Felipe Calderon – Closing Keynote: Financing sustainable landscapes

Felipe Calderon, Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate and former President of Mexico, delivers a keynote speech at the closing plenary on the second day of the Global Landscapes Forum 2014, in Lima, Peru, during COP20.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Global Landscapes Forum, Lima, Peru

#COP20GLF #ThinkLandscape

Felipe Calderon – Closing Keynote- Financing sustainable landscapes (Transcript)

FC:                      [0:24] Agriculture and land use, basically forests, are concerned with – represent one quarter of the problem. One quarter of the problem is solved if we solve that with food production and what we do with our forests. So, what’s happening? As the cities grow, as the population grows, according to the report, New Climate Economy, “Better Growth, Better Climate” – I really recommend you to read that. It’s in the New Climate Economy report page. We estimate that for 2050 we’ll have to produce 70 per cent more food in less farmland.

[1:15] And the key here is in finding several things. One, what obstacles do we have to overcome in order to reduce the emissions that come from deforestation and soil degradation? Another enormous obstacle is the type of policies that we still have on this planet. For example, Mexico, I remember that even in the ’80s, Mexico had a national commission on deforestation. It had its offices, its own equity, its bureaucracy. The mission of that government department was to cut down as many trees as possible. What happened? Okay, I’ll be quiet. Well, the whole point was to cut as many trees down as possible in order to extend agriculture. It was said that only pavements would not be  sown. All the forests had to be sown for agriculture.

[2:24] So all the politics in the world, in countries near here, we have agricultural policies, government policies, which is to increase the farm area every year at the cost of forests. And that’s deforestations. So, first of all, we’ve got to stop those policies which explicitly seek deforestation from the absurd idea that thinks natural resources are incident. Second, the type of policies that we have to change involve the policies which are contradictory. Well intentioned, but contradictory. For example, well those that stimulate, for example, and boost economic activity but end up deforesting forests. For example, there’s a beautiful view here, beautiful forest, summit, and I think there’s a cow or something there. I don’t know. But anyway, I’m sure a well intentioned government said, we’re going to help these poor people. This poor woman here can have some rest and we’re going to give them some support. We’re going to give them free water and food for the cow. And we’re going to give them calves and so on. And these subsidies for agriculture in high forested areas, what they do is stimulate extensive ranching, which is bringing to an end this forest.

[3:51] You can see the land is on a slope that’s going to erode soon. It’ll bring all the soil down with it. It’ll degrade further soil, and that’ll degrade this forest. What have we got to do? We’ve got stop these contradictory policies. In these areas, we cannot do extensive ranching. And that doesn’t mean that we can’t help this poor woman, like this indigenous woman. It means we’ve got to help them with different sorts of support, but not at the cost of destroying our natural resources. It means that we have to, for example, give them a payment for environmental services. It means that this woman – we could tell this woman that if she conserves this forested area, which is probably where her community lives anyway, she will earn constant, decent money. And that will give her more money than keeping one cow on one hectare. We’ve got to change our policies.

[4:39] And the third point has to do with the connection with the private sector. This is very important. The government also has to generate public policies to boost private investment around these areas. But lower down in the valley there could be intensive agriculture and intensive ranch – not extensive. There is technology now to produce much more meat using less resources and less water. And public policies have to give long term certainty to these companies. What is long term certainty? Well, there are a lot of companies that want to invest either in timber or in meat or agriculture. What do they need to be able to preserve the forest? They can have business and they can, at the same time, increase forests, which means they will be reducing GHG gases. The report of the New Climate Economy says a lot of what people say. We say, we can have economic growth and at the same time combat climate change.

[5:52] One of the further things is land use. How can we do this? Well, I’ll carry on with the same example. If, apart from having for example a program for environmental services so that this indigenous community doesn’t deforest this slope in order to have very unproductive cattle. If we pay them for preserving the forest and have  a rational forest use, it’s a plus for this community. And if in the valleys we can also have investors in agriculture or in palm oil in areas where they’re not deforesting – and that’s very important. It’s very important to see the Unilever initiative, for example. They are buying palm oil which only comes from certified plantations. They are not deforesting. That is a core change internationally, and we also have to say, what else does the private sector need to invest in the long term? The private sector or ordinary investors, the banks want to lend and businessmen want to make money.

[6:55] But they’re afraid that in two or three years, policies will change or the land will be taken from them or the government will change incentives, and their business will crash. They’re also afraid that uncertainty itself in that area can destroy and possible investment. For example, a forest plantation of cacao, coffee, paper or palm oil, has to be thought of in the long term. And in our countries, particularly the developing countries, we always think in the short term. And governments must establish long term public policy to boost green growth and maintain the forests. Then we’ll be winning. But we have to think – we need  clear policy. For example, the price or the carbon tax should be very clearly established in the world. There has to be a very clear message that anyone who pollutes will pay, and anyone who reduces or sequesters carbon will earn money.

[7:55] There has to be a policy, for example, in the development bank. I’ve worked for one in Mexico. I think instead of concentrating so much on looking for individual projects, the development banks must be guaranteeing or at least taking some of the risks of the future policies on. That’s one idea that I’ve had. If we have a project for the plantation, for example, and you have a rate of return of 15 or 20 per cent, of 15 for example. Then the government bank should loan. Or, instead of it lending money if it doesn’t have much, it should guarantee that rate of return will not be affected for sudden policy changes in the long term. And that can really boost investments, which they need so much.

[8:38] And so, in summary my friends, we believe that it is possible to combat climate change and also have economic growth. We don’t have to choose between creating jobs and combating climate change. We can do the two things. But we need public policies which enable people to take on the responsibility for the environment. And they do need something to back them.  So, if we say to the indigenous people, well don’t pollute anything but you’re going to have to starve to death, it won’t help. But if we can say, look, we can pay you to conserve the forest, then we will all be winning. It will be a win-win situation. Thank you very much.