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Chancellor at the European Sustainable Development Network

We must emerge from the pandemic stronger and more sustainable

Issues such as sustainability and climate action must not be forgotten, even in the face of the pandemic, declared Chancellor Angela Merkel at the virtual annual conference of the European Sustainable Development Network. We must "come out of the crisis more sustainable and thus stronger, so that we are better prepared to face future crises".

Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the annual conference of the European Sustainable Development Network (ESDN). At the annual conference of the European Sustainable Development Network, the Chancellor said that Europe must provide practical evidence that growth can be decoupled from emissions and resource consumption. Photo: Bundesregierung/Denzel

The implementation status of the 2030 Agenda must be seen critically, said Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, at the annual conference of the European Sustainable Development Network. In fact, the situation in terms of climate change mitigation, biodiversity and social inequality has become even more serious since the 2030 Agenda was adopted, the Chancellor pointed out in her address, which she gave via a video link.

To accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, the United Nations has declared a Decade of Action. The COVID-19 pandemic has now increased the pressure to act, in particular with respect to poverty reduction, food and nutrition security, education and health. "If we are going to make progress on all these fronts, we need to work together," said Angela Merkel.

The European Sustainable Development Network (ESDN) brings together representatives of public authorities in European states, international organisations, the science and research community, and civil society. All of them are responsible for issues relating to sustainable development and all of them are working for greater sustainability. Every year the ESDN stages a conference as well as special technical meetings and the European Sustainable Development Week.

Europe must be a trailblazer in the world

The European Green Deal is the key to making Europe a climate-neutral, sustainable continent, without encroaching on its ability to innovative or its competitiveness, stressed the Chancellor. The protection of vital resources is a major precondition for economic success. "Although that is only logical, it must become far more deeply engrained in our consciousness, and then become part of our everyday life."

That is why Europeans must act as trailblazers – Europe must lead the way as a role model. "We must provide practical evidence that growth can be decoupled from emissions and resource consumption," said the Chancellor. "Of course we Europeans are not fully responsible for climate change mitigation. But the way we deal with our responsibility will be closely observed in many other parts of the world."

This has not been made any easier by the COVID-19 pandemic, said Angela Merkel. But, she added, she also sees this as an opportunity to make new processes more sustainable, so that we can emerge stronger from the crisis.

This year’s annual conference of the European Sustainable Development Network is being hosted by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety as an online event, during Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

When it comes to sustainability, everybody must do their bit

"We must make progress on sustainability at every level," said the Chancellor. "In Germany, we base our actions on our National Sustainable Development Strategy, which we first produced 18 years ago, and which we have since regularly updated." Since 2016, this Strategy has also provided the framework for realising the 2030 Agenda in Germany.

"For every Sustainable Development Goal, we stipulate exactly what we aim to achieve and by when," explained Angela Merkel. "We review the situation regularly to see what has been achieved and to allow us to take corrective action in good time where this is necessary." Thus, the German government updates the National Sustainable Development Strategy and counts on the broad participation of industry, the science and research community, and civil society.

When it comes to sustainability, every one of us must do our bit, said the Chancellor. Sustainability cannot be decreed or imposed by law. "Every single one of us is called on to make the vision of sustainability their own." Sustainability must become a completely normal and accepted part of our daily lives.

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Oct 13, 2020