Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to have been invited to open this year’s critical Climate Week. The borderless climate, biodiversity and health crises are all symptoms of a planet that has been pushed beyond its planetary boundaries. Without swift and immediate action, at an unprecedented pace and scale, we will miss the window of opportunity to ‘Reset’ for a ‘green / blue recovery’ and a more sustainable and inclusive future. In other words, the global pandemic is a wake-up call we simply cannot ignore.
Having been at this now for well over forty years, I have long observed that people tend not to act until there is a real crisis. Ladies and Gentlemen, that crisis has been with us for far too many years – decried, denigrated and denied. It is now rapidly becoming a comprehensive catastrophe that will dwarf the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. At this late stage, I can see no other way forward but to call for a ‘Marshall-like Plan for Nature, People and Planet’. With the planetary emergency so critical – with the permafrost melting in Siberia for instance, producing dire effects on global warming, and with the Pantanal in Brazil being consumed by unprecedented numbers of fires, we can no longer go on like this, as if there was no tomorrow and no ultimate reckoning for our abuse of Nature. So what do we do? Without doubt we must now put ourselves on a war-like footing, approaching our action from the perspective of a military-style campaign. That way, working together, we can combat this most grave and urgent challenge.
If we have the resolve to shift our trajectory, we must start now by bringing forward our net zero target – I am afraid 2050 simply suggests we have room to delay. Using the frameworks of my Sustainable Markets Initiative and the imperative of The Great Reset, and knowing that we are all familiar with the problem we face, I would just like to outline, if I may, five overall action areas of this Marshall-like Plan for which coherent strategies should be assembled.
First of all, by COP26, and using a ‘future of industry’ approach, it would make a very great difference if each of the main sectors of the economy ( whether energy, transport, financial services, and so on) were to outline publically accessible roadmaps that identify the steps to net zero from 2020 to 2030 along with plans for the protection and restoration of natural capital and biodiversity. We have an incredible opportunity to create entirely new sustainable industries, products, services and supply chains. Moving together, with clear roadmaps, we can create efficiencies and economies of scale that will allow us to leapfrog our collective progress and accelerate our transition.
In these efforts we can also make sustainable options the trusted and attainable options for consumers. After all, market-leading companies have demonstrated that it is entirely possible to be profitable and sustainable at the same time. In fact, businesses and investments that are ESG aligned are increasingly out-performing those that are not, even in the current economic crisis. To put these roadmaps into practice in operational terms, we need our financial experts, along with our Chief Financial Officers, to help design the business and investment case to match growing demand for sustainable goods and services.
Secondly, having listened to the wise and experienced business leaders who are involved in my Sustainable Markets Initiative, I would also encourage countries themselves to work towards COP26 by outlining publically available roadmaps to net zero which set out priority industries for transition along with the actions required to restore or enhance biodiversity and natural capital. It is absolutely vital, given the enormity of the problem we face, that we make truly transformative progress along the road to net zero by 2030, taking the tough decisions now rather than deferring them to the next generation.
With roughly two-thirds of emissions taking place in cities and with a near doubling of the world’s urban population projected in the next fifty years, it is clear that the spatial planning of cities to allow for sustainable growth is imperative. My Foundation has been working with Commonwealth partners to develop a Mayor’s rapid planning toolkit focussed on secondary cities where more than half of the urban growth is projected and where far fewer planning professionals exist. As we seek to rebalance the urban-rural divide and the need to address rural to urban migration, the physical implementation of secondary city plans is one of the areas that can have the most positive impact in the coming decades. Cities and local government leaders can and must lead the way, and I would encourage if I may city leaders to showcase their city plans and sustainable building solutions at COP26 in order to accelerate further progress.
Thirdly, by COP26 we need a global investment strategy for restoring Harmony with Nature. This includes major investment in Nature-based solutions in sectors like agriculture, forestry and fisheries – indeed, for all the resources that we take from the Earth. Nature’s contribution to the global economy is estimated to be worth more than $125 trillion annually – that’s greater than the entire world’s annual G.D.P. If we build conservation and nature-based solutions into our asset base and supply chains we will be able, therefore, to drive significant economic growth for countries and businesses alike – including in areas such as the circular bioeconomy, ecotourism and green public infrastructure.
