Global Landscapes Forum Second Plenary Session


PRELIMINARY VERSION, December 19, 2017



I would like to start by thanking the Global Landscapes Forum for inviting me to be here today with a group of remarkable leaders from the social and public sector.

Change and rapid progress in terms of landscape restoration is no longer an option or one path among many. It is one of the most important engines in the transition towards a low carbon economy. Around one quarter of world Greenhouse Gas emissions are associated with the land use sector, due to factors such as unsustainable agriculture and cattle activities, deforestation and wildfires caused by climate change. Moreover, one quarter of the world´s land area has been degraded. Just during the past 50 years. We should also remember that, as things are today, restoration and reforestation are the only feasible, scalable solutions to capture the harmful carbon emissions that cause global warming.

Furthermore, working, advocating for and investing in landscape restoration is the only way in which the world will be able to feed a rising population in a more equitable way, ensuring wellbeing for all. There is a gap of 60% between the amount of food available today and that which will be required by 2050 to feed 9.7 billion people inhabiting the world that year, according to figures by WRI.

More than a burden, landscape restoration should be seen as an economic opportunity, for companies and governments, but most of all, for people working in sectors that depend of land
use products.

  • Land restoration strategies will also help us preserve our forests, which provide essential ecosystem services and whose products generate around $1 trillion per year.
  • In Latin America and the Caribbean, large scale restoration initiatives could yield about $23 billion over a 50-year period.
  • Restoring just 12% of the world’s degraded agricultural land could feed 200 million people by 2030.

This is precisely the main message that we convey around the world at the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate: we must look beyond the costs of inaction and the negative impacts of climate change and focus on the great economic opportunities arising from a low-carbon economy. In order to do this, we must invest, according to the research of the Commission, on three key systems: cities, energy and land use. Of course, we have always known that there are clear benefits of protecting our planet, in environmental, social and economic terms, but thanks to the most recent evidence, we have been able to make a clear and strong case for investing in lowcarbon solutions, designing climate-smart policies and supporting sustainable infrastructure projects. The scale of change we need is enormous, that’s why we need our whole economic model to shift towards a more sustainable path.

All this research-based evidence has helped us dispel one of the most important barriers to attain a better future: that climate change and economic growth are incompatible. And the work of the
Commission during these past few years has been focused on disseminating this message at a global level and within some key countries.

And talking about land use and landscape restoration, we have found that clear policy actions can trigger significant progress in reforestation and landscape restoration.

First, we need to phase out subsidies for agricultural inputs. They are not only inefficient in the sense that they do not reduce inequality, they incentivize the expansion of agricultural land into forested areas.

We must scale up research and development in agricultural technology that help us increase the productivity of crops and develop new, more sustainable agriculture techniques. In order to combat soil erosion and decreasing agricultural yields, we must restore at least 500 million hectares of lost or degraded forests and agricultural lands by 2030.

There are various examples in countries around the world that show us what we can accomplish. Costa Rica managed to increase forest cover from 29% in 1991 to 54% in 2015, by enacting ambitious reforms that included carbon pricing, payments for ecosystem services and the elimination of agricultural input subsidies. During the period 1953-2007, South Korea’s forest cover increased by 30%, or 3 million hectares, giving support to sustainable forestry, creating special funds for reforestation and implementing payment for ecosystem services.

As President of Mexico, I promoted the inclusion of sustainable growth and reforestation as one of the main axis of the National Development Plan 2006-2012. We established clear goals that
helped us set the path for the future. More importantly, we revamped the whole institutional network of agencies and support schemes for landscape restoration and reforestation. Under the umbrella of a program known as Proarbol, we integrated and coordinated support schemes, payments for ecosystem services and restoration activities. As a result, we managed to reduce
the rate of deforestation by 35%.

The next step now is to find ways to finance a decisive and faster transition across the world for the land use sector. We need to tackle those barriers that hamper sustainable agriculture and
restoration efforts. And policymakers have an instrumental role in this. They must incorporate landscape restoration and sustainable development as policy priorities. We should also invest in
these projects: policies can and should be used wisely as to attract private investment.

One of the main challenges in terms of financing landscape restoration policies is to connect private and public funding to projects in the developing world. Emerging and developing economies possess vast land resources with a huge potential to reduce carbon emissions and boost local economies, yet climate finance from specialized national and international funds is difficult to access.

For developing countries, transaction costs and bureaucracy make it timeconsuming and costly, with approval processes that can take up to two years. We need to streamline our ability to match landscape finance supply with demand.

I want to conclude by stating that decisive shifts in our economies require not only to have the right arguments and evidence. We need to plan and achieve coordination with various stakeholders, to include civil society and the private sector. Most of all, it requires leaders to think in the long term and find a compelling way to push for policies that allow countries to boost their economies and become more competitive by embarking in the transition. I often say that we can do well by doing good. And doing good requires a firm conviction and commitment. And doinggood requires a firm conviction and commitment.


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