Director of the Government of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, Per Pharo, 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
Per Pharo – Closing Keynote- From here to Paris (Transcript)
KB: [0:03] Different types of stakeholders coming together in partnership with one another – the private sector, NGO sector, governments. How does that work together in accomplishing this very important vision?
PP: [0:22] Minister, dear friends, funnily enough the question matches my manuscript. It’s good to see so many committed people in one room together. We have come very far in a fairly short time. We should remember that in Kyoto, less than two decades ago, there was no room for tropical forests on the UNFCCC. In Bali only seven years ago, we first committed seriously to dealing with deforestation as part of our collective response to climate change. Last year, in Warsaw, we completed the normative and methodological framework for REDD+. From an international negotiating standpoint, we have been moving with the speed of light.
[1:10] 10 years ago, deforestation in Brazilian Amazon peaked at close to 25,000 square kilometers. A few days ago, initial numbers from Brazil’s space agency indicated that the forests here, 2014 would see the second lowest deforestation rate ever measured. Around 80 per cent lower than 10 years ago. Though there are no final answers in this game, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon seems to have stabilized at a level not dreamt of a decade ago. And I think I can add, no one – no one predicted that this would happen. I’m not sure we really have collectively appreciated fully the magnitude of this feat.
[1:55] In Kyoto and for a decade thereafter, the methodological challenges in measuring greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation were deemed insurmountable. Now Brazil and Guyana, and many other tropical forest countries as well, have developed national institutions that have the capability to do so – and do so with credibility. In parallel, instruments like Word Resources Institute or Global Forest Watch are turning detailed knowledge of deforestation into publically available information.
[2:28] For decades, debates over whether and how to reduce deforestation and forest degradation tended to focus on a perceived conflict between development and environment. Today, the evidence rejects that dichotomy, and rejects it firmly. The New Climate Economy report convincingly argues that there is a win-win opportunity here which we can realize if we act with determination and in concert. Until quite recently, the frontlines of the battle over deforestation were clearly and predictably drawn. Governments in the south argued for the right to exploit their natural resources. Governments in the north sometimes protested with little conviction and did little to support an alternative approach. And allowed their imports to be a key driver of deforestation. Companies went about their business of making money with little time for those urging them to consider their environmental footprint. NGOs launched campaigns protesting the devastation and ran small scale projects to prove alternative concepts with minimal effect on the problem at large. Indigenous people suffered mostly in silence with little opportunity to influence or even opine on the decisions so fundamentally affecting their way of life.
[3:49] Today, responsible companies throughout the tropics are working closely with civil society actors like Greenpeace and the Forest Trust to remove deforestation from their supply chains. The Soy Moratorium in Brazil has been an incredible model. Over the last year, following the lead of palm oil trade giant Wilmar, as of now over 90 per cent of palm oil trade is covered by zero deforestation pledges far more ambitious than anything envisioned just a couple of years ago. Implementation will be hard, but this trend is cause for celebration. Tropical forest countries, meanwhile, are taking the lead. Brazil remains the most impressive example, but there are many others in Latin America, in Asia, and in Africa. Ethiopia under its Climate Resilient Green Economy strategy is committed to reaching middle income status by 2025 without increasing its greenhouse gas emissions. Considering that those emissions are among the lowest in the world per capita, that’s quite impressive. And land use transformation is an essential part of their story.
[4:57] Importantly as well, these trends of private, public and civil society changes are coming together. Liberia has committed to reducing deforestation and forest degradation while leveraging private companies that have committed to deforestation free supply chains to help build their agricultural sector without driving deforestation. In Indonesia, most of the private sector was profoundly skeptical when then-President Yudhoyono in 2010 entered a climate and forest partnership with Norway. Today, as the same companies are working hard to implement zero deforestation policies, they are increasingly articulating their dependence on public policy action on deforestation for lasting success to be possible. The Tropical Forest Alliance, thanks to the leadership of companies like Nestle, Unilever, the Consumer Goods Forum, and the United States government provides a global platform for this public-private collaboration.
[5:56] Indigenous peoples’ groups and other forest communities, meanwhile, while still often marginalized, can take hope at quite a number of encouraging signs – in Indonesia, in Brazil. And the governments of our hosts here in Lima committed at the UN Climate Summit in September to step change in their efforts to grant indigenous peoples’ groups increased to their traditional lands, and participation in processes affecting them. So there are many bright spots, and remarkable development, over the last decade. Even so, the hardest part lies ahead. And from that perspective, the greatest cause for optimism may not be what has been achieved, but the alliances that are taking shape. Countries, companies, civil society organizations, and forest communities are coming together over a shared vision of robust deforestation free economic development.
[6:52] Their vision is laid out in the New York Declaration on Forests, and what it offers is a win-win proposition of a better future where economic and environmental objectives are reconciled. Natural forests will be preserved. Degraded forests and degraded agricultural land will be restored. Agricultural productivity will be increased without further deforestation. As importantly, the declaration also lays out the commitments necessary to get there. And those commitments are interdependent. If we all do what we should, we all benefit. If some of us don’t, we all stand to lose. Therefore, in 2015 we need to see delivery on those commitments, and we need to see delivery in a balanced way.
[7:37] First, while the private sector has made remarkable commitments over the last year, the example of Cargill who at the UN Climate Change Summit in September promised to go deforestation free in all its supply chains needs to be emulated by others. And implementation needs to be as bold and determined as the commitments themselves. Second, forest country governments need to design and implement the policies and measures that will bring deforestation and forest degradation down, and forest restoration up. Third, of particular importance in the run up to Paris, partner countries, developed countries, and others that want to contribute need to demonstrate how they will deliver. In the words of the Potsdam Statement committed to by developed countries six years ago, adequate, predictable, sustainable payments for forest countries will result in reducing forest emissions. This is crucial.
[8:33]Fourth, civil society must continue to engage constructively with us all, and keep us all to account. Last, but not – far from – least, indigenous peoples’ groups should continue their proud tradition of being the best guardians of the forests. If we can bring these commitments together, we can create an incredibly powerful dynamic for change. While we all have to contribute, this battle will be won or loss on the territory of developing forest countries governments. Thus, those governments have to leave the battle and their sovereignty has to be fully respected. If we succeed, the benefits in terms of robust and last economic growth, climate change mitigation and adaptation, livelihoods and rights of indigenous peoples and other forest communities, and biodiversity and other ecosystem services will be invaluable.
[9:24] 2015 could be the year when this vision comes alive for real. I’m looking forward to seeing you all again in Paris, having done your part to make it happen. Thank you.