In order to accelerate the restoration of biodiversity and Nature’s ecosystems in the short time left to us, it will be essential to target coordinated and globally trusted carbon-offsetting funds from the entire private sector to the recovery of Natural Capital and the reduction of carbon emissions. Similarly, to buy us crucial time as we transition, Carbon Capture, Use and Storage will be utterly vital if we are to draw down on the excess of carbon that needs to be removed from the atmosphere.
To have the impact required, we must also think at scale. Global mega projects such as 30% by 2030, the Great Green Wall, Africa 100, the 20x20 Initiative and many others, have the potential not only to improve natural capital, but also to increase opportunities in the green economy while improving sustainable livelihoods and local economic growth.
If, Ladies and Gentlemen, we valued our natural capital properly, our national and individual balance sheets might look very different indeed! So let us start to articulate, fully and clearly, Nature’s value and begin building our business and economic solutions around the wealth that Nature affords us – particularly, if I may say so, through the establishment of a long overdue and effective market for ecosystem services. Only this way can we rebuild Nature’s unique capacity to sustain us.
Fourthly, Ladies and Gentlemen, by COP26, my great hope is that we might also see global financial institutions and institutional investors outline publically accessible roadmaps that define the steps to take their portfolios to net zero between 2020 to 2030. After all, we know that it is not a lack of capital that is impeding our progress, but how we deploy it.
We must also explore how to reverse perverse subsidies and improve incentives for sustainable alternatives. Re-orientating economic subsidies, financial incentives and regulations can have a dramatic and transformative effect on our market systems. For instance, for many years I have tried to encourage the adoption of the “polluter pays” principle in order to provide the necessary incentives. Public policy, therefore, has a critical role to play – particularly, if I may say so, in the possibility of the development of an effective, equitable form of carbon-pricing – perhaps one based on a “Citizen Dividend” model – which could unlock a huge flow of investment into zero carbon technologies currently seen as uneconomic.
The good news is that, on every pressing issue we face, there are solutions that are not just available, but increasingly cost effective. At the same time there are trillions of dollars in sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, insurance and asset portfolios looking for investible and sustainable projects with good long-term value and rates of return. It is time to align sustainable solutions with funding in a way that can transform the market place. This requires not only showcasing high potential investments, but that we reimagine financial analysis, structuring and models of return. I must say that I am greatly encouraged that members of my Sustainable Markets Initiative are starting to lead the way.
Fifthly, 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. By COP26, we need a comprehensive strategy for science, technology and innovation, with clear entry points for investment, in support of industry, country and city roadmaps.
With the enormity of these opportunities, our science-based and economic systems are vital to finding and scaling the solutions we so desperately need. We have seen in the last decade how quickly sustainable technologies can move if there is a strong market signal and a clear sense of direction. This is absolutely crucial if we are to accelerate the pace.
Ladies and Gentleman, as we consider these five areas, the exponential win-win benefit only comes when we find points of common interest and seek to leapfrog our collective progress. When industries, innovators and investors understand the longer-term direction and priorities of countries, they are better able to mobilize, in order to partner with each other, to invest and grow the market. Similarly, a market signal in one industry can rapidly mobilize others to act. Knowing the direction of travel is half the battle, which is why these roadmaps are so critical. The more we know about our shared ambitions for the future, the more we can help each other get to the destination.
Ladies and Gentlemen, achieving a sustainable future is the growth story of our time and can, in fact, fuel our post-pandemic recovery in a way that pays dividends for decades to come. But the window for action is rapidly closing. A new ‘Marshall-like Plan for Nature, People and Planet’ is urgently needed if we are to align our collective efforts for the highest possible impact and to save our planet from continued destruction. I trust you will all agree that our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.
With the aim of capturing the will and imagination of humanity, while seeking to accelerate the identification of solutions, I am pleased to be launching a visual platform for short films called RE:TV. I hope this can be one way to demonstrate what is now possible in the pursuit of a sustainable future. Through my Sustainable Markets Initiative and The Great Reset, I remain committed to working with ‘Coalitions of the Willing’ to push these efforts forward. Billions of people around the world are waiting and longing for concerted action to right the balance of this planet that we have so rashly disrupted. Millions of younger employees of countless companies and corporations are desperate for action not more words. It is their lives we are gambling with, as well as the ultimate survival of everything that tries to share this ailing Earth with us. So let’s get on with the urgent task of forming a global alliance to overcome the perverse obstacles facing us.