Caroline, thank you very much indeed for your kind words, I think I have a feeling it is about 38 years now or something like that, that I’ve been trying. These are unprecedented times. Every person on the planet has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Our world came to a standstill and it became clear that we did not have the answers or the mechanisms to address such an unprecedented global threat.
The threats posed by this dreadful pandemic came upon us suddenly and with very little warning. The threat of climate change has been more gradual, but it is a devastating reality for many people and their livelihoods around the world and its ever-greater potential to disrupt surpasses even that of COVID-19.
In addition to COVID-19, over the last few decades we have seen bird flu, swine flu, Ebola, MERS, SARS which are all zoonotic diseases originating in animals. More than half of all pathogens affecting humans come from animals. Changing the relationship between wild, domestic and human animals makes pandemics more likely which is why we need to restore balance with the natural world through decisive action on climate change and restoring biodiversity.
If we look at the planet as if it were a patient, we can see that our activities have been damaging her immune system and she has been struggling to function and thrive due to the strain we have put on her vital organs. To treat her we need to restore balance and put Nature back at the centre of the circle. To achieve this we must: act for health and well-being; understand Nature’s patterns and cycles; recognize the value of diversity, unity and the interdependence of all living things; consider the importance of innovation and adaptation; and invest in Nature-based solutions to help stimulate a more circular bioeconomy that gives back to Nature as much as we take from her.
I can only hope that as this current crisis passes we are able to reflect on, and shape, the type of world we want for ourselves and for future generations.
The 75 years after the Second World War saw unprecedented growth, rising longevity and poverty reductions. But all this put an overwhelming strain on our environment. The good news is that we have many of the solutions to hand. Renewable energy is now cheaper than fossil fuels. Our agriculture and land use can be more resilient, healthy and productive if we do not degrade our land, destroy our forests and poison our water. Unfortunately, we so often forget that we are profoundly dependent on Nature for our lives and livelihoods.
So, how do we balance the need to rebuild economic prosperity, the need to get people back to work, against environmental concerns?
Investing sustainably now can be a fast, efficient and attractive way to reboot our economy. Therefore, what should be the principles that underlie the reshaping of a new and better global economic system? To seize this window of opportunity, I believe we need to do five things.
First of all, to create momentum for The Great Reset, we need to capture the imagination and will of humanity. We will only change if we really want to change.
Secondly, the global economic recovery must set us on a new trajectory of sustainable employment, of livelihoods and economic growth. To achieve scale we must not be afraid to reorientate our long standing incentive structures, which have been having such perverse effects on our planetary environment and on Nature herself, if we are to reap the benefits afforded by a more sustainable world.
Thirdly, we must redesign systems and pathways to advance Net Zero transitions globally. And in this regard, carbon-pricing can form a critical pathway to genuinely sustainable markets. This Reset moment is our opportunity to accelerate and align our efforts to create truly global momentum. Countries, industries and businesses, moving together, can create efficiencies and economies of scale that will allow us to leapfrog our collective progress and accelerate our transition.
Fourthly, we must reinvigorate science, technology and innovation. This crisis has shown the importance of investing in science, technology and innovation. We are on the verge of catalytic breakthroughs that will alter our view of what is possible – and profitable – within the framework of a sustainable future.
Fifthly, we must rebalance investment. Accelerating sustainable investment could offer significant economic growth and employment opportunities, including in green energy, the regeneration of Nature and landscapes, the circular bioeconomy, ecotourism and green public infrastructure.
It is time, therefore, to align sustainable solutions with funding in a way that can transform the market place. This would be the most dramatic act of responsible leadership ever seen by the global private sector and would at once provide a catalytic incentive for the public sector to follow.
We have a golden opportunity to seize something good from this crisis: its unprecedented shockwaves may well make people more receptive to big visions of change; global crises like pandemics and climate change know no borders and highlight just how interdependent we are as one people sharing one planet.
Over the past month or so, despite the ongoing crisis, I have been encouraged to see the growing calls for a Green Recovery. We need only look to the United Nations Secretary General, to the I.M.F., the E.U., the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, the Canadian Government, the COP26 Universities Network, and businesses around the world to see this.
As we move from rescue to recovery, therefore, we have a unique, but rapidly shrinking window of opportunity to learn lessons and reset ourselves on a more sustainable path. It is an opportunity we have never had before and may never have again. We must use all the levers we have at our disposal, knowing that each and every one of us has a vital role to play.
Everything I have tried to do, and urge, over the past fifty years has been done with our children and grandchildren in mind. So, I can only encourage us all to think big and act now.