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Hon. Michael Kauch MdB

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Keynote speech

As delivered by the Hon. Michael Kauch MdB, Vice President of GLOBE International for Europe and FDP Environment Spokesperson in the Bundestag at the 1st GLOBE Natural Capital Summit

Ministers, Honourable Colleagues, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I welcome you to Germany and to the Bundestag on behalf of GLOBE. I am the Vice President of GLOBE International for the European Region and the President of GLOBE Europe and of GLOBE Germany. In the Bundestag I serve as the environment spokesperson for the FDP, one of the governing coalition parties.

Let me begin my intervention by speaking about the state of the political debate on biodiversity and natural capital in the German Parliament.

Germany has always been a progressive country in terms of legislation to protect nature and enable conservation but the funding level of specific habitat conservation projects has been traditionally too low. We have had an official biodiversity strategy since 2007. This was devised by the previous government and this is now not only implemented but also resourced – funds were recently replenished in line with the current level of financial resources available.

We have also now launched a Federal Biodiversity Programme. One part of the programme is particularly important because it deals with the key issue of a densely populated, developed country. This part is the so-called "federal programme for the re-linking of natural habitats". We have quite a few protected areas in Germany but these are a patchwork of areas that are separate from each other. For example, protected areas may be physically separated by transport networks or by settlements. Through this programme we are now working to reconnect natural habitats by building green corridors over and under highways and railways in order to link up all major wildlife areas in Germany. These infrastructures, which, I am sure, will become typical for developed and densely-populated countries, are a prime example of policies supporting natural capital.

The topic of natural capital is of outstanding importance particularly in terms of ecosystem services, which can be provided by many natural capital assets. Barry Gardiner has opened my eyes with his "bee example" from his time in the British government. The question was what it would cost to protect bees from diseases. I think it was about 6 million pounds. Crop losses in agriculture on the other hand, when those colonies were lost, added up to hundreds of millions of pounds. This example shows very well that not only the rainforest and its function for the climate is an ecosystem service, but also that very small things, things that you might not think of, perform a crucial function and have a value, they are natural capital.

As Minister Niebel has mentioned earlier in his keynote speech, we have begun the process to develop the Sustainable Development Goals. For Germany it is important that we discuss this subject together with the issue of poverty eradication and the Millennium Development Goals.

In the Bundestag, for the next week of session, the coalition parties have prepared a motion precisely on this issue. We are also motivated by the GLOBE Natural Capital Initiative, which emphasises the role of the natural capital approach in the measurement of national wealth, and, importantly, the role of parliaments. Internationally, we did not fully succeed in establishing the role of national legislators in the post-Rio process at the United Nations Summit last year. We now have to take this into our own hands, and I want to encourage you all to participate in these processes and demand from your governments to involve their parliaments, too. As elected representatives who enact domestic legislation we are best suited to transform the international consensus into reality through legislation, budget oversight and by holding executives to account.

Finally, I would like to highlight the importance of introducing Natural Capital Accounting. The valuation of natural capital can contribute to increase transparency and its introduction would improve awareness around many issues of sustainable development. But the crucial factor isthe political will. This afternoon we will have a debate in the Bundestag about the protection of the natural heritage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the local national Parliament is about to pass a law which legalises oil drilling inside national parks, including the Virunga National Park – which is where many gorillas live. This is not a question of Natural Capital Accounting. This is a question of common and basic political will. It should be known to everyone how important and valuable these natural reserves are.

In the Congo we observe what kinds of conflict arise around sustainable development. Once new economic potentials are discovered these should be then weighed against the interests of nature conservation. Natural Capital Accounting can help bring this balance into a different direction but ultimately political will is crucial. It is us parliamentarians who ultimately make those decisions. It is with that understanding in mind that we all realise why it is absolutely critical that we are gathered here today.