Frank Farenski: The regenerative decade has begun! We need one hundred percent renewable energy to stabilize the climate, according to EUROSOLAR, the most important organization fighting for the energy transition and climate protection in Europe. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to ‘Leben mit der Energiewende TV’!
Why this is so important and what steps we must take to ensure effective climate protection and the survival of humankind is what we want to explain to you today with EUROSOLAR’s Ten-Point Plan. I am connected in Liechtenstein with the President of EUROSOLAR – Peter Droege. Welcome Mr Droege, good evening!
Peter Droege: Good evening, Mr. Farenski!
Currently, we are not approaching 1.5, but rather 3 degrees of global warming. Some say we are on our way to 5 degrees global warming. We have experienced this process already in Siberia this year: instead of 18 degrees temperature, we have experienced 38 degrees. The Siberian permafrost is thawing. You have written in your paper that large methane deposits on the seabed are about to dissolve and escape into the atmosphere.
With 5 degrees of global warming the survival of our human species is endangered. Would you agree, or is it simply alarmism and apocalyptic exaggeration?
Humankind is certainly endangered. This view is scientifically grounded. The biggest turning point in the history of humankind has been the melting of the Arctic. This has been our greatest achievement, so to speak, but in a negative sense. It illustrates the drama behind this event that many are not aware of. It is reinforced by the influx of hot air masses caused in turn by the heating of the Arctic Sea which is losing its reflective ice cover, but also due to the influx of warm Atlantic water into the Arctic ocean. The temperature changes threaten the stability of methane ice formations at the bottom of the sea and first on the slopes of the East Siberian continental plates. In late October a Swedish-Russian research team reported from this Arctic region that they detected methane ice dissolution higher incidents of methane rising in the seawater, up to 350 m depth, 600 km from the East Siberian coast. These reports are not yet published in scientific papers. But they suggest that the process of methane remobilization has begun, as many have long feared and predicted. It also means that we are facing an situation that has never been seen so clearly before or even thought of possibly so soon. All our economic power, all our political resolutions, our social focus, but also our financial and diplomatic efforts must go into achieving success in in the short, medium and long-term stabilization of our climate.
If we would experience thawing of the permafrost soils, if this methane were to be released into the atmosphere would we then have lost the race? Because at that point, we could go down to zero in CO2 emissions, but a lot of greenhouse gases would still escape, which would render all of our efforts to be virtually futile.
Yes, but of course we cannot give up now, we must do everything we can to prevent this from happening, from the position from which we act, a position of strength, of recognition, but also of relative economic and political stability. But of course, the opportunities to act diminish daily. The changes are so rapid that they are virtually visible from one week to the next. So there is really no time to lose in tackling these changes. We have to approach this optimistically and with resolution, with energy and inevitable confidence, to retain an inhabitable earth for our future generation and for ourselves.
I said it at the beginning of the program: Climate protection goals are 1.5 degrees. Truthfully, we are approaching nearly 3 degrees. Every day, humankind emits more CO2. There has been no real climate protection. A lot of climate researchers say that we are on our way to approach 5 degrees. Does that mean, that we as a human species are on the verge of extinction within one generation?
That is what the Regenerative Decade plan is about. We are indeed on our way to reaching that kind of temperature increase if we continue along the path we are walking on right now. If we do so, it is certain that at least one third of the global population will have no home within a few decades. Even approaching a projected 3 degree temperature rise, which is, in our view, far too optimistic because it does not consider feedback effects such as we are now seeing in the Arctic. But let’s assume a 3 degree rise worldwide. That means a 7 to 8 degree rise over land, i.e. on our continents, because the global average rise includes the oceans, which have a much slower temperature rise, given their cooling power. The temperatures in Europe could rise by 7 or 8 degrees, too. This also means, based on our knowledge, that certain areas of the world, practically half of South America, half of Africa, almost all of India or Southeast Asia could become uninhabitable in the sense of today’s means of inhabitation, since the regions would reach temperatures as we find them today in the middle of the Sahara desert. One third of the global population, that is several billion people, would have to find a new home – unless we make bold efforts to prevent this in slowing down climate change by removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, by stopping emissions, but also by helping people in other parts of the world to stay where they live at the moment.
