Three years ago, when the experts warned me of the disastrous situation facing the world’s rainforests and I felt I simply had to try and help find a solution to the urgent problem of tropical deforestation, the world was a different place.

Prime Minister Stoltenberg, Presidents and Prime Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Three years ago, when the experts warned me of the disastrous situation facing the world’s rainforests and I felt I simply had to try and help find a solution to the urgent problem of tropical deforestation, the world was a different place. We were riding high on a global economic boom, with only a few brave souls seeing the lengthening shadows. The world’s tropical forests were about thirty-six million hectares larger than they are today. Our planet was populated by approximately 80,000 more species. 

As I said in Brazil last March, back then we had only one hundred months left in which to take the necessary action to avoid irreversible, catastrophic climate change. We now have only eighty-six months left before we reach the tipping point… 

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and has vindicated those of us – many of whom are here today – who have been ringing the alarm bells with ever-greater vigour about the need to prevent the catastrophes of climate change and ecosystem collapse. However, the great positive difference between the Summer of 2007 and today is that we now have a serious group of governments – with none showing greater leadership than Norway – who are prepared to work together to find a durable solution which will effectively tackle the drivers of tropical deforestation. 

As I said at the high-level opening of the Copenhagen Climate Summit last December, the time we have available to translate aspiration into action is fast running out. The Paris-Oslo Process is, if I may say so, an outstanding (some might say the outstanding…) success of Copenhagen and I can only applaud the fact that we are setting the seal on the creation of genuine partnerships which will help to make the world’s remaining tropical forests worth more alive than dead. Incidentally, it has been immensely heartening to learn only yesterday evening that a ground-breaking agreement has been reached between Norway and Indonesia to turn the Paris-Oslo Process into an effective reality in terms of the “REDD Plus” Partnership. I can only offer my warmest congratulations to Prime Minister Stoltenberg and President Yudhoyono for such far-sighted leadership. I am immensely touched, too, Prime Minister, that you should have considered inviting me to speak at this meeting and, indeed, greatly relieved if in some small way my efforts – including the meeting of Heads of State and Government which I hosted last April in London – might have helped to facilitate dialogue leading to the concrete results we celebrate today. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, it seems to me that one of the strengths of the Partnership Agreement being launched here is the scope it offers for a properly joined-up, holistic approach. You will know better than me that solutions which “join all the dots” are long-lasting solutions. There are three critical points which all my experience tells me are vital for the successful implementation of the Paris-Oslo process and which, if you could bear it, I would like to share with you.

The first, - and I am sure entirely self-evident - truth is that, just as the main cause of tropical deforestation is agriculture, so any solution must embrace the needs of the agricultural sector. In recognition of this and as part of the continuation of my Rainforests Project, workshops are being held in Asia, Africa and Latin America to facilitate a dialogue between the forestry and agricultural sectors and to make certain that the opportunity costs of behavioural change are recognized and understood. 
But that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is certainly not enough. In a world where food security is likely to become an ever-more pressing concern, and where the development of the rural sector will be an increasing priority, it is absolutely vital that agricultural production can be maintained, and if necessary increased, but not in a way which undermines the ability of vital eco-systems to replenish themselves. This is “Nature’s capital.” For even if no more forests were felled and if all the hundreds of millions of acres of productive, but fallow land were brought into production - and the thirty per cent of post-harvest waste eliminated - we would still face the challenge of the unsustainability of current agricultural, or agri-industrial practices to be more exact. These are partly responsible for the annual loss of somewhere between 70,000 to 140,000 square kilometres of arable land through soil erosion and land degradation. If we are to have any hope of making the agricultural sector economically resilient then it has to have far, far better ecological resilience than it currently has. In this United Nations Year of Biodiversity, we should surely look at the systemic changes that are required in our use of Nature’s capital (and this very much includes the forestry and agricultural sectors) if the supporting web of life upon which we all depend, Ladies and Gentlemen, is not to be irretrievably broken. 

One of the many lessons I have learned from over twenty-five years of working in this area is how essential it is to engage the public, private and N.G.O. sectors in dialogue, thereby helping to build a partnership approach. That is certainly the best way of ensuring that any emerging consensus actually withstands the test of time!

Secondly, this systemic approach is going to require some degree of oversight as part of the failure of our present system is our almost wilful determination to keep everything resolutely in separate “silos.” For this reason, I was delighted to learn that Australia, France and Papua New Guinea have been kind enough to undertake initial efforts to collate information on the various forest support programmes around the world. This seems to be the bare minimum of what is needed, if for no other reason that in this period of increased stringency, governments will need to know that every dollar made available will be spent wisely to avoid any unnecessary duplication and to ensure that the reduction in tropical deforestation leads to the maximum contribution to countries’ sustained and sustainable economic growth. Such a coordinated approach will also lead to an increase in a level of trust that something can happen - and indeed is happening. 

Thirdly, given the precarious economic situation in which so many countries find themselves, I have been heartened by the readiness of rainforest countries to work on a “payment on performance” basis. This can only increase confidence. With incredible advances in monitoring and increased coordination among those who specialize in Monitoring, Reporting and Evaluation there is no lack of capacity and I know that in this regard Brazil has been immensely helpful in offering its services to other countries.

Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me conclude by thanking you once again for inviting me to join you today. I can only offer you my most heartfelt congratulations on a process which may, I suspect, be a seen by history as a vital step towards saving the world’s tropical forests – and our collective future.