If we commit to forest goals, ncluding restoring 150 million hectares of forests by 2020 and another 200 million by 2030, or protecting forests, and of practicing sustainable management, we will offset the carbon emissions of more than one billion vehicles. Credit:UNDP.


As prepared for delivery.

I am pleased to welcome you to this high-level panel on nature-based solutions to climate change, an event hosted by UNDP and IUCN. 

We are meeting here in Bonn at a time when profound changes are happening to the natural world – we have lost 10% of all wilderness – an area half the size of the Amazon, just in the last two decades. Much of this loss has been in forests – we lose 13 million hectares of forest a day with profound and irreversible losses in biodiversity and accelerated greenhouse gas emissions. Many scientists believe that we are in the beginning of the 6th mass extinction. These changes also have profound consequences on our climate, and compromise our ability to navigate the next century. 

At the same time, we face immense social and economic challenges in achieving a just and equitable future, with 80% of humanity living under $10 a day, 10 percent without access to clean water, and great wealth inequities.  We need to harness nature’s power for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

The case for inclusive, socially-just nature-based solutions to climate change 

The Preamble of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development emphasizes that the SDGs “are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental.” This means that we must learn to decouple economic progress from environmental degradation including climate change, a radical departure from business as usual over the past century. Nature-based solutions provide us with a clear pathway. It also means that we must recognize the multiple benefits of nature, including climate benefits, into our everyday decisions.

In 2010, UNDP and IUCN jointly launched a publication with the World Bank, WWF, WCS and The Nature Conservancy on “Natural Solutions: Protected Areas Helping People Cope with Climate Change” which made the case for the critical role of protected areas for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Now more than ever, we need to look to nature-based solutions to tackle the challenges of climate change. If we commit to forest goals, such as those of the New York Declaration on Forests, including restoring 150 million hectares of forests by 2020 and another 200 million by 2030, or protecting forests, and of practicing sustainable management, we will offset the carbon emissions of more than one billion vehicles – the total sum of every car, truck and bus on earth. Forests can offset up to a third of our carbon emissions. Put simply, we cannot achieve our climate goals without forests.

The estimated full value of nature to global GDP is somewhere between 75 and 125 trillion dollars , on a par with global GDP itself, which is about 80 trillion dollars. The costs to sustain biodiversity and ecosystems are a miniscule fraction of this – between 150 and 440 billion dollars annually . Yet today we invest only a tiny fraction of that amount in biodiversity, or around $50 billion dollars globally every year. Moreover, a recent assessment of the New York Declaration on Forests found that only 2% of climate finance focuses on forests.

We know that investing in nature, and particularly in forests, is a smart choice to reach the Paris Agreement targets. If we are to scale up nature-based solutions, we must substantially increase finance towards this aim. 

Private finance, in the form of impact investments, green and blue bonds, venture philanthropy and blended finance will be critical. An annual survey conducted by the Global Impact Investing Network found that investors planned to invest more than 77 billion dollars in impact investing, using the SDGs as a guiding framework. It is up to the global community to show how investing in nature can yield multiple development dividends. 

At UNDP, we view nature as a solution to some of our most intractable global challenges, including climate change. Reflecting this, we have already made a substantial investment in nature-based solutions in our work with partners around the world.

Overall, we currently support around 400 biodiversity conservation and ecosystem management projects in 130 countries with $1.6 billion in grant and $ 5.1 billion in co-financing.  An important part of this work is to demonstrate nature-based solutions in climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. 

A good example is our Clima East Programme, which, with funding from EC and co-financing from UNDP and GEF, has helped 7 countries (Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia) avoid carbon emissions from 71,941 ha of land by restoration. GHGs equivalent to 132 million tonnes of CO2 are projected to be sequestered or avoided over the 20-year period after the Programme’s completion through protection of peatlands, pastures, and forests and permafrost. 

We have also supported small grants on nature-based solutions to more than 15,000 communities around the world. These activities also address societal challenges while yielding biodiversity and climate change mitigation and adaptation benefits. Such solutions provide us with a clear pathway toward achieving the SDGs in an integrated, just manner.

UNDP’s and IUCN as strategic partners to promote nature-based solutions to address climate change

IUCN and UNDP are “natural allies for natural solutions”. The two organisations can bring together the scientific expertise and the know-how for capacity development towards realization of equitable and sustainable development.  Together we can make a solid case to investors, governments, donors and communities for the need to invest in nature. 

Investing in the protection, restoration and sustainable management of forests and coastal ecosystems can not only yield multiple development dividends, but can also be a cost-effective means of meeting our climate goals. I hope the discussion and the sharing of insights from the range of partners here today will encourage further actions towards these aims.

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