Are there actual climate protection efforts? The government says that we are approaching a point of no more CO2 emissions within the next 20 to 30 years. That is the vision. EUROSOLAR says that this is far too late and I quote from the paper: “Regenerative Decade”: “All central systems, especially those based on nuclear resources, must be dismantled in light of the unprecedented, immediate threat and replaced by a mobilization of all regenerative resources for a decentralized renewable full supply”. In other words, Mr. Droege, we do not have 20 to 30 years left.
That indeed is the case. We really don’t have time to wait for 2050 or 2040. We must act today, with the aim of achieving things that are already meaningful by next year. The decentralization of energy systems has two meaningful effects. On the one hand, by making systems renewable and thus emission-free they also become cheaper, stimulating economy and employment. On the other hand, we know – and we have known this for decades – that rising temperatures make centralized energy systems unstable, even rendering them less effective in conducting electricity. We know that water-cooled nuclear or coal reactors stop working when the water becomes too warm or actually evaporates. The energy transition means resilience. Such energy system adaptation measures are important for civil protection. This help us move away from dangerous systems, systems that are not redundant and are thereby susceptible to grid failure and may even have to be switched off at higher temperatures, which will inevitably occur. In the interest of our common future we have to swiftly replace older unsustainable systems with renewable energy supplies.
The Regenerative Decade: how can we shape it? EUROSOLAR has developed a ten-point plan for this. This plan is available as a working paper, one can download it from the Internet. There is a link to this working paper in the description box of this Youtube program and because it is so important and clearly expressed, I would like to present these ten points with Peter Droege. It does not matter whether you are an expert or not. All people who deal with this topic in the broadest sense will understand that there is no way around these ten points. We start with the first point. It says: “The introduction of a climate defense budget for the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels and a switch to renewable energies – this may require at least five to ten percent of gross national product, four to eight times the German defense budget.” In other words, we need all the financial resources we can get to make the switch to renewable energy and climate protection.
It is not only about renewable energy. It is also about restructuring the economy in ways that make it less carbon intensive, and therefore more capable of removing CO2 and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. This means a healthier approach to agriculture, forestry and also a better reshaping of the transport system, or the construction industry. All these things together need financing. We know what we are capable of in the Corona crisis, to take stability measures for our economy. These funds are also necessary to make the turn to a regenerative economy. Only then can we create a doubly sustainable future through the Corona crisis – which is only fairly short-term and almost negligible in its danger in comparison to the unfolding and far more threatening climate drama. We have to spend money for both purposes at the same time. The economy can be transformed by focusing on this task in a defensive posture on high alert, in other words by making people aware of the broad and civic climate mobilization challenge. This is the only prospect for society to mobilize in a positive sense – socially and economically, to restructure our economy to be entirely based on renewable energies. This is the basis needed to heal other industries, from food production, agriculture to forestry, to manufacturing and construction and so on, in ways that we already know. No new technology is needed, no new science. No waiting is required. We already have these technologies. We know how to do it. Only the overall societal focus is needed.
The second point of EUROSOLAR’s plan. Second: “The introduction of a climate change diplomacy, which means the ending of acts of war and actual wars, for the common interest of fighting for survival – against the common enemy of global warming. This includes a European and worldwide climate migration management plan: because billions of fellow human beings will very soon have to look for a new home”. In other words, we are facing a huge wave of migration, the dimensions of which we cannot yet even estimate. And there is no longer any scope for warlike conflicts between people.
Yes, at the moment we are not really focused. We are not focused on the actual threats. We are focused on comparably unimportant skirmishes that rob us of diplomatic energy, and bring massive military costs. Trillions of euros are spent each year on military escapades, about half of which are spent on securing fossil fuels, almost doubling the already high subsidy bubble for fossil fuels. So on the one hand, focus is necessary – a focus away from the supposed enemy on the other side of the Mediterranean or somewhere beyond that border, on the other side of this pipeline or on that Himalayan mountain range. The real enemy is the fossil-fuelled climate threat.
