Rebeca Grynspan: Ecology in the Post 2015 Development Agenda

May 27, 2013

Speech by Rebeca Grynspan, UNDP Associate Administrator and UN Under-Secretary-General, at the Trondheim Biodiversity Conference

Honorable Minister Solhjell, Norwegian Minister of the Environment;

Honorable President of the COP, Minister of Environment and Forests for India, Smt Jayanthi Natarajan;

Assistant Director-General, Fisheries and Aquaculture of FAO, Arni Mathiesen

Director, Division of Early Warning and Assessment of UNEP, Peter Gilruth

Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Braulio Ferreira de Souza;

Mayor of Trondheim, Rita Ottervik;

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to address you all at this Trondheim Conference.

I would like to begin by recognizing and thanking the Government of Norway for its leadership on the biodiversity and ecosystems agenda.

I also want to congratulate Norway – and in particular, Mr. Peter Schei – on the 20th anniversary of the seminal Trondheim Biodiversity Conference cohosted since then by Norway, UNEP and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. UNDP is pleased to join, together with FAO and the World Bank, as co-hosts of the 2013 Conference.

Norway’s commitment to multilateralism and engagement with the UN system has truly set a high bar for global partnerships. Norway has been also, and certainly it still is, one of the most longstanding supporters of UNDP’s Global Biodiversity Programme, for which we are deeply grateful.

It is also good to be here with UNEP, FAO and UNESCO, our valued partner agencies in supporting the newly established Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

As I said in Hyderabad last year, human survival and wellbeing depend upon biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, and the goods and services they provide. Yet, in recent decades, the world has experienced unprecedented biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, undermining the very foundations of life on Earth.

Rapid demographic changes, unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, combined with climate change, are pushing our planet to its limits.
More and more evidence points to the fact that unless we seriously address inequality and environmental sustainability, we won’t be able to replicate in the next 2 decades the progress we have been experiencing in Human development in the last 20 years.

In the Human Development Report of 2011 and 2013 we provide sound projections and scenarios that attest to these facts. For example, the Report points to the high cost of inaction: it predicts that an additional 3 billion people could live in extreme poverty by 2050 if the worst environmental scenario materializes including 1 billion more poor in Sub Saharan Africa and 1 billion in Asia where the number of people living in poverty would otherwise have been expected to decrease.

We also know that it is usually the poor and the vulnerable that are most affected, not only by recurrent and more severe natural disasters but also by ecosystems degradation. These ecosystems provide a safety net for 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty.

Biodiversity loss and ecosystems degradation are undermining hard-won development gains, taxing societies and saddling the international community with extremely high costs.

UNDP’s core mission is to contribute to the eradication of extreme poverty and the reduction of inequality and exclusion: if this is to be achieved, the integration of biodiversity and ecosystems management into the development and poverty reduction agenda is indispensable and needs to be promoted. In our daily work, we see the costs that biodiversity loss and degraded ecosystems have on development – be it on human health, on water and food or on jobs and livelihoods, also in conflict and security. Just yesterday I read in the IPS news the case of Kenya where agricultural water use is surpassing sustainable levels and adversely affecting food security, so biodiversity researchers are recommending promoting indigenous crop varieties that are more drought resistant: Agro diversity can help to solve the problem!

In Haiti, for instance, removal of all but the last 2% of the country’s forest has led to massive soil erosion, contributing to the situation in which Haiti now has to import around 60% of its food and floods are more and more devastating.

That is why in UNDP we are convinced of the need to build a shared vision and commitment to ‘Ecosystems and biodiversity for development’.

This new vision needs to look at the horizon, shifting away from practices that achieve relatively short-term economic growth at significant cost to long-term natural capital, towards practices that create more resilient societies and broader social and economic gains through the protection of ecological infrastructure and the restoration of natural ecosystems.

Shifting to new models of development is very challenging, we should not underestimate the effort, but maybe a good start is to focus more on the opportunities, what UNDP has called the triple win agenda, instead of only focusing on the tradeoffs.

