Mr President, I cannot thank you enough for the honour you have bestowed on me by inviting me to deliver the Presidential Lecture. I have a dreadful feeling that I brought the work of several Government Ministries to a grinding halt by their being here for this talk. It is, to my astonishment, nineteen years since I was last in your country and as I approach my sixtieth birthday in a week’s time it is remarkable to note the transformation that has taken place in the sixty years since Independence, whereby Indonesia has taken its place on the global stage as the world’s third largest democracy.
Indonesia has, of course, fascinated generations of my countrymen since that celebrated statesman, Sir Stamford Raffles, first came here in 1811. Raffles absorbed himself in Javanese history and customs and became a considerable expert. Now Ladies and Gentlemen I am by no means an expert, but some of the most important issues which affect Indonesia are those about which I have been speaking and trying to raise awareness for more than thirty years. Indeed, I remember speaking to Dr. Emil Salim, then your Environment Minister and more recently one of your senior advisers on climate change, during my visit in 1989 about the many threats to our natural environment which both of us, even then, regarded as needing urgent attention. These included climate change, which many believe has become the greatest challenge facing Mankind. It is a theme which links many of the engagements I will be undertaking during my visit to Indonesia.
I am only too aware of the eminence of this audience and also aware that the debate about global warming is one with which you will all be very familiar, not least through the admirable leadership you have given during this past year when you held the Presidency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties. Your leadership of the F11 Group of forest nations is equally an example to all of us. But there are some truths which are so important that they demand constant repetition…
A good starting position, and indispensable point of reference, is the timeless wisdom about Man’s stewardship of our natural environment provided by the world’s great religions. I cannot claim to be a scholar of Islam, but I have spent a number of years endeavouring to seek a deeper understanding of its relationship to the other Abrahamic faiths of Christianity and Judaism. When, two years ago, I had the great privilege of being the first non-Muslim to receive an honorary doctorate from the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, I spoke about the values of our common inheritance that bind us together. Highest among those values, and born of our love of God, must always come respect for each other, and for all of His creation. So perhaps the purest way in which we can demonstrate this respect is through our relationship with Nature and the natural world. The eminent Islamic scholar, Yusef Ali, who brought such a deep understanding of the Koran to the West in the 1930s, puts it beautifully in his intoductory commentary on the Suras when he says “God honoured Man to be His Agent and, to that end, endued him with understanding, purified his affections and gave him spiritual insight; so that Man should understand Nature, understand himself and know God through His wondrous signs and glorify Him in truth, reverence and unity.”
The concept of stewardship is common not only to the three Abrahamic faiths, but also to other great faiths and philosophies including Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism, which all stress the need for us to live in harmony with our environment.
In the absence of this harmony and stewardship we risk provoking a crisis between Man and Nature, and that is what I fear we are beginning to see all around us.
Without doubt, climate change is the greatest manifestation of this crisis. Ladies and gentlemen, that is why now is the time for the world to come together as one to find a solution. We have just proved we can do it to tackle the global financial crisis. That is because the credit crunch is having an immediate and damaging effect on the whole world. But, Mr. President, so will the “climate crunch.” And its effects, I fear, will not be temporary. The credit crunch is causing real pain to countless people across the world. The “climate crunch,” however, will affect every man, woman and child on this planet. If left unchecked it will change the economic, social and physical geography of our world in ways that we can barely begin to imagine. The world is currently reeling, having underestimated the risk of the credit crunch; I pray with all my heart that we do not make the same mistake with the “climate crunch”.
This is why, if I may say so, we must recognize that what we have in common is far greater than what divides us. But the trouble is that we have absolutely no time to lose. Already scientists are seeing the speed of global warming increase way beyond their own predictions, even of a year or so ago.
And yet the Siren voices persist, and the volume seems to increase, that the science of climate change is unproven and that there is no man-made contribution. The answer to that is conclusive, and it exists in the British Antarctic Survey’s ice core samples from three kilometres in depth which provide atmospheric readings of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for very nearly the past one million years. Not only do they show that levels of carbon dioxide began to rise dramatically at precisely the point the Industrial Revolution began in the mid-eighteenth century, but that today carbon dioxide levels are at their highest for 800,000 years.
Even more terrifying, we also now know that if these levels continue to grow at current rates by the end of this century average temperatures will have risen by five degrees. This would be catastrophic and would, to a large extent, make the planet uninhabitable for humans, certainly at anything approaching present population levels. And the frightening fact is that initial signs of this process are already with us – for example, earlier this year we learnt that the North Polar ice cap is melting so fast that some scientists are predicting that in five years it will disappear completely in the Summer.
An archipelagic country such as Indonesia with over 17,000 islands and a coastline of more that 80,000 kilometres is left especially vulnerable. Rising sea levels are already affecting coastal settlements in Java and elsewhere, with both fisheries’ and agricultural productivity affected.
