Deputy Executive Director of UNEP, Ibrahim Thiaw, speaks in this opening plenary from the second day of the Global Landscapes Forum 2014, in Lima, Peru, during COP20. In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals will replace the Millennium Development Goals. At the UNFCCC COP21 in Paris, international leaders are expected to reach a new climate agreement as successor to the Kyoto Protocol. This panel discusses how the new climate and development agendas will offer unprecedented opportunities for a number of sectors to jointly support healthy and sustainable landscapes.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Global Landscapes Forum, Lima, Peru

#COP20GLF #ThinkLandscape

Ibrahim Thiaw – Opening Address: Landscapes for climate and development (Transcript)

also at UNEP

Ladies and gentlemen,

At the outset, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Government of Peru for their excellent hospitality and for hosting us here in their lovely capital, Lima. For UNEP, it has been a pleasure to coordinate and work with so many renowned institutions and entities that have been involved in the Global Landscapes Forum. With almost 100 distinguishes entities connected to the Global Landscapes Forum, it is difficult to thank each and every institution individually and so I would like to say thank you to everyone ? thank you to all of you who have been supportive and active in making this such a remarkable and successful forum! Muchas Gracias!

Ladies and gentlemen,

I hope you had a good rest last night, following an exciting first day of Global Landscapes Forum yesterday. Personally, I was woken up by an early morning phone call from my elder sister, Amina.

Amina, a farmer, lives in her native village in West Africa. While she heard about the Lima Conference, Amina’s call was not to enquiry about the status of the climate negotiations.

Instead, she wanted to share with me some news. They are affected again, not by floods as was the case last year, but by a severe drought. Food production, she said, has gone down compared to average. Fishermen find it hard to catch fish. Herders have to cross political borders for transhumance. It is only hundreds of kilometers further south that grass can be found to feed animals. Not unexpectedly, some children will drop out of schools, families will again be dislocated and women, often young and inexperienced, will be left as heads of household.

Luckily, Amina has a couple of hectares of irrigated land where she practices some gardening essentially for self-consumption.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We live on a cultivated planet. Human driven changes to the Earth’s system are now so great, rapid and distinct that they may even characterise an entirely new geological time ? the Anthropocene. Our influence as humans extends into the farthest corners of the globe, making it clearer than ever that humans are part of nature, and that humans are in fact a dominant force in nature. In this context, it is essential that we understand our natural surroundings from a perspective of our own role and responsibility. This is why the term ‘landscape’ is important.

A ‘landscape’ does not have a simple, one-size-fits-all definition. A “landscape”” means different things to different people, but the common feature of  “landscape” everywhere, and the reason why we believe the term is highly useful for policy debate, is that it indicates the  key role of humans in ‘shaping’ the land. A landscape is defined by the needs and responsibilities of the people living in it.

Adopting a landscape approach in policy making can help us to better analyze and assess the trade-offs between different forms of land-use, and to make decisions that are just, and environmentally and economically sound. To give one example, in Kenya, where I live, the tea growers at the foot of Mau Forest benefit from the continuous flow of clean water from the forest catchment area further up the hill, and any decision to clear forests on the hill-sides will have an impact on the stakeholders further down in the valley. The landscape in this example is the entire mountain ecosystem and land-use decisions in one area have impacts on the livelihoods and well-being in another area.

Understanding these linkages across the landscape and designing policy responses that ensure sustainable development is a defining issue of our time. New policy responses are needed to ensure water, food and energy security, biodiversity, and climate change mitigation and adaption. You, the people in this room, are the ambassadors and champions for the new and more holistic policy responses that are required.

Landscapes are also heavily influenced by policy decisions in other locations. Urban centres are usually at the forefront of policy makers’ minds. The landscapes where most of our food is grown and which supply most of our cities’ everyday needs are often only an afterthought in national policy debates. However, it is possible to design national policy and incentive systems in a way that is not only socially just but also reduces ecological risk. Development policies can be resource efficient and low in carbon emissions, while at the same time building natural capital that characterize functioning and productive landscapes. In other words, you can have your cake and eat it too!

Indeed, the transition to a Green Economy is in full swing globally. It might not always be visible, but the investment decisions into energy, transport infrastructure and cities, and in the way we produce food, are all evolving rapidly. Agriculture and forestry can be on the forefront of the Green Economy transition, because they are inherently ‘green’ and they have a large potential for reducing current greenhouse gas emissions and to re-build essential natural capital in every country.

The Global Landscapes Forum 2014 can provide us with ideas, inspiration and knowledge we need to fight for this change and for the future we want ? a world which respects human dignity and where Amina, her children and grandchildren live in harmony with nature. A safer world where Amina and her children are able to build more resilient landscapes.


Thank you.

Ibrahim Thiaw – Opening Address: Landscapes for climate and development

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