One cannot call this threat a crisis: it is a wall that we are racing towards. On the other hand, we can no longer allow all this money to be wasted. To spend huge amounts of capital that only finds an end in firing off ammunitions is not very productive. That’s why we call for climate peace diplomacy. Let’s focus on the common enemy, and join forces in the face of the inevitable task: to manage the flow of many people from areas that would be uninhabitable or less inhabitable or have to be abandoned for other reasons, seeking a reduction of tensions and risks of military conflict.
A personal remark at this sentence in point 2, which states: “Billions of fellow human beings will very soon have to look for a new home.” In my opinion, there is no need for any anti-migration debate in the Federal Republic. What we have now is a foretaste of what is yet to come – and we will not be able to stop it. Mr. Droege, this means we can, so to speak, already now have a clear idea and concept of how we can manage the growing migration flows. There is no way around it. It is not a question of deciding whether we want this to happen. It will come.
If we do nothing, it will come. There is much that we can do, including in areas that will heat up to such an extent that they have practically the same temperatures as the middle of the Sahara desert has now. It can be done by reforestation, by incorporating new water regimes, new farming principles, growing shading vegetation and so on. This way we can make sure that these areas remain habitable and thereby alleviate the pressure of migration. This is a completely new development task, and is still completely unknown. But it already awaits us. It awaits us for those people whom we cannot help, who cannot stay there because rainforest or wetlands have turned into savannah or desert, or rivers dried up and nothing was done. We must then accommodate them where it is helpful economically and in terms of human progress – also with us. It helps to remember that large migration flows have occurred throughout the history of humankind. And they have always created cultural enrichment where they were well managed. Where they were not well managed, they have led to crises and wars – and we want to avoid these at all costs. We want to see the opportunity of these worldwide movements, which are largely or very significantly unstoppable.
Nor will we be able to put up a wall around Europe. And even if we could, our moral and ethical values and systems in Europe will not allow us to not help people in greatest need. This means that we will have to address and face this problem.
Third point. This is what we are trying to do right now, to promote with the energy system transition: “The targeted restructuring of fossil industries through technical substitution programs, the elimination of fossil subsidies and, where necessary, structural measures such as transformation aid – as well as the immediate dismantling of the massively blocking regulations for renewable grids, storage and distribution systems – supported by the New Energy Market Order”. In other words, Mr. Droege, we must complete the transformation from a fossil to a renewable economy and energy use.
We live in an industrial revolution, even more significant than earlier industrial revolutions. Yet we are still trying to stop it from happening by all possible measures to preserve the past. We must stop attempting to slow down the future. We have to allow it to follow the natural vector towards a regenerative reality of which we already know today what it promises. We already know today what renewable energies can do, what renewable production systems can do, what organic farming can do, and so on. We must stop restricting them, stop tying them down and give them free rein instead.
This includes the fourth point. Which is: “replacing jobs in fossil-fuel industries with prioritized structural reforms towards regenerative industries”. Translating this to the German example, it means that the coal phase-out in 2038 – in which jobs in the coal industry are to be preserved for as long as possible – is not an option.
We know that many companies have been restructuring themelves already for years, from the very moment it was known that the coal phase-out was coming. They have reoriented themselves. It is very frustrating for these forward-looking industries and companies that have already been waiting in Lusatia or other coal regions to find out that the future is being postponed for another half generation. Why not start today? Why not begin these structural changes that we know will only bring good things, and thus open the door to an job creation policy that means a visionary or positive, integrative and innovative future for today’s employees. Retraining requirements are not all that dramatic, not even for older people. Many of the skill sets that were needed in fossil industries are also needed in renewable ones. I can only see opportunities here. We as an organization are very aware of the incredible upswing in employment figures the Renewable Revolution has created over the last 15 years. However, this jobs boom has now been capped and powered down. This is not in the interest of workers, and ultimately not in the interest of the trade unions either, who fight for labor interests and the right to prosperity through healthy work and future-proof employment.
Emissions are still rising worldwide. Even the Paris Climate Protection Agreement allows some states to increase CO2 emissions. But it is not about reducing emissions alone but the fact, as you say, that ‘zero is not enough’. In the fifth point EUROSOLAR writes: “The reversal of emission flows is the logical conclusion from the realization that climate neutrality alone is not enough, and that even so-called zero emission targets alone are no longer sufficient. The global economy needs strategies that are suitable for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere”. Is that so, Mr. Droege? We already have far too much CO2 and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. We need to get those out again?