The consequences of such dramatic change will be huge, even in the medium term. Hundreds of millions of people will be displaced, leading to humanitarian and security issues which will dwarf what we have witnessed in recent years. There will be unprecedented geo-political, economic and social upheavals. Only the other week, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature identified no less than twelve deadly diseases which they predict will increase as the world warms – the likes of cholera, ebola and sleeping sickness.
The long-term effects of all this are almost beyond our comprehension and it is why I often use the analogy of war because, I fear, we are engaged in a battle for our very survival. The dreadful thing is that all international efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals will be worth nothing unless we act now on climate change, because poverty and environmental degradation are so intimately linked. That is why we must mobilize ourselves – indeed, the whole world – with a real sense of urgency and resolve to act together. We need, in fact, to see the problem in its broadest sense; it is not just a question of environmental protection but also one of social justice and community empowerment.
However, we need to be realistic. There is very little we can do now to stop the ice from disappearing from the North Pole in the Summer. And we probably cannot prevent the melting of the permafrost and the resulting release of methane. In addition, I fear that we may be too late to help the oceans maintain their ability to absorb carbon dioxide.
But there is something we can do – and it could make the whole difference and buy us time to develop the necessary low carbon economies. We can halt the destruction of the world’s rainforests – and even restore parts of them – in order to ensure that the forests do what they are so good at – in other words storing carbon naturally. This is a far easier, cheaper and quicker option than imagining we can rely on as yet unproven technology to capture carbon at a cost of some $50 per tonne or, for that matter, imagining we can achieve what is necessary through plantation timber.
As you know better than anyone, these forests therefore act as giant global utilities, providing essential public services to the whole of humanity. They are in fact the world’s air-conditioning system – the very lungs of the planet – and help to store the largest body of freshwater on the planet – water which, we have to remember, is essential to produce food for our planet’s growing population. The rainforests of the world also provide the livelihoods of more than a billion of the poorest people on this Earth, including many here in Indonesia. In simple terms, the rainforests, which encircle the world, are our very life-support system – and we are on the verge of switching it off.
Nine per cent of the world’s remaining tropical rainforests are, of course, under Indonesia’s stewardship and so it is no exaggeration to say that your natural heritage is absolutely critical to the survival of us all.
Mr. President, if I may, I should like to congratulate you personally for all you did at the Bali Conference last year. You helped to ensure not only that it was successful in paving the way to Copenhagen in 2009 and a post-Kyoto deal, but that it also gave, for the first time, the proper priority to rainforests within climate negotiations. The Poznan and G20 meetings have a vital role to play, of course, in building the momentum and I can only hope that your influence can once again be brought to bear at those meetings. Indonesia itself has, I know, made significant efforts to tighten the management of your remaining precious rainforest, curbing illegal logging and restricting the expansion of oil palm plantations into forests which are used to realize an economic return from the timber. These measures are crucial and I was so pleased to see examples of what you are doing when I visited the Harapan rainforest yesterday. This is the first Indonesian production forest to be managed for ecosystem restoration, and one of the largest rainforest restoration projects in the world. In just eighteen months, the Harapan Rainforest initiative has achieved tremendous results on the ground, curtailing illegal logging, regenerating degraded forest and creating secure jobs for local people in forest conservation. With crucial support from your Government at all levels, Burung Indonesia, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Birdlife International have shown that through international co-operation innovative solutions can be found. I am sure that you, like me, will watch this invaluable pilot project closely for lessons it can provide. I can only pray it will be a catalyst for similar projects throughout Indonesia that put communities at the centre of the solution, thus demonstrating how effective “globalization from the bottom-up” can be in helping to meet the twin challenges of climate change and poverty reduction.
But while this project is so heartening, the tragedy is that around the world we are destroying rainforests at the rate of more than twelve million hectares a year – I will say that again, twelve million hectares a year - and this destruction is causing more greenhouse gas emissions than those of the whole global transport sector.
So why is this happening?
The simple fact is that the world is not paying for the services the forests provide. At the moment, they are worth more dead than alive – for soya, for beef, for palm oil and for logging, feeding the demand from other countries. Speaking as someone from one of those countries, I think we need to be clear that the drivers of rainforest destruction do not originate in the rainforest nations, but in the more developed countries which, unwittingly or not, have caused climate change. That is why I happen to believe that the developed countries must not and cannot stand by and do nothing. But finding solutions is going to require us to work together in a way we never have before, pooling both our resources and our commitment before it is too late. This is our problem, Ladies and Gentlemen, and must be addressed now.
Mr. President, your speech to the U.N. Special Session on Climate Change last year and the Declaration of the F11 group of rainforest nations both highlighted our common but differentiated responsibilities to tackle climate change. It is precisely that common platform of shared responsibility that we need to build.
