Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz called for the 2020s to become a decade of new beginnings, focused on peace, health and decarbonization, in a special address on Wednesday to business, government and civil society leaders taking part in the World Economic Forum’s virtual event, The Davos Agenda 2022.
In a wide-ranging speech that touched on the future of Europe, the COVID-19 pandemic and tackling climate change, Scholtz stressed the need for cooperation, working together and dialogue to overcome these shared challenges.
On Ukraine, Chancellor Scholz emphasized that Russia must respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Referring to intensive international negotiations he said that a quick resolution is unlikely. “It’s too early to say if the talks will de-escalate the situation,” he added. “Germany will continue to work closely with transatlantic allies to guarantee peace,” said Scholz. “After years of rising tensions, staying silent is not a sensible option.”
On the pandemic, he expressed optimism for the future. “Humans can cooperate in ways the virus can’t,” he said. “Scientists in Europe are learning and sharing with their counterparts in the United States, South Africa and elsewhere”. Pointing to the collaborative success of the mRNA vaccine technology, which began in Germany, he said the priority is now to work together to immunize the world.
Germany, he said, is doing its part. It is one of the founding members and the second-largest donor of the Country Coordinating Mechanism Access to COVID‑19 Tools Accelerator (ACT Accelerator), with most of this support going to COVAX, the international vaccine platform.
Scholz reiterated Germany’s commitment to net-carbon neutrality ahead of 2050 but acknowledged that Europe can’t solve the climate crisis alone. “To reach net neutral is a monumental task, but one we will achieve,” he said. “We will use the presidency of the G7 to move forward the decarbonization agenda. We will no longer wait for the slowest and most resistant.” He added that there are many opportunities, particularly in areas such as green hydrogen where emerging countries as producers can work symbiotically with industrial nations as consumers.
He said that this decade, the 2020s, “will become a decade of new beginnings”. However, he cautioned that progress is not an end in itself and that progress must address the concerns of all citizens. “We need not just more progress but better progress.”
In order to restore trust, Scholz emphasized the need for social justice, saying we must not allow short-term technological innovation and growth to be decoupled from long-term societal progress. Social justice and equal opportunity do not stand in the way of reforms – they are preconditions for the kind of transformation we need,” he said.
On the future of Europe, he said “our goal is a sovereign, strong Europe” – a Europe that lives according to its common values of peace, the rule of law and democracy.
“Some will try to tell us dialogue and compromise are forms of weakness. Some will try and pitch climate action against prosperity. Some will argue that social progress hampers economic growth. Some will try and divide us. The truth is the progress we want will only occur if we overcome these divisions. Working together is the only way and restoring trust is our goal,” he concluded.