If we focus on making wise and informed choices we can help accelerate economic and energy transformations, drive advances in technology, and spur the creation of new production models. It can drive the creation of new goods, services, jobs, and exports. It can create new opportunities for developing and developed countries alike. I believe here is where the opportunities for the future lie, where the sources of inclusive growth are to be found. Where else would they come from? Certainly not from a new wave of ilimited credit expansion and hopefully not from another housing bubble!

The good news is that solutions can be found in our nature and in human creative capacity.

The rapid technological innovation of the past century has shown that we have enormous abilities to find new approaches and solve problems, when this innovation is harnessed for developmental objectives that work for both the planet and its people.

The Equator Initiative – a programme supported by the Government of Norway as well as many of the organizations represented here today – is a testament to the spirit of ingenuity which so often is manifested at the local level.

Take, for instance, the 2012 Equator Prize winning “Biorock” a project from Bali, Indonesia. This was a response to the collapse of the local fishing industry as coral reefs were damaged by sedimentation, rising sea temperatures, and unsustainable fishing methods. The community has worked with the Global Coral Reef Initiative to create over 70 artificial “biorock” reefs, powered by wave and solar energy, which have successfully helped to restore fish stocks and marine biodiversity. At the same time, incomes from fishing have been rejuvenated, and jobs have been created in artificial reef building and scuba diving from around the world.

This is the kind of innovation and creativity which needs to be adapted, replicated, and scaled up to advance sustainable development around the world, and to enable nations to meet their commitments to the CBD.

With these challenges in mind, UNDP launched its Biodiversity and Ecosystems Global Framework as an important part of our development vision.

UNDP´s portfolio in this field is the largest in the UN system. It currently consists of projects in 146 countries worth US$ 1.5 billion, funded by the Global Environment Facility and other sources, and carried out in close and careful coordination with other relevant UN entities, particularly UNEP.

In our work, we constantly seek to design innovative nature-based solutions to current biodiversity challenges for the benefit of the poor.

For instance, through a UNDP-managed GEF Small Grants Programme-funded project in Niger, an invasive aquatic plant, damaging biodiversity, is being harvested by the community. The plant was also clogging irrigation systems, limiting navigation of the river and restricting access to local markets, but is now being cleared, dried, and converted into fuel briquettes. Not only do these serve as an alternative source of energy, but also provide a new and sustainable source of income for the poor, all at the same time as biodiversity is being protected.

Ladies and Gentlemen

As we embark upon the design of the post-2015 development agendaI find it very timely to be talking about the place of ecology in that agenda here at the Trondheim Biodiversity Conference.

After all, this is the conference that introduced the “ecosystems approach” and galvanized support for embedding environment and biodiversity into the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in 2002.

The CBD has prepared an excellent analysis for this Conference of various options for how biodiversity issues may be reflected in the design of the post 2015 agenda through the SDGs and building on the Millennium Development Goals.

To date, there has been significant progress on many of the MDGs – notably on poverty reduction, enrolment in primary school for girls and boys, access to improved water sources, reductions in malaria deaths and spread of TB, and increased access to HIV-AIDS treament. However, there are also targets on which progress has been disappointing or very uneven.

Specially those referring to gender equaliy and empowerment and to MDG 7 on environmental sustainability, where progress has been very uneven. On the positive side, considerable progress has been made on the drinking water target, over 98 per cent of ozone depleting substances has been phased out, and the coverage of protected areas has been expanded.

But, and this is a big BUT :

  • biodiversity loss and the rate of deforestation has continued;
  • There is slow progress on the expansion of marine protected areas,
  • We have failed to curb greenhouse gas emissions,
    And there is a disappointingly slow progress on improving sanitation.

Now, with less than 1,000 days remaining until their target date, achieving the MDGs remains our foremost responsibility. The more effort brought to this task, the more the world will have a post-2015 development agenda.

Commitment and ownership will be needed on the new agenda not only from governments, but from the private sector, civil society, and citizens at large.

This is why the UN is carrying out an unprecedented process of national (around 88 underway) and thematic consultations , as well as a global consultation through a virtual platform, the social media and the My World survey. The aim is to seek the views and engagement of as many citizens, civil society groups, businesses, and governments as possible. For the first time, we are having a GLOBAL conversation about our common future!

The initial consultations have fed into the work of the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, appointed by the UN Secretary-General, and due to report at the end of this week. The consultations will continue to feed into the Open Working Group on SDGs discussions.