Yes, this is exactly right. We have already known for 30 years now that we have too much CO2 in the atmosphere. In 1988, when EUROSOLAR was founded, CO2 concentrations were already 25 percent above the levels that were stable during the previous 800,000. Since that year, concentrations have increased to more than 50 percent above those historically stable level. And, by the way, the methane concentration in the atmosphere is now three times as high as its long-term stable level was. Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas but also more short-lived than CO2. CH4 is a chemical composition that but remains in the atmosphere for only 40 or 50 years. But while it exists, it exerts 60 to 80 times the greenhouse gas effect of CO2. That means we have a great and growing surplus in both carbon dioxide and methane. There is nothing left to budget. There is no greenhouse gas budget. We used is up long ago. That is why we have to lower atmospheric concentrations. We must not aim for a 2 or 1.5 degree increase limit – but, bluntly speaking, for a zero temperature increase above preindustrial times. That means we have to go back down where we were, at least as a goal. If we do not set the goal, we cannot achieve it. The other problem, Mr. Farenski, is that we always talk about zero or reducing emissions to zero. But zero relative to what year? Actually we should say compared to 1750: before the industrial revolution. Then ‘zero’ was actually zero. One doesn’t even have to read the fine print, it is actually written in the large print of the EU Green Deal, or the German Sustainability Strategy, we should achieve an 85 to 90 percent reduction in emissions compared to 1990 by 2050. In 1990, we emitted 25 gigatons of CO2 per year. Now we are up to 40 gigatons and rising. Its a carbon sleight of hand that defines zero compared to yesterday. This is like someone saying: I drink zero compared to yesterday, when I was still very drunk. One has to be careful when people say ‘zero emissions’ or ‘climate neutrality’, and ask compared to what? Also, even to aim for true zero would have been nice 20 years ago. Today we need to aim below zero, because we have so much excess carbon in the system that we have to reduce it.
It has been considered to store CO2 underground, but that doesn’t really mean reducing it. There are many other ways to actually remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
The oceans do that. They are the most effective conversion medium. A healthy sea that is cool, that does not heat up or turns acidic from too much CO2, does so through phytoplankton and other microorganisms. On our continents on land, it is the soil that does it most effectively. A healthy agricultural soil is a CO2 sink. It can be easily achieved through good management. And it is also produces healthy food and does not cost very much. This is the most effective way in which CO2 sinks can be created on a very large scale and at very low cost. Wetlands, bogs, healthy, well-managed forests do the same. So you really only have to look at the biological systems first. How can we manage them better? And then there are also other both technologically mature and interesting new ways that are also being developed. For example, in the south of Europe or other sunny areas, algae farms are being set up, from which algae oil can be extracted. It is derived from atmospheric CO2, but once produced must not be burned again as a pseudo eco oil. That way the CO2 only escapes again back into the air. We have to bind it in carbon fiber or other carbon materials, to be used in the construction industry, aircraft construction, car manufacturing and so on. To reverse the direction of emissions a truly circular economy must be created, circular because it also takes care of the waste in the atmosphere. Eventually, this airborne waste, too, must be recycled.
The sixth point. That one is long overdue: “The classification of fossil resources as toxic: Their extraction and distribution should be declared as no longer justifiable after a short transitional period or at least heavily taxed”. That is still very diplomatically expressed. It actually needs a ban.
Yes, that’s right. After all, it is a poisonous substance we are talking about, which nobody wants to drink. No one has ever sipped from the gas pump. And consider the fossil-fuel polluted air we find in Europe: one does not even have to be look to China or other countries. In Europe we incur every year more than a hundred billion euros in health costs that are attributable solely to fossil air pollution. It is simply unhealthy. Well, you could of course say that we cannot live without it. But we now know that we can live without it very well indeed. So we can also let go of it. And we can start by introducing not an emissions tax, but a fossil source tax, so to speak. One has to tax at the point of mining or extraction, say in the oil fields, to create direct disincentives for their production, and for countries and companies to say: “It is better for us to leave it in the ground”. We don’t want this in the first place, because once it is processed we have to deal with the emissions at the other end of the chain. By leaving it in the ground we can make the transition in the few years we have left for a transition, until we can operate on a fully renewable basis. In summary, it is about time to finally call it, socially and in terms of public health, an unacceptable poison.