Indonesia, and the other rainforest nations, are stewards of the world’s greatest public utility. The rest of us have to start paying for it, just as we do for water, gas and electricity. So the challenge is to find an equitable means of paying for this planetary life support system on which we all depend – and with a real sense of urgency! This is precisely why I started my Rainforests Project which, if you will forgive me, I would like to tell you a little about today.
It has three main elements. Firstly, to determine how much funding the rainforest countries need to re-orientate their economies so that the trees are worth more alive than dead. Secondly, to show how this funding can be provided by the more developed world and, thirdly, to help identify ways in which the funding could be used in a durable and equitable way by the rainforest nations.
In so far as the funding is concerned, we are, of course, all hopeful that market mechanisms, such as carbon credits, will provide what is required in due course. But, ladies and gentlemen, that will not happen until the successor to the Kyoto Protocol is fully operational and that could be up to ten years in the future. The problem is that emergency funding is required now, before it is all too late, to out-compete the drivers of deforestation.
I am acutely aware that many other organizations, both in the public and private sectors, have also been working on this problem, many of them for years. Indeed, my own Project is benefitting enormously from collaboration with them. Working together will help us to recommend ways in which this emergency funding can be provided from global public funds and, at the same time, to do what we can to facilitate and accelerate the development of market solutions.
Many of you will know that two years ago a British economist, Lord Stern, published a report on the economics of climate change which he updated earlier this year. Incidentally, I understand that he had a very constructive visit here last year, so you may therefore remember his analysis that there is an immediate funding gap in order to secure the world’s rainforests of somewhere in the region of $30 billion a year. Some gap you might think! And yet – and this is where the whole thing is brought into its proper perspective – it represents just under one per cent of the approximately $3,500 billion the world spends on insurance premia every year – insurance that often ends up paying for the damage caused by climate change.
My Rainforests Project is very pleased to be working closely with Lord Stern, and other senior figures, as well as the World Bank and the European Union, together with the Coalition for Rainforest Nations. I am also delighted to be able to say that my Project team is having very constructive discussions with a number of Governments including, as you know, Mr. President, Indonesia. We have had a Task Force of experts working in Africa and we hope to have one working in Asia very shortly. Their objectives are to deepen our understanding of the issues rainforest nations face and to help us fine tune our recommendations. In this regard, I can only say that I am enormously grateful for your Government’s interest in the proposed Asia Task Force. Meanwhile, we have also developed a close dialogue with a wide range of Governments, from Washington to Brasilia, and from Brussels to Beijing.
Our work has been concentrating on the difficult issues of how to value forests. We need to be able to calculate what it will cost to divert large scale agriculture or plantation activities away from the remaining intact but threatened rainforests. At the same time, we are working with the private sector to develop financing mechanisms to fill the funding gap. We are also looking at the economic causes of deforestation. For example, what can we do through changing business practices and regulation to increase the value of sustainable products, such as certified timber, soya, beef and palm oil? At this point, I particularly want to take this opportunity to wish every possible success to the meeting next month of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. This initiative has demonstrated great leadership and vision in the past and I very much hope that members, working in co-operation with the Rainforest Nations, can agree on further steps to curb deforestation.
But, of course, no system will ever be credible unless it is possible to prove that forests are not being destroyed. That is why an effective monitoring system is essential and why my Project is helping to bring together the many different global monitoring systems.
Incidentally, it is particularly heartening that my Project is working with the Clinton Global Initiative to help develop an innovative and constructive response to President Jagdeo of Guyana’s offer to set aside and preserve his forests – if the right economic incentives could be provided.
One fact we do know is that relying solely on either the public or the private sector will not lead us to a solution. As I said earlier, there are moves afoot to develop markets that can provide incentives to reduce deforestation. But this may take too long and we do not have the luxury of time. That is why we must find a way of anticipating these markets and helping them to develop; of mobilizing the truly awesome power of private sector capital to provide emergency financing. This is at the heart of my Project. Its final report will be published next March; however, I intend to release our initial conclusions in the next few weeks so that all interested parties can consider them and so that the final report can reflect and benefit from their thoughts, expectations and requirements. I hope that, as a result, the final report will receive a wide measure of support. At the risk of labouring the point, I would like to set out five of the key elements I expect to be included:
Firstly, and as I have already said, developed countries must provide the rainforest nations with the right incentives, including payments, for the vital and irreplaceable giant public utility service which they provide to the rest of the world. Payments should have the characteristics of a commercial transaction, in the same way as we pay for our water, gas and electricity. In other words, they should not be aid. In return, the rainforest nations would provide eco-services such as carbon storage, freshwater and the protection of biodiversity. It is a key part of our approach that, just as for any other utility bill, the rainforest nations would be paid annually for the services supplied. The “paying” nations will clearly have to be able to check that the contracted services have actually been provided and value received. The payments would, therefore, be changed or, in the last resort, cancelled if the terms of the agreement are not met.