Let just mention two relevant thematic consultation that have been carried out: one on energy that was co-convened by the Governments of Norway, Mexico, and Tanzania with regional consultations also in India, Cambodia, and the Arab states.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank each of the countries involved, particularly Norway and India here today, for their commitment to this process, which I know culminated in a very substantive High Level meeting hosted by Norway in Oslo in April. Also, the Governments of Costa Rica and France co-hosted in March this year another consultation on environmental sustainability that explored linkages between poverty eradication, equity, and environmental sustainability in the Post-2015 Global Development Agenda.

So far, over 560,000 people from 194 countries have participated and have voted for the issues that would make the most difference to their lives
"The Global Conversation Begins" report provides an analysis of preliminary findings from this massive survey. Participants believe overwhelmingly that sustainable development needs to be approached in an integrated way – addressing the economic, social, and environmental aspects simultaneously. Many submissions have stressed the importance of aaccountability, social justice and greater involvement of civil society in decisions about the use of natural resources. 

An analysis of 60 countries’ responses on SDGs places food security and sustainable agriculture top of the list, followed by water and sanitation, energy, education and poverty eradication. We know that biodiversity has a central role to play in most of these areas. Countries also recognized “biodiversity” itself as one of the top 20 priority areas.

There is an emerging consensus that we need one framework aimed at achieving poverty eradication within the context of sustainable development.

The challenge now will be to do all that without losing what made the MDGs successful: a very concrete, measurable, manageable, understandable and meaningful set of goals, with a monitoring and accountability framework that were able to unify and drive the action of all actors at the international and national level.

So, where do we go from here to influence the outcome?

We in this room represent a number of important constituencies working on Ecosystems and biodiversity issues. We know that protecting and managing the earth’s ecosystems and biodiversity is one of the most pressing issues of our times, and a central element of sustainable development.

Now we must ensure that the criticality of this is being actively championed as an important element of the post-2015 agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.

Therefore, as active participants in this global dialogue, I propose the following priorities:

First, we need progress on the development of indicators capable of reflecting and accounting for the contributions that biodiversity and ecosystems make to human wellbeing and development targets.

I look forward to learn in the course of this conference what the latest ideas and thinking are on this front.

Secondly, there is now an opportunity to consolidate key messages and common language about what you would like to see reflected in the post-2015 framework and the SDGs.

There are a lot of competing agendas around the post-2015 and SDG processes. A united front in terms of messaging and language is, therefore, needed for any agenda to be successful.

Third, it is important to continue shaping public opinion. Changing the development paradigm to reflect more deeply the value of the environment, and how it relates to development, is a communications exercise as much as it is a policy exercise.

I know many of you have trusted relationships with mainstream media, well developed social media networks, and effective communications mechanisms. Using these communications channels to activate and shape public opinion will be a necessary step in advancing this agenda.

Finally, another way to influence these processes is by empowering your respective constituencies to participate in the consultation process.

Many of you work with or run organizations that have substantial networks behind them, so we all have the duty to undertake outreach work and to mobilize these communities around this agenda.

Asking them to participate in the national and thematic consultations the UN is leading and to go to the web platform and join the conversation, building on the outcomes of this Conference.

The conversation has just started, and we can expect this work to continue way into 2015. Of course Member States are the main actors in this process, but it is critical that all stakeholders stay involved.
Let me conclude by stating again how energizing and exciting it is for me to be here at this opening of the 2013 Trondheim Biodiversity Conference.

I am inspired by the leadership and vision of the Government of Norway.

I am inspired by the leadership the Government of India is showing at the helm of the COP presidency.

And I am inspired by the commitment and dedication of so many around the world, and the tireless efforts of Governments, non-governmental organizations and UN bodies represented here.

Seeing all of this activity, and hearing from the distinguished speakers who have already addressed us this morning, give me real hope.

We are clearer about the challenges than ever before.

These couple of days together should give us clarity on how to work together to advance this agenda.

This conference has been catalytic in the past, giving needed momentum and insights at exactly the right time. Let us make sure it does so again this year as we place biodiversity firmly on the post-2015 agenda.

I thank you all.

UNDP Around the world