The seventh point does not only concern countries like Brazil, where rainforests are being cleared. This point also concerns us. Also in Germany there is the massive sealing of natural land. And EUROSOLAR’s seventh point reads: “A rapid development and regeneration of healthy, climate-active agricultural soils, wetlands and forests.”
How we deal with soil. How we deal with water. This ecological catastrophe can hardly be described.
And yet this is our greatest asset we are talking about. This is our heritage. It is what we enjoy: we feel comfortable when we see something green or blue. And yet we do not care about it. We create parking areas, we seal the surfaces, we neglect the forests so we suffer even faster from climate warming. We do not care about the garden that has been gifted to us. Now is the time to really see this as an opportunity and as a great, rewarding task. Everyone is a gardener at heart in a nation that is attached to the soil and the greenery, the forest. Landscape and agriculture must finally be invited again into our reality, pushing aside the onslaught of social media. Look out of the window, go out for a while to spend 1, 2, 3, 4 hours a week, or maybe even a day, as a volunteer or paid employee, to help regenerate, build biological agriculture, or engage in organized forest regeneration – to really focus on what we can and must still save, and to not be frozen in fear because we see forests burning in other countries. We have forests right here, they can also burn. If we don’t care about regenerating them and making them CO2-active, then we have no justification to accuse others of doing something we would never do. We do it, too, by not doing anything.
You have already mentioned the eighth point. Your ten-point plan states: “The transformation of the construction industry and all manufacturing industries into carbon-constraining processes: This means large-scale conversion of atmospheric CO2 into wood, carbon fibers and other solid carbon products.” And that means, to put it in popular terms, concrete in construction is passé.
Concrete can now also be produced with much less, or insignificant, CO2 emissions. This could be important, yet still largely ignored because of the lower cost of conventional Portland cement and established processes. But what we are saying here is that instead of using cement in large amounts, we have to use it sparingly, in very small quantities, if at all. We much prefer to use wood or other building materials that are made of carbon, atmospheric carbon. In this way, we bind relatively large amounts of CO2 across the entire action radius of our industry, not only in building construction, but also in car bodies, aircraft fuselages, roads and so on. This will show real rethinking, a reversing of the cycle. There is a resource that we have been blowing into the sky for decades. We need to catch it again and find ways to reuse and convert it. And we know how to do that.
The ninth point contains good news. Having a large task does not mean that our lives will get worse. They will just be different. And that actually means progress. And in our opinion progress in itself is not bad. And that is why the ninth point in EUROSOLAR’s Ten-Point Plan is formulated as follows: “Making full use of the unprecedented boost in productivity and innovation to massively expand high-quality employment opportunities for all citizens, existing and new migrants”. This is a good message, and it includes the migrants who are going to come, not as our enemies, but as citizens we need.
Indeed! Such a flourishing industry, freed from old shackles, means a huge productivity boost in this new regenerative marketplace. It creates much higher quality levels of employment. It also creates far more employment. We have experienced this in Germany, through a huge wave of new employment when the Renewable Energy Law was still healthy and rewarded renewable energy production and industries. But we do not have to go back: we have to go forward. This is where the future lies. Here is the inevitable industrial change we want. And this is expressed in better and more employment. But if we launch this broad mobilization of the regenerative economy, then we need workers. We need more workers. We need more highly paid workers. We need people who think, who are trained, who teach and do research, who help where it is needed, say in agriculture. We face a wave of employment, and without immigrants, without people from other countries, it will not be feasible.
And this includes financing, that our economic systems, our financial systems must be modified. You remember the banking crisis in 2008. Financial industries have contributed significantly to crises – and that is why we must change our financing system, demands EUROSOLAR in its tenth point. It says: “A new financing mechanism is needed that rewards long-term investments such as agricultural reform and reforestation with higher returns of investments than short-term ones. This requires ‘banks for the future’ to create currencies with negative interest rates that encourage investment and whose expenditure is linked to sustainable products and services.
