HE Xie Zhenhua; Special representative for Climate Change Affairs, China and co-lead of the Nature-based Solutions (NBS) Coalition
Hon. Aupito William Sio, Minister for Pacific Peoples, New Zealand, Co-lead of the NBS Coalition
Qu Dongyu, FAO Director General
Thank you all for coming here today, and thank you in particular to China and New Zealand for their leadership on the Nature-Based Solutions(NBS) workstream for the Climate Action Summit.
At its heart, this workstream is about unlocking the potential of nature to create an equitable and sustainable future for humanity.
I come to you with four simple messages on how we can do this.
The first message is that nature provides many solutions for climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development.
The inclusion of nature-based solutions as a workstream for this Summit acknowledges that we cannot limit global warming to 1.5°C or 2°C without them.
They can provide around one-third of the climate solution.
They can also restore biodiversity, boost livelihoods and health, and create resilience to climate change.
Please allow me to highlight just a few nature-based solutions to back up these statements.
One such solution is in desertification and land degradation.
Land degradation adversely impacts up to 3.2 billion people and drives climate change.
But restoring 350 million hectares of degraded landscapes by 2030 could generate US$ 9 trillion in ecosystem services, and put significant amounts of carbon back in the ground.
A second solution is in conservation and protection of biological diversity
Many countries and regions are suffering from the biodiversity and ecosystem services crisis.
Europe, for example, loses 3 percent of its GDP each year due to the loss of nature.
Re-naturing cities can help bring biodiversity back and create urban regeneration and wellbeing.
Yet another solution is in energy
Direct and indirect emissions from air conditioning and refrigeration are projected to rise 90 percent by 2050.
But adding trees and green roofs and walls can let nature do the cooling for us.
Medellin in Colombia, for example, reduced temperatures by over 2°C through turning its concrete jungles into urban forests.
And of course climate resilience
Between 1998 and 2017, 4.5 billion people were affected by overwhelmingly weather-related disasters.
Climate change will increase these numbers.
Nature-based solutions can be five times more cost-effective than engineered structures at protecting against weather.
These are all solutions that make sense on every level.
My second message is that we have a critical window of opportunity to seize these and other gains.
Time is running out – on climate and biodiversity.
You have all heard 2020 referred to as the super year, when the post-2020 biodiversity framework will be agreed and pledges to the Paris Agreement updated.
These, and this Summit, are opportunities for further action that pave the way for the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration.
We need to take them, but how?
My third message to you is that increasing political will is key.
We cannot implement nature-based solutions at scale without political will at all levels.
This is why the Nature-Based Solutions Manifesto is so important.
It asks leaders for a simple commitment to unlock the full potential of nature in one of four priority areas.
I hope that all leaders will use this manifesto as a basis for enhancing nature-based solutions, here at the Summit and beyond.
And we need much more will across the board.
Last month, more than 900 religious leaders, representing a constituency of one billion people, endorsed the Faiths for Forests Declaration and Action Agenda prepared by UNEP’s Interfaith Rainforest Initiative.
Nature must be on every table, on every strategy to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
My fourth message is that these solutions needs to be financed.
Currently, less than 3 percent of public financing goes to nature.
Only 3 percent of 2000 companies reported using natural ecosystems as part of climate adaptation strategies.
The US4 20 billion invested in forests since 2010 was eclipsed by much larger investments in land-use activities that are driving deforestation.
We need to redirect investments that work against nature to those that work with it. And we can do this.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
let me close by saying that the natural world is a complex system that evolved over billions of years.
It should therefore be no surprise that nature offers “no-regret” solutions to many of humanity’s problems.
Your engagement and support for the nature-based solutions workstream shows that we are ready to seize them.
UNEP looks forward to supporting growing global efforts to implement these solutions.
UN Environment Programme