Secondly, and as for any business transaction, the rainforest nations would need to consider how much they should be paid so that they can continue to grow and develop their economies without cutting down the forests. At the same time the developed countries would need to consider how much they are prepared to pay and how they would find the funds to make the payments.
When the rainforest nations have developed products and services to replace those that presently come from, or depend on, deforestation – and when the developed countries have created or enhanced the markets to buy these products and services – the private sector will, in effect, pay for the forests to be maintained. But we know we face a gap of between five and ten years before this process can have real impact. The rainforest nations will need this time to build up the necessary institutional and commercial structures and capacity; and it will also take time for the successor to the Kyoto Protocol to come into effect and for the markets to be fully developed in the “paying” countries. But this is a time lag which the world simply cannot afford, as we are facing an emergency now. It is, of course, why I established my Rainforests Project in the first place and why it is focussed on finding the emergency funding to make the payments to the rainforest nations before it is all too late.
These emergency funds could be provided directly by developed world Governments, perhaps from expanded development aid budgets, from surcharges on activities which cause climate change or from the auction of carbon market emission allowances. However, I hope that even in the short term the large part of the required funding could be provided by the private sector by subscribing to long-term bonds issued by an international agency. The issuing entity would pay the proceeds from the bonds to the rainforest nations. They, in turn, would use the money to re orientate their economies to halt, or refrain from, deforestation. The interest and capital would be repaid by the rainforest nations from the money they receive for conserving the forests under the planned R.E.D.D. – the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation – programme.
If companies and institutions which buy the bonds suffer a shortfall then it would be met by the Governments of developed nations who would have guaranteed the bonds on issue. In other words, the developed nations would underwrite the bonds, giving the entire process a degree of built-in confidence. And, dare I say it, something of an incentive for developed nations to make it work!
As to who would buy the bonds? Well, as it happens, I have been engaged with the pension sector through a group known as the P8 (in other words, eight of the biggest pension funds in the world) for some time and from this I know that there is an appetite for quality, long-term investments that help combat climate change. The P8 Group has recently started to explore, with the World Bank, how it might be possible to develop mechanisms by which the pension sector could put substantial money into investments that address global warming. I call this initiative the “Pension Plan for the Planet” and if the plan can be realized, it will be investment that can make a difference on a global scale.
The third element of the approach which my Rainforests Project will propose is this: the rainforest countries should draw up national development plans that reflect the needs of local communities and rural economies, and put in place the infrastructure and the institutional and commercial capability to enable them to prosper without deforestation. I know that Indonesia has a sophisticated development planning system which has resulted in significant reductions in poverty over the years. We need to harness this potential for the rainforests and to ensure that indigenous people are included in an appropriate and equitable way. So the really crucial challenge, if I may say so, is how to ensure that the necessary funds from the Pension Plan For The Planet reach the forest communities who ultimately have a stake in the long-term future of the forests.
The fourth element is the selection or establishment of the agency that would oversee the process of receiving the funds from the developed countries and to negotiate and make the payments to the rainforest countries.
Finally, the measures which the rainforest nations take to protect their forests will need to be verified. This can be done by assurance mechanisms put in place by the rainforest countries themselves, as well as through global satellite monitoring and other international approaches.
Mr. President, there are countless organizations doing remarkable work across the world to protect the rainforests. But to make significant progress in the very limited time available we must operate at a different level, with an approach that involves the rainforest nations and the developed world working effectively and powerfully together. In short, it is time for that unity of mind and purpose of which the Koran speaks with such clarity.
At the end of the day, it is my most fervent hope that we can forge a global consensus around a solution along the lines I have briefly outlined. I particularly hope that Indonesia will be at the heart of this process. Without your great country as a partner in our efforts, our chances of success are limited to say the least. But with you on our side, building on the leadership you have shown at Bali and elsewhere, I do believe we can succeed. In so doing we will give hope to the many millions of people who are increasingly aware of the desperate situation we face, but who feel a mounting sense of despair at their powerlessness to do anything constructive about climate change. The good news – as I hope I have explained today – is that we can do something; something very profound indeed. If we stop the destruction of our rainforests, we buy ourselves the necessary time to reconfigure our economies and to deliver the eighty per cent reduction in greenhouse gases that we must achieve by 2050 if Mankind is to have anything approaching a viable future on this planet. It is, I fear, as stark as that.
I, for one, am determined to do everything in my power to ensure that this future is not snatched from our children and grandchildren. As never before we are the Masters of our fate – and theirs – and I pray with all my heart that you will join me in this great endeavour.