This has two aspects. On the one hand, our economy suffers from the fact that the financial system only rewards short-term investment and fast returns on investments. The tree we can cut down today is worth more than what will exist as part of a fantastic forest in 50 years – and that incentive structure is very unhealthy. Using a monetary approach that reverses this logic and rewards what is sustainable in the long run and available to future generations, we can create a new financing system, a method that makes this future benefit available as reward today – but not in order to buy new fossil-fuelled cars, but to support ecological or renewable products and services. At the same time, when we look at the fossil energy system: it has great annual costs. It costs us to maintain the reactors, delivery and disposal systems, the old centralized grids and so on. It is a huge cost. If we buy and install renewable systems, it also costs a lot. But if we compare this over 10, 20, 30 years, we know that huge cost differentials emerge in the renewable area that are much lower and sometimes negative. Also, with renewables, because wind and sunshine are essentiall free no energy resources will have to be purchased – in contrast to fossil fuels. So it pays off very quickly, in very high yields, to make this transition. But there has to be money spent today that will not be available for 10 or 20 years as savings or income, so to speak. This is a classic financing model for a public sector bank or even a private institution, it can also be public-private partnership, or it a cooperative arrangement that lets these benefits of the future be monetarily available today. And this combination of making financing profitable today for a tangibly sustainable future, that is so essential in this regenerative world.
These are the ten points of the regenerative decade that EUROSOLAR wants to set in motion. And if we let these ten points go through our heads, just from our gut, then we as citizens will see that these are plausible demands. And it is clear that there is really no way around it. In fact, it has been relatively well compactly summarized. EUROSOLAR is a European organization. It as 14 sections, but they are not a classic political lobbying organization. What task has EUROSOLAR actually taken on?
EUROSOLAR has taken on the task of bringing the energy transformation close to citizens, of switching to solar, wind and water power in ways that help civic society. It is a decentralized organization that operates in different sections. We are a European association, but organized under German law, because there is no European association law yet. As soon as it exists, we will change to the European legal framework for our association structures. We are not an umbrella institution that operates hierarchically. The 14 associations depend on us, and we on them, since we have to approve them by board decisions, and they form part of our governance structure. They have to be independent tax-exempt, non-governmental organizations that operate according to the association laws in the respective countries. We are also not EU member state based. We are set up for the European continent: our sections range from the Netherlands to Russia and Georgia, and from Catalonia and Spain to Austria. And they are being operated there by interested scientists and other individuals engaged in all parts of the economy, a volunteer based system with small, very elegant and sparingly financed secretariats. We have our excellent headquarter in Bonn; we were founded there. We also have a small presence in Berlin. We really depend on two sources of financing as an association. One is the events we organize: conferences, seminars, publications, but also training events and prizes, solar prizes. The German solar prize, and the European solar prize are awarded every year. In return, we attract contributions from foundations and sometimes also charitably geared banks, which say to themselves: “Okay, we think that’s a good cause and we will support this for five years or so”. This provides us with half of our income. The other half comes from our very low membership fees. For someone under 23 years membership is only 25€ per year. For someone over 23 years it costs 65€ per year. This is a negligible amount for individuals, but helps us in two ways. On the one hand it finances our activity without generating surplus – as an association we are not allowed to do that. And secondly, active membership is an expression of the success of our work in activating the interest of citizens and their political and social commitment for the energy transition. This we need as the very foundation of a regenerative future. We hope that we can attract many more members. And so we have built new platforms, for example for a brand new European membership category: one doesn’t necessarily have to live in a country where there are sections. We only have 14 sections in 14 countries and there are 750 million Europeans. While we do not aim at 750 million members, we do want committed members throughout Europe. Our German section is the oldest and strongest: it focuses on advancing the energy transformation through the German political processes in in its many activities, actions and events, from the agricultural energy transformation seminars to public utilities conferences. I already mentioned the German Solar Prize. We also have a Solar City Symposium every year. We truly are open to ideas and requests from our fellow citizens and members. And I am also very proud that we are organized very horizontally, depending on individual initiatives. But also led by strong and motivated board members and boards of trustees.
