UNEP’s Executive Director talks about the relevance of GLF in global environment policy. UNEP is among the Forum’s six core partners and has been supporting GLF from the start.

The closing plenary featured representatives from the Global Landscapes Forum’s founding and coordinating partners to share and discuss their visions and expectations for the future of the Forum over the next four years.The Forum is undergoing a transformation, from focusing on policy advice to implementing action on the ground and tracking progress toward new climate and development goals. Through scientific input, capacity-building programs, online engagement, thematic symposiums and global events, GLF aspires to introduce one billion people by 2020 to the landscape approach – and connect them in embracing it. The GLF is more than just a series of events: it is a dynamic platform with which diverse stakeholders can collaborate to create a more sustainable world.

Join the movement to reach 1 billion people: #ThinkLandscape


Thank you so much, Peter. Sorry to interrupt you so late in the afternoon. I hope you can still survive a few more minutes of talk.

I wanted to take this opportunity to speak about three of the most successful nations on the planet in the last 10 or 15 years. Indeed, some nations which have been successful for much longer. And it’s not China – three other nations.

Starting with Germany. The American magazine Time a few years back was ranking all nations in the world in accordance with their environmental performance, trying to get to number one out of 80-something. I don’t know who was at the bottom.

And they said Germany was number one. Then they added that maybe the situation of nature is better in some nations, like in my nation, Norway. But that’s because the Norwegians have been so lucky. They have a small population and huge land, so it’s not that difficult to take care of it.

But then Time added, when it comes to deliberate decisions to take care of the environment, no nation can compete with Germany. And I think they’re right. And you are adding to that now, with saying Germany will host the Global Landscapes Forum, do it in Bonn, and will do it for the next years to come. We will be very happy to partner with you, with CIFOR of course, but with everyone else, in getting the input and content into this process. But thank you so much for offering to host – it’s indeed good news.

And Germany is also a nation we can look to with great pleasure in so many other areas. You mentioned the fantastic river, the Rhine. That was one of the most polluted rivers on the planet if you go some decades back. Now it’s one of the cleanest rivers on the planet. I wouldn’t hesitate to drink from the Rhine if I’m visiting you in Bonn.

And what’s interesting here is, of course, has Germany become poorer from that? At the time a lot of people said, if you take care of the environment, it’s a huge cost. We cannot afford to do that. We were also told by some businesses in the United States of America, you will go bankrupt if you attack this problem. And remember there is also the issue of the acid rain. Again, they were told by some businesses that we cannot afford to do this.

Let’s learn from this. Climate is not a cost. Climate is an enormous business opportunity. Germany is much, much, much richer now. Every nation in the world is jealous of German export industries. And one reason why they’re jealous of you is that you have been able to turn that economic and environmental transformation of Germany into export products and prosperity.

So let’s learn from this. Climate and the environment are not costs. They are export and business opportunities, and Germany has shown the way in this area.

Then turning to another immensely successful nation in the last five years, and that’s maybe more difficult to comprehend, but that’s Côte d’Ivoire. Côte d’Ivoire went through a civil war and 3,000 people died. But they have stabilized their politics. They now have the most rapid economic development of any nation in Africa. Indeed, maybe the most rapid economic development of any nation in the world.

But Côte d’Ivoire also has enormous environment problems. Obviously a couple of months back I opened with the Minister of Environment a new national park very close to the capital, Abidjan. Beautiful, fantastic landscapes.

But of course there is a lot of poverty in Côte d’Ivoire and a lot of people have been removed because of the war. They need to settle somewhere and some of these people are encroaching upon the national parks. Which means less wildlife, which of course means fewer tourists, because many tourists come to a place like Côte d’Ivoire because they want to see the wildlife. They want to see the great apes, they want to see the elephants, and other big animals.

So then you have a negative in all directions. Even with this enormous economic growth, encroachment upon the national parks, destruction of wildlife, less tourists. But, at the same time, a very low productivity of agriculture which is driving this development. Because if you cannot feed your family from the farm, well what would you do? You will expand the land.

That happens everywhere in the world. If productivity is so low you cannot feed them from this plot, well I will try to get a new and bigger plot, and then I will maybe go into the national park. And of course it’s not an easy proposition for the government just to kick people out.

So I think what this example shows is how this new approach of looking into the landscapes in an integrated fashion is the right thing to do. Not separated into forest and agriculture. Not separated into climate and biodiversity. Let’s see this as one process. If we can invest in more productive agriculture, it’s more easy to keep people out of the national parks because they have somewhere else to go where they can make their income.

And you cannot just do one of these elements. You need to set that firm policy from the government, to make sure that the national parks are surviving. Otherwise you will not have tourists, you will not benefit economically, and they will destroy the wildlife. But you cannot do that unless you invest in agriculture. And the fortunate thing is of course that a number of private sector companies are now coming to invest in agriculture.

Cocoa is by far the most important product in Côte d’Ivoire. They are close to 50 per cent of the global market for cocoa. They are by far the biggest exporter of cocoa in the world. So companies like Mars, the big chocolate producer, are taking an interest in seeing how they can invest. Yara, the big fertilizer company, seeing how they can invest. And we can bring together private companies with the Government of Côte d’Ivoire into a holistic landscape policy, which over time will benefit all sectors of the nation.

