Your Excellencies, Ambassador, Minister Ladies and Gentlemen.
Can I really just begin by saying how incredibly grateful I am to all of you for being here. I know that some of you have travelled a very long way. But I am particularly grateful if I may say so, to those, unfortunate business leaders who I pinned up against a wall two and a half years ago and asked for a loan of their best brains to come and brainstorm the whole issue of finding an innovative solution to deforestation. And without all their incredible help and assistance and sympathy, and activity and energy, we would not by any means have got to this point, because the rainforest team we put together, consists of a lot of people on loan who have been absolutely crucial.
I also wanted to thank Secretary of State Ed Miliband, for coming along today in the midst of all his incredibly busy activities and above all for giving me carte blanche to put pressure on politicians.
I also wanted to thank, if I may, through the Ambassador of the United States, Senator Leahy for his incredibly kind, generous letter with his contribution. If I may say so the great thing is that he recognises that far more is necessary to stop the destruction of the remaining rainforests. So I hope that you will give me carte blanche to put a little pressure here and there as well.
And I also wanted to thank Justin Mundy and his team for everything they’ve done.
So Ladies and Gentlemen just briefly from the very beginning, the primary aim of my rainforests project has been to try and catalyse a partnership of Governments, the Private sector, Non-Governmental Organisations and the civil society to bring combined efforts to bear on the problem of deforestation. And it is therefore particularly encouraging to see this partnership so well represented here today. Now one of the things the project has set out from the beginning, and this is important I think, is that rainforest deforestation is not just, as some have said this morning, not just an environmental problem, but a social and economic challenge that is first and foremost a matter of human welfare; not only for the indigenous people who rely on the forests for their spiritual and practical welfare, and who understand the urgent need to work again in harmony with nature, but also for the rainforest nations which rely upon the forests for their economic development, and indeed for the global community which depends, at the end of the day, on the services provided by rainforests in maintaining food security and climatic stability. Those I think are the most important issues always to keep in mind. So, I am so pleased that the meeting I hosted here back in April, rather appropriately on April Fool’s Day, where Heads-of-State from the rainforest and other nations agreed to work together to find near-term solutions to deforestation, led to the establishment of the Informal Working Group, and if I may say so, I have been enormously encouraged from its recent report. Against the odds, it does seem perhaps that we have arrived at a consensus on how emergency funding might be deployed in the near future. And if I may, I would particularly like to thank President Jagdeo of Guyana, that he has shown incredible leadership in all this and I am so sad he left before I could just express how much we owe to him.
But we also owe an enormous amount to the Government of Norway for their remarkable leadership and also, dare I say it, for their money! I really would also like to express even more gratitude to the Norwegian government for their labour of love in providing the Secretariat for the IWG. Now, I do remain hopeful that the World’s Governments will find ways to deliver new public finance commitments to provide the funding that the IWG has demonstrated is now necessary, and I took great heart from what the Secretary of State just said. But I think that it’s important to remember, as has been said today, the IWG-IFR really has demonstrated a remarkable consensus on the arrangements that could deliver that 25% reduction in global deforestation by 2015. And when you think that that 25% in global reduction could be achieved on the basis of additional financing of €15-25 billion starting at about €1 billion in 2010 and increasing to €5.5 billion per year in 2015, that isn’t much money really when you think about it and it should, you would have thought, be possible to arrive at some means of delivering the mechanism because that reduction, and if we could achieve it, would provide the largest reduction in emissions possible over the period, equivalent perhaps, and this is the other thing I think it worth remembering, equivalent to perhaps as much as 7 giga tones of CO2 and that’s more than the annual emissions of China or the US. So it really has been inspiring to hear the Private Sector describe how they can play their part in bringing about a future where productivity and sustainability go hand in hand. And to hear of the government-backed initiatives already underway in Brazil and Guyana that can make this a reality in two very different kinds of rainforest nations; two messages then of precious hope. And L&G the other thing I think is so crucial, is that we cannot let down the rainforest nations as President Bongo has said, and others have said today and Ambassador Bene M’Poko from the Congo who I am so pleased to know, and impressed to know, he is going to go back to the Congo and work so hard in this way.
But we cannot let down all these people who have put so much of themselves on the line and have put themselves at so much risk, and have raised expectations in advance of some kind of agreement so if we are serious about the millennium development goals, apart from anything else, then this interim package should possibly, when you think about it, be the most cost effective way of dealing with ever increasing poverty and conflict and the risk of conflict.
I am also delighted that the IWG proposals have received the endorsement of the NGO community and this is obviously vital if the proposals are to carry the weigh of public support. The signs, Ladies and Gentlemen are I think, very positive, but that should not mean we now underestimate the task ahead. I have learnt in the last two and half years, that as you proceed down this path you meet various obstacles and like a hydra-headed monster, you cut one head off and another three grow up at once, so there is still much work to do to take the various ‘encouraging signs’ and turn them into the delivery of a solution – and that is the task that collectively we all now face, and that we can only achieve by working together. Ladies and Gentlemen finally as a historian, a very long time ago at Cambridge, I can’t help noticing those moments, and I think somebody else drew attention to this a moment ago, those moments in history when you ask yourself “what would have happened if”, or “if only”, and I would contend that we have reached another moment in history when the path we choose is critical. So please let’s not allow it be seen in future as “if only” the right decision had been taken at the right time.