Thus, EUROSOLAR is a huge network. The EUROSOLAR prizes are comparable with the Oscar in this field. These are the most important prizes that are awarded. It is a network of people committed to renewable energy and climate protection in the world. Why this is so important I can only convey to you in the following way. You will certainly receive many messages, many statements, which also contain the threat we talked about at the beginning of the program, repeatedly clear, again and again – but we all have seen many apocalyptic messages already. In my work and efforts investing into the energy system transformation, I have realized how urgent the problem really is. I have understood that we are at a point where people are in the process of eradicating themselves within a generation. It sounds apocalyptic, but it is not. It is a fact. We move ourselves on that path right now. To reinforce this, I would like to read another sentence from EUROSOLARs paper. It says: “At present, about 40 gigatons of oxygen are destroyed by fossil energy combustion every year”. We destroy the air we breathe, Mr. Droege.
Yes, on the one hand we destroy the oxygen. There is a measurable reduction of atmospheric oxygen each year, which seems relatively small due to the large volume of oxygen. In the oceans, the oxygen content decreases, too, and at the same time the atmospheric methane content increases. 40 percent of the methane can be directly traced back to fossil industries, natural gas, oil and so on. That is a huge amount of toxic emissions while we destroy incredible amounts of oxygen. You really have to let this sink in – and of course you then ask yourself how we can , with bold conviction, tackle the regenerative decade that has already begun. This is where we find ourselves now, with excitement, energy but also with determination and both policy and action demands.
This year in spring our German federal chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech and said: “It is serious!”. She meant the Corona crisis. All efforts to stop the corona spread go back to saving millions of lives, which is justified. But Mr. Droege, when you look at climate change, one has to say: this is even more serious than Corona. Because it really is about saving billions of lives. Saving the species. Is that so?
Yes, and it is I about saving ourselves. Corona is a major threat, but small compared to the climate danger. And this does not mean that it is just another threat. It is the same syndrome. We traverse the present pandemic without fully realizing that it is also a climate-triggered crisis. It is a result of globalization, a result of destroying nature, and of eradicating our own natural base which responds by releasing certain viruses. It is important that we interpret the sentence by Angela Merkel more broadly. Yes, it is serious! And hence the funds we are spending on the Corona crisis must also be used to solve the climate threat. That is to say, we do not have the means to spend this kind of money twice over. Every euro spent on the Corona stimulus and its measures must also serve the measurable and verifiable regenerative transformation of our economy. Otherwise this is an incredible waste of time, resources and also a waste of political capital. We cannot say next year: “And by the way, what we forgot to tell you is that climate change has continued unabated. Now we need so and so many billions of euros again”. This is not possible. We don’t have the time for this either, and we know that the financial commitments and capital flows that are useful for the Corona stimuli can also made to be useful in stabilizing the climate and regenerating our economy and society even more productively than convential systems support.
Mr. Droege, we started the show with huge amounts of methane on the seabed, detected in the Laptev Sea, which slowly seep towards the surface and into the atmosphere. We spoke about the permafrost thawing. We absolutely need to stop this, because if we are not, the CO2 emissions imitated by humans are almost a joke in comparison, right?
It is not a joke, but of course marginal compared to the risk of remobilizing 1400 gigatons of methane from the Arctic Ocean alone.
The regenerative decade has begun. I invite you to visit EUROSOLAR’s website. Have a look at the paper. It is available as a working paper. The link to this paper and to EUROSOLAR can be found in the description box of this YouTube-program. And Mr. Droege, you have the final word. To stop climate change, to create the renewable energy transformation, is a task of civil society and it is our most important task.
I would like to thank you very much for your attention and for your cooperation during this important, critical time. This is not just a marginal climate protection challenge, but has become the existential, central task and responsibility of all our governments and industries, and our leading personalities in the political arena. And only by focusing on this common macrosocial task for society can we master what we simply have to master. Thank you very much!
We are not becoming dystopian. The regenerative decade has begun. We will implement it, we will succeed. We are the energy transition! Good evening!
Watch the whole interview here: