico has a sound national strategy for climate change adaptation, yet fewer capacities than Canada and the US. The poorer and rural populations of Mexico are especially vulnerable to climate change, due to an increased sensitivity and a lower adaptive capacity.

Read more

Oceania & Pacific

In Oceania, population growth and economic development trends put a strain on oceanic and island ecosystems. Freshwater scarcity, overexploitation of fisheries, loss of land biodiversity, forests and trees, invasive species, soil degradation, increasing levels of settlement, poor management of solid and hazardous waste and disproportionate use of coastal areas are some of the problems. Climate change exacerbates most of these trends, while also raising questions about the future sovereignty of some island states.

Read more

South America

South America has diverse and unique ecosystems and is very rich in biodiversity. Weak natural resource management, land disputes and extreme weather events bring about significant challenges for the region. While South America accounts for relatively few CO2 emissions, the changing climate will alter its ecosystems and greater climate variability will lead to more hurricanes, landslides, and droughts.

Read more

Sub-Saharan Africa

In many African states, environmental security issues rank high on the political agenda. Throughout the continent, countries suffer from water scarcity, food insecurity and energy poverty. These chronic and worsening resource scarcities have severe livelihood implications and are exacerbated by political conflicts over access to and control over these resources. Climate change may seriously threaten political and economic stability in Africa. It may also put a severe strain on the capacities of states and societies to co-ordinate activities, to communicate and to organize.

Read more