Then moving onto an even bigger picture, which of course is Indonesia. One of the also most successful nations in the world in the last decade. People don’t really understand how successful Indonesia is.

The first time I was visiting Indonesia most people said this would be the new Balkans. This would be the nation disintegrating after the Suharto dictatorship into any number of small provinces fighting each other. At the time, there was civil war in Aceh, there was conflict in Sulawesi, you have the separation of East Timor. Basically, they had conflicts everywhere in Indonesia. It was a nation in deep, deep trouble.

In the last 15 years, it has been completely stabilized. There are no major conflicts any more. There has been rapid economic development and it has been one of the most democratic nations on the planet. And, by the way, with much, much fewer terrorists than any average European countries, being the biggest Muslim country on the planet. Huge achievements.

In the 1970s, the average life expectancy in Indonesia was below 45. Now it’s 72. All in one long generation. That is an enormous, enormous achievement. But, of course, then comes new challenges. And one of them is the enormous pressure on the forests of Indonesia, which have had a rapid deforestation rate, which is threatening a huge carbon footprint on the world – but which also is a threat to some of the most fantastic species on the planet. The orangutan, forest man, 98.5 per cent the same genes as Peter or Jochen or me. I mean, I’m not going to claim that you’re like the orangutan, but I know I’m so close to the orangutan.

It’s simply just a small, small part of the DNA which separates us. How can we be the generation which wipes out the orangutans from the world? Orangutans are in only two places – the Indonesian and Malaysian island of Borneo or Kalimantan, and in Sumatra. Nowhere else. It cannot live somewhere else. They can live in the south, but they cannot be exported to any other habitat on the planet.

Unless we – meaning we the global community supporting the people and leadership in Indonesia in protecting the forests of Indonesia – there will not be any orangutans for future generations on the planet to live with, explore, see the beauty of. It’s fantastic. If you have an opportunity, go and see them.

But of course, by extension, orangutan is the most spectacular animal but there’s also all the butterflies, the insects, the flowers, all the fantastic species of Indonesian rainforests.

The Indonesian Government is now more and more doing its part. Indonesian business is more and more doing its part. But unless you can also provide a livelihood for the small scale farmer in Indonesia, it’s hard to protect the forest.

The Indonesian Government needs to get its act right, which it is now doing, making the moratorium on peatlands which will make it impossible to destroy the peatlands. And making moratoriums on the forests, which makes it impossible to convert the forests. But it will be much easier to do that if, at the same time, you can invest in the small scale farmer so that you can feed the family from the land and you have bigger productivity.

That is why UN Environment with a number of partners, including big banks from Hong Kong, France, other places, have set up the Tropical Landscapes Investment Facility. Which has the aim of bringing the big private sector players into real contact with small scale farmers. And that’s not easy because the big banks do not do small programs. They will hardly loan me any money, and for sure not the small scale farmer in Kalimantan.

They want big projects. Small scale farmers need money to transform his or her land, to invest, so that the productivity goes up, so that you can feed your family better from the farm over some time. And you need long-term, not short-term, money to make that transformation. Many small scale farmers are doing palm oil. You need investment and it takes time. So, to bring together the big money with the small scale farmer is the trick here, and that’s what we want to achieve with this facility.

If successful, I think it will be replicated all over the planet. I’m just back from Colombia. President Santos in his comments said, oh, this is very interesting. If this works in Indonesia, why wouldn’t it work in Colombia? We have many of the same issues. Small scale farmers in the Amazon jungle and the Andes mountains.

So let’s do our utmost to make these a success in Indonesia and then I think many, many other parts of the world will want to replicate it.

To conclude, what is new in this process for me as an outsider is that, for the first time, we are really bringing together the different parts of what we need to do under the banner of landscapes. I started as an activist to protect the rainforest of the Amazon and later the rainforest of Indonesia. And at the time – not that long time back, just five or ten years back – we didn’t have this broad concept of landscapes. I think that’s immensely helpful and will make it very much more easy to both protect the forest and the agricultural land, all of this together, and protect the biodiversity and the climate through the same means.

And what is new is also we are bringing in the private sector in a new way. When we started the so-called REDD program, I think we did very well – we being the UN and the governments who were involved with this – in engaging governments. The Government of Brazil, the Government of Indonesia, they took the lead. But the private sector interest was limited at the time. And the UN did not really reach out to the private sector either.

All this is now changing. We realize that we need the big private sector, meaning the big banks and the big investors, and we need the small private sector – meaning the farmer on his or her land – and everything in between.

So thank you to all of you for making this transformation possible. I think we are now on the right track. As with every other climate issue, we have put the planet on the right track. We are moving in the right direction. Remind yourself that last year was the first year in human history that we invested more in solar and wind than we invested in oil and coal.

We are moving in the right direction on landscapes, on renewables, nearly every area – but we are moving too slowly. Change must speed up. Issues are urgent.

Finally, to cite one of my favorite politicians of all time, Mahatma Gandhi of India, who said it right for us when he said – and you may recall that Prime Minister Modi decided to ratify the Paris Agreement on Gandhi’s birthday. He said to us that we all should emulate the lifestyle of Gandhi. Well, that would be difficult for most of us, but still we may take a lot of inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi.

He said, we should be the change we want to see in this world. You, me, we, should be the change we want to see in this world. Thank you so much.

Erik Solheim – Closing Keynote GLF 2016 Marrakesh

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