Ladies and Gentlemen, I am hugely grateful to all of you for giving up your precious time to be here today. I am afraid, in the face of this biodiversity and climate crisis, we have absolutely no time to waste if we are to change our current trajectory towards a more sustainable future.
I have tried, as some of you may know by now, to dedicate much of my life to the restoration of harmony between humanity, Nature and the environment, and to the encouragement of corporate social and environmental responsibility.
With Water being so utterly essential to life, it is clearly vital that we recognize the link between Water and Climate Change. I am, therefore, very much looking forward to discussing all these issues with you this morning and what needs to be done to tackle the overwhelming challenges we face.
With the active and influential assistance of the World Economic Forum I recently launched my Sustainable Markets Initiative at Davos in order to help find ways to accelerate the transition to sustainable markets and a decarbonized global economy.
With the urgency that now exists around avoiding irreversible damage to our planet, we must put ourselves on what can only be described as a war footing. The current battle against the coronavirus at least demonstrates how quickly the world can mobilize when we identify a common threat.
At the same time we must learn to mobilize around real opportunity, such as that afforded by sustainable markets. By putting people and planet at the heart of global value creation, entire new industries, jobs and economic growth are within our reach. It is time to end “business as usual” and to recognize the overriding need to transition to a circular bio-economy.
To accelerate the transition, I will be convening near monthly industrial sector roundtables throughout 2020 – and for that matter for however long it takes (if I am still alive!) – to identify the game-changers, barriers and investments needed to drive change. For example, last month we convened on Aviation, today we are focusing on Water, tomorrow we will look at Carbon Capture and Storage, and next month we will convene on Shipping and Forests.
My Sustainable Markets Initiative has further outlined a ten-point plan that aims to guide and support businesses, industries, sectors and governments to accelerate their transition.
With 60% of global GDP driven by consumer demand, my Sustainable Markets Initiative is also developing global consumer focused campaigns to increase the demand for sustainable goods and services. Part of this includes the need to make our work and actions visible to the world.
The Sustainable Markets Initiative was informed by many years, I must say, of working on sustainability issues with the corporate sector and my engagement in the Commonwealth. It has also been inspired by the fact that only very recently the financial services and capital markets sector has begun to take these issues seriously (when for the past thirty-five years I could obtain very little response at all) and is looking for sustainable investment opportunities on an increasing scale. Most recently, I have been encouraged in my meetings with various world leaders to see their interest in exploring how sustainable markets can help support their long-term economic growth strategies.
I do believe there is immense opportunity for Commonwealth countries, in partnership with others, to lead the way in sustainable market creation, but also to lead the world by example in setting the ambition for a net zero future at the Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting, the United Nations General Assembly 75 and COP26.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as global population continues to rise, as people gravitate to cities and ageing infrastructure needs to be replaced, there is a real opportunity and imperative to invest heavily in green public infrastructure and, above all, in genuinely sustainable urban planning and design to meet the immense challenge of rapid urban development. We need infrastructure and development, therefore, which learns lessons from Nature, culture and place and that looks forward, using the best of today’s technology, so that it can serve the ambitions of generations to come.
Infrastructure today needs to be net zero. We must move beyond carbon-intensive practices, such as cement and steel, and look to scalable natural solutions such as those offered by the circular bioeconomy.
When we think about green public infrastructure we must also recognize the critical need to establish a rural-urban balance and see this within the context of sustainability-driven economic opportunity (water systems, agriculture, forests, agroforestry).
Increasingly to fight the climate crisis and to sustain healthy water and ecological systems we need to scale up nature-based solutions. With respect to water issues, nature-based solutions can – many of you know far more about this than I do - use natural processes to enhance water availability (e.g., soil moisture retention, groundwater recharge),improve water quality (e.g., natural wetlands and constructed wetlands to treat wastewater) and also reduce risks associated with water‐related disasters and climate change (e.g., floodplain restoration, mangroves, green roofs).
With the need and urgency so high, I really am enormously grateful to all of you who have committed to unlock greater sums of climate finance to invest in the vital water infrastructure and services to tackle the twin water and climate crises. I hope and pray the high-level expert group being launched today will be able to share its progress at CHOGM and at COP26. Increasingly, we know that we need to explore innovative and blended financing mechanisms if we are to achieve the scale of investments required to drive the sustainable global economy forward.