Ladies and Gentlemen, I was delighted to be invited by Baroness Scotland to participate in this important event and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Secretary General for all her hard work and leadership on this issue. Unfortunately, there seem to be too many events I find myself attending, so I hope you will forgive me having to rush off to the next one! I am very sorry to be here for such a short time as I would have dearly liked to spend much more time with you, not least as the idea of Regenerative Development is one that, in some ways, I have been at pains to advance for quite some time. Therefore, it is a huge encouragement to learn of the preparations that might lead to a constructive partnership on this agenda – both at the next International Climate Negotiation in Bonn in November and at the Commonwealth Summit here in London next year.
It seems to me that the Commonwealth could represent a pivotal voice in these matters. After all, it includes almost a third of the world's population, a fifth of its land mass and comprises a wide spectrum of national contexts – ranging from those most vulnerable to climate change, to those most responsible for it. Some in the North may be ambivalent (quite unbelievably) about the difference between a limit of 2 degrees or 1.5 degrees of global warming, but of course for some countries, particularly the small island developing states of the Commonwealth, the difference could scarcely be more critical as it may literally mean the survival of their countries or their extinction. This is precisely why I have been making such a fuss about tackling climate change for so many years as we face an existential crisis in every sense of the word and one that will affect many millions of people. And in this regard, it is perhaps particularly apposite that Fiji should have the Presidency of the U.N.F.C.C.C. C.O.P.23 this year.
The immediate imperative has to be to decarbonize our economies – and in this regard I would highlight the continuing leadership of Christiana Figueres and her Mission 2020 initiative – but we must also begin to make good the disruption that we have wrought upon the planet's carbon-cycle. In short, to return our planet's carbon to where it needs to be. Not in our atmosphere trapping excess heat, or in our oceans wiping out coral and undermining marine ecosystems, but in our trees and our forest landscapes helping to sustain our water systems, in our soils nourishing our agriculture and biodiversity and in the materials that our dangerously burgeoning population will desperately need in order to build a relatively manageable and sustainable environment for the future.
By combining the practical focus of Project Drawdown with the key concept of Regenerative Development, this initiative embodies a welcome shift towards a more holistic approach to climate issues from which I believe other initiatives can draw strength – whether that be the work now seeking to link climate, agriculture, soils, and landscape restoration, or the increasing global, scientific effort to understand the links between human and "Planetary Health", it seems to me that this holistic, systems-based approach is key to informing the new policy agenda. It must also underpin the leadership we now need from governments, business and ethical leaders in order to explain the mutual dependence between our socio-economic health, our physical health and the environmental health of our planet.
Of course, throughout all this runs the common thread that the task we face is not only to protect Nature, but also to collaborate with Nature. We must leverage the full extent of scientific understanding and of human ingenuity, but deploying this in 'Harmony' with Nature. This is, as you may know, a notion that I myself hold dear and which is why I am so pleased to see that Janine Benyus is playing such an important part in this meeting, which at last is helping this whole concept of biomimicry and the circular economy to come to the fore – one hopes in the nick of time!
The compendium of solutions curated by Project Drawdown aptly demonstrates that the ideas we need are already out there, but they will not happen by chance. International discussions such as C.O.P. 23 must now be geared to this action agenda – focussing on the practical shifts in policy, governance and financial frameworks that are needed at all levels – from global to local – in order to incentivize stakeholders to do what is necessary. To this end, I very much applaud the attention this initiative is paying to the financial instruments and business models that can steer investment towards the infrastructures and patterns of land use that can avert 1.5C warming.
Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for the work that you are doing, it could not be more important and I look forward to hearing about your progress in the months ahead.