It is a pleasure for me to be here today at the Youth Climate Change Festival. This event is part of the so called "Climate Diplomacy Week" in which EU Delegations and Embassies of EU Member States around the world have been supporting events to promote dialogue on climate change and to inspire further action.
The effects of climate change are evident in Botswana and all around the globe with increasing drought periods, sea level rising and extreme weather events. Climate change is an existential threat which requires a collective response. The EU wants to stand together with all its partners at this important crossroad and this is why we are here today. I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Government of Botswana for standing at our side today, the University of Botswana for hosting us at this nice location and last but not least BCCN – Botswana Climate Change Network for the arrangements and for your everlasting engagement for climate.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have no time to lose… We know that climate change has a devastating impact on biodiversity, water resources and agriculture. And it leads to extreme weather events such as droughts and floods. This has serious implications for people’s livelihoods across the globe – sparing no country, from the Arctic region to small islands in our oceans, and with the poorest and the most vulnerable people being the most affected.
As we speak now, Botswana is going through one of the worst droughts in the history of the country. This drought will have significant effects on the agricultural sector in the country. You will also remember the recent cyclones that hit the SADC region leading to serious lack of food in some countries such as Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Climate change could be the biggest risk to economic growth in Africa. This is why it is 'all hands on the deck' for everyone!
The international community has set out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels. This plan is called the Paris Agreement on climate change, made in 2015 – but that you knew already...
However, recent indications are that we are headed for a much higher temperature increase. The current climate plans put forward by countries are estimated to take us to a rise between 2.7 and 3.4°C. I was happy to see that at the United Nations Climate Summit, which took place at the end of September in New York, countries showed greater ambition towards achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement. This will also help us reach the famous Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I urge young people to familiarize themselves with these important processes and so that you can engage more effectively with the leadership, from a position of knowledge and conviction.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
For us at the EU this is time for action at all levels. The European Union and its new leadership has established climate change as a top priority for the EU, promising to deliver a European Green Deal to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. We are determined to raise global ambitions and we have announced that at least 25% of the next EU budget will be devoted to climate-related activities. And our Member States, like France, Germany and the UK have made similar commitments.
According to the new Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen "Protecting our planet and our shared environment is our generation's defining task”.
The Green Deal is not only good for Europe but also for the rest of the world and the EU will continue to support the Paris Agreement and reaffirm its commitment to it the essential multilateral framework governing global action to deal with climate change.
Here in Southern Africa, the EU will be promoting climate action through SADC and we just signed two climate-related programmes worth almost 200 million Pula.
We are supporting activities in Botswana that promote effective communication of climate change. I want to tell you that there is a “Youth climate change competition” that has recently been launched inviting young people to propose innovative ideas for mitigation and/or adaptation to climate change. The wining ideas will be announced at the end of this month and will receive nice prizes. Please look at our Facebook page for more information.
The EU has been in the front line of climate action and is keen to promote a learning dialogue and build support for the structural change necessary for the transition to low-emission, climate-resilient societies, particularly among younger generations whose futures are the most threatened by climate change. Therefore the theme of Climate Diplomacy Weeks in 2019 is very fitting "Integrating Youth in Climate Change Agenda".
The idea of youth climate change festival is a good one as it promotes youth’s active and constructive engagement in climate action. Nobody has done more to remind us of our responsibility in this regard than the young Swedish woman Greta Thunberg who keeps pushing world leaders to take more urgent action in order not to fail our young people. This kind of forward thinking mentality should be a source of motivation for the youth. And perhaps there is a Motswana Greta in this room – or many…? There is a growing awareness in our societies that climate change is a reality already today – and you can spearhead this movement.
With this event today, the nation should hope to gain feedback and ideas from the youth on how to get citizens involved in the necessary efforts and how to build on their ideas. You should make your voices heard! And the Government is here to listen!
I understand that in addition to the discussions to be had today there are young people who are here to show practical examples of climate action in terms of energy choices, food, waste, electrical gadgets, and others. And this is very important because we all have an individual responsibility. We can all contribute to reducing the negative effects of climate change on our planet through the decisions we make in life: from what we eat to what we wear, the energy we use, and our choice of transport; the list is endless.
I sincerely believe that you will use this opportunity today to explore amongst yourselves how the current lifestyle has an impact on climate change and how you can foster positive changes in your communities and the broader society. Your choices as consumers of various goods and service will influence the future, so your attitudes today are crucial for a change of mindset in the entire society.
In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen, the climate clock is ticking, now is the time for climate action – in Botswana, in Africa all around the world. Let’s work together and let’s start with ourselves and our individual responsibility, what can we do to contribute – can you leave the car at home and bicycle to work? I do that every day! So it is possible. I bicycled here today! Do you make sure to turn off the air condition when we leave home or offices; instead of plastic bags and bottles that you use only once and throw away, could you opt for other materials that make it possible to practice the '3 Rs' of Environmental responsibility – REDUCE, RE-USE and RECYCLE?
Thank you all for your attention and lets all green our world!