The virtuous circle of Nature is something the world’s indigenous peoples hold sacred and understand only too well, and is why we should listen to, and learn from, their profound intuitive wisdom.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, it was a great pleasure to see some of you at the reception in Kelvingrove Art Gallery yesterday evening and now to be able to address you briefly at today’s World Leaders Action on Forests and Land Use Event.

This second session of the Action on Forests and Land Use Event is absolutely vital, because it is here that we will explore together the scale of the systemic shifts that need to happen really urgently if the world is to succeed in delivering a positive future for Nature and people alike and I mean urgently as so many people and communities are already suffering seriously from the increasingly dire impact of climate change. We also have to act before the hydrological cycle breaks down altogether.

Now that we know what the problem is and having done my best to test the World’s destruction in the meantime, we simply must talk about the solutions and the actions we can start making, and start taking, today.

The first action, I would suggest, is to re-engineer the world’s financial and economic system to disincentivize deforestation and reward countries and communities for the protection of their forests and the pursuit of a forest-positive economy.  We will hear from leaders in the financial sector with ambitious plans to achieve this goal. 

After all, if we are to restore the critical balance between people and planet, we need to protect, restore and invest in Nature.  Investment in Natural Capital, including fostering more species-rich systems rather than sterile monocultures, can support productive and resilient agriculture, forestry and aquaculture, while avoiding the pitfalls of climate change, land degradation, resource depletion, pollution and insect decline.  Here, the “30 by 30” biodiversity target is truly critical. To support that objective, I established the Natural Capital Investment Alliance as part of my Sustainable Markets Initiative in order to help develop Natural Capital as an investment theme and as a means of mobilizing the world’s financing and investment communities. You will be discussing details behind the NCIA, after I have left.

The second action, the world needs as a real matter of priority and justice, is to safeguard and honour the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities who depend on the forests for their lives and livelihoods, and who are themselves wise and experienced custodians. In fact, I’m wearing what I was given earlier when I met them and this one comes from Ecuador.

The virtuous circle of Nature is something the world’s indigenous peoples hold sacred and understand only too well, and is why we should listen to, and learn from, their profound intuitive wisdom.  By contrast, we seem to have lost that vital sixth sense, which should have prevented us from abusing Nature in the first place. Today, we will hear from forest leaders and donors committed to fulfilling this promise. We thank those leaders for their bravery, their courage, and their commitment to protect their forests and the rich biodiversity that exists within them, despite all the dangers and obstacles placed in their way. 

The third important action we need to take is the implementation of an acceleration of a serious global shift in how we produce and consume goods – decoupling this production and consumption from further loss of forests and other vital ecosystems. I am therefore delighted we will be joined by leaders committed to shifting to new and more sustainable practices in this area. There is every hope that we can build a more circular, resilient, economy, which is better for people as well as for the forests on which we all depend.

After all, Nature is estimated to contribute some $125 trillion to the global economy annually. Everything we use, produce and purchase ultimately has been created from Nature’s inputs.  In a circular bioeconomy, this requires taking a system-led view of global value chains.  The shift to renewable, bio-based solutions is therefore an opportunity to re-think industries so that they become nature-positive and climate neutral while providing new jobs and more inclusive prosperity.

All these measures would shift our economy onto a more sustainable trajectory. There are now signs that there is, at last, growing interest in investing in these solutions across both public and private sectors.  However, if we want to see tangible and rapid results on the ground, I’m afraid I do after years of frustrated efforts, then we need to articulate and demonstrate the immediate and long-term value of these investments.  This is why I established the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance last year: to connect the dots between investors and local communities in order to create regenerative and inclusive landscapes and sustainable value chains that work for Nature and people. Frankly, we have all had enough talking, so we need to put our words and commitments into practice. This is why, while I speak, the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance is restoring with local communities in four continents to restore thousands of hectares in more than ten countries to deliver practical solutions.

By doing so, we will inspire an entire generation of humanity who will be equipped to make the changes we so desperately need.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, and I can’t believe how many times I’ve made speeches like this all over the world during the past 40 years and to no avail, but I can only pray that this session will provide us with a real sense of the seriously urgent, systemic shifts that need to happen to deliver on our vision, and I urge you all to take forward whatever we discuss today with implacable resolve and determination to make things happen on the ground.  Thank you.