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UN development leader: Climate change undoing development gains

Former Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark calls for "strong political will and leadership".
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Former New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark: "The private sector must eliminate deforestation from its supply chains without delay."
Former New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark: “The private sector must eliminate deforestation from its supply chains without delay.”

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LIMA, Peru—Climate change is “undermining” the many gains made in the Millennium Development Goals, says the UN’s top development official, who added that sustainable landscapes are essential for climate change mitigation, adaptation and sustainable development overall.

“It is therefore encouraging to see that key elements of sustainable landscapes feature among the 17 goals and 169 targets proposed by the General Assembly’s Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals,” said Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). “These include the protection, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems; sustainable management of forests; reversing land degradation; and halting biodiversity loss.”

Speaking to more than 1,700 participants at the Global Landscapes Forum—organized by the Center for International Forestry Research on the sidelines of the UN climate talks in Lima—Clark called on developing forest countries to make stronger efforts at mitigating climate change and reducing deforestation, including land-use reform.  “This will take strong political will and leadership, and the broader international community needs to support these efforts,” she said.

But Clark also urged advanced economies to make good on large-scale forest-protection incentives. “2014 was the year in which many in the private sector stepped up to tackle deforestation,” she said. “2015 needs to be the year when governments step up to deliver on the promise of REDD+, on the design of which they have worked so hard over the last seven years.”

Clark also called on the private sector to eliminate deforestation from its supply chains “without delay.”

Watch Clark’s speech, above, or read the edited transcript, below.

Transcript of Helen Clark’s speech:

I thank the organizers of the Global Landscapes Forum—the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), UNEP, FAO, and Peru’s Ministries of the Environment and Agriculture—for inviting me to speak this morning.

The focus of this Forum is of high relevance to the global effort to tackle climate change, and to achieve sustainable development overall.

The world has witnessed significant progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which were launched at the beginning of this century, including on some of the environmental targets set in the MDGs.

The goal of halving poverty has been met five years ahead of schedule; on average around the world, gender parity in primary education has been achieved and most children now enroll in a primary school; and levels of infant and child mortality have decreased significantly. Advances have been made in the fight against HIV, malaria, and TB.

On MDG7 on ensuring environmental sustainability, the target of halving the proportion of people without access to improved sources of water was met five years ahead of schedule. The coverage of protected areas is growing—it now stands at 14.6 percent of terrestrial areas and 9.7 percent of coastal marine areas worldwide. This helps safeguard biodiversity and the essential services our planet’s natural ecosystems provide. As well, since the adoption of the Montreal Protocol, there has been a reduction of over 98 percent in the consumption of ozone-depleting substances.

Climate change is undermining the gains made, with the poorest and most vulnerable people most exposed to the more frequent and severe droughts and major storms which our world is experiencing

Helen Clark

Yet, climate change is undermining the gains made, with the poorest and most vulnerable people most exposed to the more frequent and severe droughts and major storms which our world is experiencing.

With nearly one-third of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions coming from farming, forestry and livestock production, achieving sustainable landscapes is critical to climate change mitigation.

Sustainable landscapes are also essential for climate change adaptation and for sustainable development in general, as they safeguard and deliver a wide range of social, cultural, environmental, and economic benefits—including water and energy which underpin food security.

It is therefore encouraging to see that key elements of sustainable landscapes feature among the 17 goals and 169 targets proposed by the General Assembly’s Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals. These include the protection, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems; sustainable management of forests; reversing land degradation; and halting biodiversity loss.

At the Climate Summit in New York hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in September, sustainable agriculture and forest protection were recognized as critical components of the fight against climate change. The clear message was that without decisive action on land use, through sustainable agriculture and efforts to curb deforestation and restore forests, global warming will not be limited to 2 degrees Celsius.

The good news is that a wide range of stakeholders came together at the September Climate Summit to back the New York Declaration on Forests, and to make specific and ambitious commitments to action on forest protection.

I wish to acknowledge Paul Polman, Unilever’s CEO, and other CEOs in the private sector, whose remarkable leadership on land-use and forests has been a ‘game changer’ in this area.

If the commitments made in the [New York Declaration on Forests] are met, they would produce emission reductions equivalent to removing all the cars currently on the world’s roads

Helen Clark

The New York Declaration on Forests has been cited as “the key outcome of the Climate Summit”—175 entities, including developing and developed countries, states and provinces; major companies; indigenous leaders; and civil society organizations committed to halving deforestation by 2020, and to ending it by 2030. They also committed to restoring 350 million hectares of forests—an area roughly equivalent to the size of India. Governments who endorsed the Declaration committed to “Support and help meet the private sector goal of eliminating deforestation from the production of agricultural commodities such as palm oil, soy, paper and beef products by no later than 2020, recognizing that many companies have even more ambitious targets.”

