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UNDP Global

In order to achieve the 2030 Agenda, we must harness the power of nature as an engine for sustainable development. Credit: UNDP.

As prepared for delivery

In 2015, the world agreed to an ambitious set of Sustainable Development Goals. From ending extreme poverty and hunger, to promoting resilient communities, to ensuring water security, to sustaining life on earth and life below water – this agenda defines the world we all want to see in 2030. 

Achieving these goals will by no means be easy. Not least since past decades’ development progress has too often been realized at the detriment of our natural environment:

• over the last three decades we have lost ten per cent of the planet’s wilderness - an area half the size of the Amazon;  

• we are losing a rhino every eight hours, an elephant every 15 minutes, and 20,000 hectares of forest every day; and,

• the loss of biodiversity has substantial economic consequences too – to a tune of $20 trillion dollars in economic value since 1970 . 

The significant and growing loss of natural capital makes it ever harder to achieve our shared goals. And this is compounded by the fact that as we look to 2030, we are likely to add 1.2 billion people to the planet and see an increase in the demand for food by 35 percent, for water by 40 percent, and for energy by 50 percent.  

Overall, we are approaching, and indeed have already surpassed, some of the planetary boundaries that define the thresholds of sustainability, and the very operating limits within which humankind lives.  

In order to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs we must learn to stay within these limits, and to not only stem the loss of biodiversity but to harness the power of nature as an engine for sustainable development, and to do so through partnership between public and private actors alike.

I would like to suggest three ways to do just that:

First, we must find ways to unleash the billions of dollars of available private capital  to invest in nature-based solutions that have a development – and economic – dividend. We welcome partnerships such as that between The Nature Conservancy and JP Morgan , where they plan to invest 1 billion in projects that protect fisheries, waters and forests. This means linking nature-based solutions providers with impact investors hungry for investable projects. 

Second, we must foster innovative public private partnerships that help us do more collectively than each of us can do alone. There are many examples of such successful partnerships. For example, in Bangladesh we’ve seen how communities, municipalities and the private sector have collaborated to restore river ecosystems and ensure safe drinking water.  

Third, we must find new and innovative tools and mechanisms to finance biodiversity. Swiss Re’s creation of a new insurance scheme for coral reefs off the coast of Mexico as a buffer against storms marks new and welcome territory for financing nature.

Ultimately, if these efforts are to succeed, we must build the political will that is required to implement the solutions already at hand. We know how to stop the trade of illegal wildlife; how to protect the rights of indigenous forest peoples from illegal logging and encroachment; and how to end harmful subsidies, but the political will to do so is often lacking.  

That is why the work of the ICCF is so important, bringing together leaders at the highest level of government, business, and the NGO community to advance international conservation, and promoting the idea that conservation and development are not opposing ideas but can actually be reinforcing. 

Let me conclude be stress that UNDP is fully committed to this cause too, and we look forward to working with the ICCF, and other partners, to identify and form the solutions and partnerships so urgently needed to achieve the future that we all want.