Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be able to join you here today at the Commonwealth Business Forum.

I must also just say that because, somehow or another, I get invited to address different conferences, I sometimes think the value of video messages goes down rather better than the real thing (judging by what people say)...I could have had a career as the Wizard of Oz'; behind a curtain and a bright light and a mirror. So I'm afraid you have to put up with the real person today...!

I understand from Lord Marland, however, that you have had a very productive few days and knowing how hard Lord Marland and his team at the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council have been working, I would therefore like to start by congratulating him and C.W.E.I.C. on their endeavours as well as our hosts, the Government of Malta. 

As I hope you know all too well, Ladies and Gentlemen, this meeting falls at a very important, indeed critical, moment for the future of mankind and our planet.  Next week it is the fervent prayer of countless concerned people around the world that global leaders will come together in Paris to agree to an ambitious long-term goal for the rapid reduction of carbon emissions to keep us within the envelope of 2 degrees of warming, or at any rate on the path to achieving that target – although we should aim to be below 2 degrees.  The Commonwealth, its members and businesses have a huge role to play.  Therefore this gathering has not just been an opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones, but a meeting which, I hope, has galvanized you into considering what part you can and, with any luck, will play.

For we face an unprecedented set of interlocking challenges, all of which are creeping up on us in the shape of a perfect storm – a global rise in unsustainable population growth and consumption; migration; rapid urbanization; climate change; natural capital depletion and social, economic and energy insecurity.

Meanwhile, we expect a world in which there will be an anticipated 35 per cent increase in global food demand and a 50 per cent increase in energy demand whilst, at the same time, net of this, another 1 billion more people are expected on the planet by 2025; a world in which 1.5 million people are added to the global urban population every week.  I have to say that to my mind, at least, it utterly beggars belief that we will be able to cope in any realistic way with the current consumption patterns of such a growing population – and yet that is what people expect...

These emerging trends will, of course, have profound consequences for businesses around the world, both in terms of the increased risks that will need to be identified and managed, but also in terms of the opportunities that can be grasped.  Whether a fisherman in Seychelles, a mining operation in Australia, or a cocoa farming business in Ghana, it is likely that these changes to our society and to our planet will affect your business, whether today, tomorrow or in twenty years' time.  A long-term licence to operate may depend in turn on each actor's willingness to play by the rules and to make a positive contribution to people and the environment through their supply chains and operations. 

There are, thankfully, signs that things are being done to help businesses navigate this new operating environment.  I am delighted to hear, for instance, that the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council has announced today the Commonwealth Sustainable Business Challenge, with support from PwC, Project Everyone and my Accounting for Sustainability Project.  The Challenge provides for those essential ingredients to make sure that the Sustainable Development Goals, agreed in New York in September, have meaning – the kind of practical action, leadership, and, dare I say it, the element of competition which should appeal to your business instincts!  I hate to be a bore, but I hope to hear about the extent of the progress that can be made by the next time we meet in two years' time!

Ladies and Gentlemen, the private sector is absolutely critical.  Because if there is one thing, other than taxes and death, of which we can be certain it is that there is never going to be enough public money to implement the S.D.G.s or the Paris Agreement.  Billions of dollars will need to become trillions of dollars if we are to bridge the gap of, as I understand it, some $2.5 trillion annually over the next 15 years.  Current investment trends must also be brought in line with our internationally agreed targets.  For instance, it is estimated that $90 trillion dollars are going to have to be spent on infrastructure development alone over the next 15 years in order to have any hope of keeping us to a world only 2 degrees warmer, that has to be done with the lowest carbon footprint that we can devise.  It’s not difficult to do, it merely requires forethought; to design cities around people rather than cars, to maximize the use of renewable energy and to ensure that the precepts of the Circular Economy are embedded in all that we build and develop.

It is also apparent that a great deal of the infrastructure planned will be built along coastlines, which brings me to another piece of this puzzle that is of great importance to Commonwealth countries, particularly Island States, and to the businesses operating within them – in other words, the health of our oceans.  Oceans and the marine environment are not only a fundamental part of our ability to regulate climate, they provide oxygen, food, energy, tourism and leisure opportunities, coastal protection and much more.  Yet these economic benefits are under threat from over-exploitation, pollution, habitat destruction and carbon emissions – our seas are warming and becoming more acidic, and our natural resource base is being eroded.  For those countries whose future economic growth and prosperity is contingent on the continued health and viability of our ocean ecosystems, finding ways to finance the transition to resilient Blue Economies could not be more important. 

I was absolutely delighted to hear that the Government of Seychelles yesterday announced their intention to issue a so-called Blue Bond to do just that (helped, I am delighted to say, by my International Sustainability Unit following discussions during the last C.H.O.G.M. two years ago in Sri Lanka) – essentially to shore up their vital fishing sector such that it may continue to provide employment, economic growth and food security into the future.  The reason this is such a step forward is that it shows, in my view, that economic growth and ecological resilience really do go hand in hand – indeed, that the one is predicated on the other. 

As such, I would like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to the Government of Seychelles and, in particular, to President Michel and Minister Adam for their leadership and willingness to take on these fiendishly complex issues and meet them head on.  

Also, since the last C.H.O.G.M. and as a result of conversations with a number of island states, my I.S.U. has also been working with some of you here today, and a number of other countries, to develop a Blue Economy Development Framework that will provide not only an overview of what investment is needed where and what financial mechanisms might be available, but also, and most importantly, a bridging mechanism between climate change, marine and infrastructure finance discussions.

So much of the problem, as I understand it, when dealing with projects that aim to tackle some of the critical challenges we face worldwide, is that they are small and risky for investors.  Finding ways to scale up and aggregate these developments is therefore a vital part of the solution.  I am very pleased to say that, since the last CHOGM, Lord Marland and Justin Mundy, the Director of my I.S.U., have been working incredibly hard to bring together a Working Group of Governments to help support small-scale ‘green and blue’ private sector investment in the Commonwealth.  incidentally I am enormously grateful to HSBC, Willis, Linklaters, SEB and PWC for their invaluable help here. I hope very much that this Working Group will reflect the Commonwealth's ambition and capability for Commonwealth countries to help each other on such a critical issue and that it will generate a Commonwealth Green Finance Facility to provide cost efficient and effective guarantees and credit enhancement for those projects that normally struggle to access finance.  It should in time become an incubator for more Green and Blue Bonds and so help bring in the institutional investors, such as the pension funds and Sovereign Wealth Funds – much-needed players, in my view, if we are to bring about the kind of transformation that we so badly need.

And so, Ladies and Gentlemen, we look towards Paris and an agreement that will determine the survival of our species and of all those that share this precious planet with us.  We do not have the right to test to destruction the planet’s tolerance to our indiscretions.  We do not have the right to steal our children and grandchildren’s inheritance.  We do, however, have the responsibility to act now, to seize this opportunity to build a truly resilient future and I am sure that the Commonwealth, and those of you here today, will play a critical and leading part in this endeavour.