If the commitments made in the Declaration are met, they would produce emission reductions equivalent to removing all the cars currently on the world’s roads.

In the past year, a number of forest countries have made substantial progress on developing and implementing their forest strategies, and their actions are increasingly supported by international finance. As well, parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) concluded the Warsaw Framework on REDD+; and more than 50 major companies have made substantial commitments to eliminating deforestation from their supply chains.

At the Climate Summit, leaders from various sectors built upon that progress by coming forward with individual and collective commitments to bring about change.

• Private sector leaders set out what their sectors can contribute to stopping deforestation, and what would help them to do that. Companies made new and expanded commitments on achieving deforestation-free supply chains.

• Forest countries committed to reduce deforestation and/or restore degraded lands.

• A number of donor countries voiced their support for the inclusion of REDD+ in the new global climate change agreement which is to enter into force by 2020. Germany, Norway, and the United Kingdom jointly committed to scaling up results-based finance for REDD+, beginning with funding for 20 major new programs by 2016.

• Several of the largest forest commodity-importing countries committed to new procurement policies which encourage deforestation-free supply chains.

• The Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force, a grouping of 26 states and provinces covering a quarter of all tropical forests, committed to reducing deforestation in their jurisdictions by eighty percent by 2020 if supported by large-scale results-based payments.

At the Summit, the critical role of indigenous peoples in forest protection was fully recognized. A global coalition of indigenous peoples pledged to put their weight behind the protection of hundreds of millions of hectares of tropical forests across the Amazon and Congo Basins, Indonesia, and Mesoamerica in the service of climate mitigation and adaptation.

Developing forest countries can put forward nationally determined mitigation contributions which include ambitious goals and policies to reduce forest loss and increase reforestation

Helen Clark

While much work remains to be done, the strong expressions of action and cooperation on forests at the Climate Summit was inspirational. The spirit of partnership shown in reaching the New York Declaration on Forests bodes well for continued progress, and it must be nurtured if our forests are to survive.

The progress made over the past year gives a clear sense of the steps which need to be taken on forest issues between now and next year’s Paris UNFCCC Conference of Parties:

1. Developing forest countries can put forward nationally determined mitigation contributions which include ambitious goals and policies to reduce forest loss and increase reforestation. They could identify how much they can achieve unilaterally, and how much more they could achieve with international support. They should continue to implement and enforce land use reforms which will enable them to develop without destroying forests. This will take strong political will and leadership, and the broader international community needs to support these efforts.

2. Advanced economies must deliver large scale economic incentives for forest protection, particularly through REDD+, in the context of the new climate agreement. 2014 was the year in which many in the private sector stepped up to tackle deforestation. 2015 needs to be the year when governments step up to deliver on the promise of REDD+, on the design of which they have worked so hard over the last seven years.

The private sector must eliminate deforestation from its supply chains without delay. This means expanding existing sustainability commitments to cover a wider range of commodities

Helen Clark

3. The private sector must eliminate deforestation from its supply chains without delay. This means expanding existing sustainability commitments to cover a wider range of commodities, and bringing more companies in both developed and developing countries on board.

4. Indigenous peoples must be empowered to continue to play their vital role in protecting forests. Governments must formalize and protect their rights, and the private sector must respect their right to give or withhold free, prior and informed consent. We must see conflicts resolved in a manner consistent with good governance, equity, and respect for human rights.

The UN system is deeply committed to building on the progress of the past year, and to advancing the forests and landscape agendas—in particular through its mandate to support developing countries.

At UNDP, we will work closely with our UN partners in the UN-REDD Program—FAO and UNEP, as well as with the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility. We will continue working with Paul Polman and others in the powerful multi-sectoral coalition which came together for the Climate Summit. We want to help build on the momentum of the New York Declaration on Forests, and to carry the strong partnerships formed around it through to the Paris COP and beyond.

Let me conclude by emphasizing what we all know: that a 2-degree climate change scenario is not possible without making real progress on sustainable landscapes, including forests.

The co-operation and commitment of leading actors represented here at this Forum is so critical for success. At UNDP we are pleased to be a partner with you on this journey.

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Topic(s) :   REDD+ Restoration Peruvian Amazon SDGs
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