Clark: Delivering transformative solutions for our planet

28 Apr 2011

Rt. Hon. Helen Clark. UNDP Administrator
Keynote Address to the Business for the Environment Global Summit on Delivering Transformative Solutions for Our Planet
Jakarta, Indonesia

It is a pleasure for me to address this important Business for the Environment Global Summit on “Delivering Transformative Solutions for Our Planet”.

It is a particular pleasure to be here with President Yudhoyono who has a very clear vision of the role Indonesia can play in creating a more sustainable world.

I also acknowledge all those present from governments, the private sector, civil society and NGOs, and development organisations. We all need to be working together to deliver sustainable and inclusive development.

The agenda of this conference tackles many aspects of the sustainability challenge. It needs to.

Conventional models of development have done and continue to do huge damage to our planet.

Species are disappearing at unprecedented rates; productive soils are being lost to erosion and land degradation; water supplies are increasingly scarce or contaminated; and climate change is a present and pressing reality.

Yet we gather here not because the end is nigh.

We gather here because we recognise the problem.

We gather here because we know that business as usual cannot continue.

We gather here to debate what the transformational solutions for our planet are which will put us on a sustainable course.

I also believe that we gather here because we believe humankind can meet this challenge, by embracing change and harnessing the full potential of green and inclusive development.

At the United Nations Development Programme, we stand in solidarity with the world’s one billion people living in extreme poverty, who rely on the national environment in which they live for their livelihoods and primary assets. Preserving ecosystems is critical for their daily survival. Indeed it is important for the survival of us all.

The world’s poor are the most exposed to the effects of environmental degradation, and not least to the severe floods and droughts, extreme temperatures, and rising sea levels resulting from climate change.

How to advance human development and progress for all those yearning for a better life, while also securing the future of our planet and its ecosystems, is one of the greatest challenges of our time.

It is to be hoped that next year’s Rio+20 Summit in Brazil will see the international community gather, as it did at the Earth Summit in 1992, determined to take action.

At the top of its priorities must be an agenda for the transition to cleaner, low carbon, and climate-resilient economies, which also enable us to generate inclusive growth and eliminate extreme poverty and hunger.

Achieving that will mean turning the old development models on their head.

For example, gone are the days when clearing the world’s great forests for other land uses can be regarded as synonymous with development.

Far sighted governments, including those of Indonesia and Norway, are working to put REDD+ into action. This innovative scheme, officially recognised in the outcome of the Cancun climate talks last December, links development gains to forest preservation, not to forest clearance.

Already we have seen the success of this approach in Brazil, where deforestation rates have fallen sharply.

In these efforts, the role of governments is critical, in setting the policy frameworks, enforcing the relevant laws and regulations, and monitoring, reporting, and verifying what is happening.

But governments can’t produce the needed results alone. Win-win outcomes need to provide gains for local communities and for development, and the private sector needs to be on board.

In Brazil, for example, the soy industry has agreed not to purchase soybeans produced on rainforest lands deforested since 2006. Industry commitments like these can make a big difference.

Nearly twenty per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from tropical forest degradation and outright deforestation.

That’s why the leadership of Indonesia, Brazil, and other tropical forest countries, is so critical to tackling climate change, along with the leadership of committed donors like Norway who make it possible to advance forest preservation and development simultaneously through REDD+.

UNDP and its UN-REDD partners, UNEP and FAO, and other UN agencies, are privileged to be able to support REDD+.

REDD+ is a transformational solution. We need many more such solutions, which are capable of being taken to scale, to lock in a sustainable future for our planet.

Transformation begins with a vision of what can be, with setting goals for a different kind of future, and with building the partnerships which can help realise these goals.

Meeting the sustainability challenge requires strong business engagement, in research and development, and in investment in innovative solutions – whether they be in renewable energy and energy efficiency, green technologies, or the design and build of sustainable cities.

There is no question in my mind that in both the present and the future, investing in inclusive and low carbon growth makes good business sense. Increasingly in global markets, goods and services with high carbon foot prints and negative social costs will become less competitive and less desirable. The proliferation of green certification systems indicates that future markets will demand greater compliance with environmentally and socially responsible standards.

Markets will adapt to those global frameworks which are agreed to by the international community. What was agreed at last year’s Biodiversity Summit in Nagoya, for instance, establishes a groundbreaking new standard for ensuring that local communities and developing countries benefit more equitably from the proceeds and use of biological resources.

Business as usual, which leads to broken ecosystems and a warming climate,contributes to increasing economic volatility, and to higher costsand lower profitability of doing business. Conversely, I believe that there will be significant business and livelihood opportunities, and a better future for us all, if we collectively commit to a sustainable course.

Finding transformational solution for sustainable human development

The way we live and the way we do business needs to be aligned with achieving inclusive and low carbon development. I want to mention briefly three ways in which UNDP has partnered with others to build that different future.

  • First, in 2008 UNDP became part of a new global partnership with governments and businesses to promote inclusive business models. ThisBusiness Call to Actionencourages companies to adoptbusiness models which spread the benefits of growth more widely.

Those firms implementing the Call to Action fully appreciate that what benefits their bottom line can also benefit local communities. By adopting inclusive business models, their initiatives to date have generatedtens of thousands of jobs, helpedhundreds of thousands offarmers in developing countries increase their incomes, and enabled millions of peopleto access affordable information and communications technologies.

The Business Call to Action enables local businesses from the micro level up to access value and supply chains, and encourages companies to develop goods and services at a price poor people can afford.

Now, with support from the Government of Turkey, UNDP is launching an International Centre for the Private Sector in Development to promote best practice in inclusive business models. If those models can become “business as usual”, the results will be transformational on a huge scale.

  • Second, a similar approach has been taken to identifying profitable business models which also contribute to environmentally responsible development. In Ghana, for example, UNDP’s Green Commodities Facility facilitated a partnership between the government and Kraft-Cadbury.Ithas led to better extension services for local cocoa farmers, enabling them to adopt sustainable agricultural practices and increase their incomes.
  • Third, economic growth which is inclusive and sustainable requires capable institutions and good policy. UNDP supports countries to build the institutional frameworksand capacities they need to attract and drive private investment and new sources of funding, such as that from REDD+ and the emerging carbon markets.

We have helped countries design energy policies which attractinvestment tosustainable and decentralised options, enabling energy to be supplied to poor and marginalized communities.

In Kenya, for example,we supported the Ministry of Energy to establish regulation and institutionswhich wereconducive to private sector investment. The result has beenrenewed private sector participation in the energy sector, includingin a wind project which,once completed, will provide at least 25 per centof the energy Kenya produces.

In conclusion, inclusive and sustainable business models and strong and capable government institutions and good policy are important in delivering transformative solutions for our planet.

But above that, we need vision and commitment from all stakeholders, and the passionate belief that we can transform living standards while also sustaining our environment.

Developed countries have a heavy responsibility for cleaning up their act, and for supporting developing countries to advance human development in sustainable ways. We are all in this together.