Peter Holmgren, Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), speaks at the high-level opening plenary session from the first day of the Global Landscapes Forum 2015, in Paris, France alongside COP21.

The session explores the investments into sustainable landscapes that countries and private actors have already committed to – as well as the areas in which we need to scale up efforts.

Saturday, 5 December 2015
Global Landscapes Forum, Paris, France
#GLFCOP21 #ThinkLandscape


Excellencies, colleagues, friends, family – thanks to all the partners again for all your excellent and hard work to make this happen. And special thanks to the French Government for hosting us.

We’re all here because we share an important insight. That is that many of the solutions to a better and more equitable world are found in the world’s landscapes. Why do we believe that? Let’s first take a look at the economics of landscapes.

Agricultural output is only three percent of the GDP worldwide, but that actually amounts to US $2.3 trillion and that’s growing $100 billion per year. Add to that forest products, add to that the service sector, mining, rural energy. Add to that the informal economy with non-marketed products and services. Forests and trees provide an important source of income for 1.3 billion people. Personal, internal remittances were over $300 billion in 2014. And, to add to that, domestic remittance is often to rural households.

So, clearly the landscape economy is huge and the investments in landscapes must be scaled up. And making those investments generate real returns will be crucial, so that we don’t see these as sunk costs. This is, of course, also the context where we look to climate finance to possibly contribute further.

So it’s fantastic that we have the climate agreement coming. Landscapes are of course at the center of the new climate agreement: one-third of the emissions and enormous adaptation needs. And we’re close now. We should be very grateful to the global leaders for their political courage.

Especially as landscapes are essential for achieving all – each and every one – of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that were agreed a few months ago. Poverty, food security, decent jobs, energy, water, equity, ecosystems. They all depend on how we realize opportunities in the world’s landscapes. It’s all about integration across these goals. It’s all about working across institutional and geographical boundaries. It’s all about the values that we attribute to landscapes.

Let me quote from his Holiness Pope Francis’ recent Encyclical Letter, On Care for our Common Home:

“Since everything is closely interrelated and today’s problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis, I suggest that we now consider some elements of an integral ecology one which clearly respects its human and social dimensions.”

Landscapes are about people, and their diversity of aspirations and goals, ownership of solutions, local accountability, modesty, respecting nature and each other, making progress, caring for the future. So, we all agree that landscapes are about integrated solutions. We need to take that to heart.

Talk about, what are those values? Beyond the economics and beyond fixing the climate, we must include non-monetized values of nature, ecosystems and life. We need to include spiritual, faith, cultural, social and family values. Which confirms the very basics of the landscape approach: to find good solutions, respecting diversity of values and priorities, considering all benefits of the landscapes: economic, ecological, atmospheric, environmental services, as well as livelihood, social and cultural.

It is complex but our future is worth the effort to truly consider all those values that our landscapes bring. Now, how can we at the Global Landscapes Forum take that forward?

We can make the landscape approach a bridge to holistic solutions. We can provide a spotlight on local opportunities. We can help with the methods, and that is how to work both theoretically and practically with all those different values. We can advance awareness and dialogue everywhere. We can provide a platform for advancing initiatives – and many of them are happening in these two days – relating to investments, to legislation, to capacity development. And, most of all, of course, we need to promote the science and research that provides such a huge part of the solutions.

So, it’s great to see all of you here. I leave you with one final thought, an old Greek proverb, a perspective of values and time that we foresters certainly appreciate. It goes like this, “Society grows great when old women and men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.”

Thank you.

2015 Global Landscapes Forum: Peter Holmgren – Opening Keynote

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