Keynote Address by Achim Steiner UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director at the Second GLOBE Climate Legislation Summit
Thursday 27 February 2014, Kennedy Caucus Room, US Senate, Washington DC
The Honourable John Kerry, US Secretary of State,
Senator Edward Markey, co-Chair of the Senate Climate Clearinghouse and the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change,
The Right Honourable John Gummer, Lord Deben, President of GLOBE International,
The Honourable Ricardo Anaya Cortes, President of the Mexican Congress,
The Honourable Cedric Frolick, Chairman of the South African National Assembly
Honourable Senators, Legislators, Parliamentarians,
Excellencies, esteemed colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
Today represents a milestone on the road to Paris 2015.
The actions set in motion here - from the convening of the Second GLOBE Climate Legislation Summit to the launch of the 4th Climate National Legislation Study and the announcement of the International Partnership for Climate Legislation - clearly demonstrate the will and determination by legislators to move the climate change negotiations forward and build momentum towards a robust climate agreement.
On this occasion, I would like to congratulate GLOBE, its partners and international networks on this outstanding work.
UNEP is committed to supporting these pioneering efforts - particularly the strengthening of the new Partnership for Climate Legislation, which will help national legislators develop, pass and implement national laws on climate change, forestry and REDD+ (or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation "plus" conservation, the sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks).
From its first launch in 2011, the GLOBE Climate Legislation Study has become the most authoritative and comprehensive audit of global climate legislation across diverse economies.
The new edition of the Study shows a significant rise in national climate legislation between 2007 and 2013, with 66 governments enacting national climate legislation worldwide. Major economies made significant progress in issuing and implementing climate legislation, but much of the substantive progress took place in emerging economies. Such progress will deliver substantial benefits to national economies and at the same time help provide a foundation for ambitious political action at the negotiations table in the months ahead.
Delayed action means a higher rate of climate change in the near term and likely more near-term climate impacts, as well as the continued use of carbon-intensive and energy-intensive infrastructure, according to the Emissions Gap report launched by UNEP and over 44 research institutes from 17 countries ahead of the Warsaw COP, last year.
UNEP research shows that even if nations meet their current climate pledges, greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 are likely to reach up to 12 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) above the level that would provide a likely chance of remaining on the least-cost pathway.
Meanwhile, adaptation costs for Africa could reach approximately US $50 billion by 2050 and USD $350 billion annually by 2070, should the two-degree target be significantly exceeded. The continent is already facing adaptation costs in the range of US $7 to 15 billion per year by 2020.
The stepping stone of the 2020 global target can still be achieved by strengthening current pledges and further action, including scaling up international cooperation initiatives in areas such as energy efficiency, fossil fuel subsidy reform, renewable energy, forestry and REDD+.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Reducing emissions from forests is crucial to climate change mitigation; with deforestation representing up to 20 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions more than that of the entire transport sector.
Forests, and the services they provide, are vital to sustainable development and human well-being, whether in terms of storing carbon, supporting the world's richest reservoir of terrestrial biodiversity, regulating water flows, reducing soil erosion, or providing a source of nutrition, timber and valuable genetic resources. The ecosystem services provided by tropical forests are estimated to be worth an average of US $6,120 per hectare per year.
Despite this clear macro-economic case, the total yearly forest loss averages 13 million hectares per year equivalent to the surface of a football (soccer) field being destroyed every three seconds.
The scale of forest loss and degradation is indicative of the failure of institutions to sufficiently take into account natural capital considerations when planning and implementing national economic and developmental policies and projects.
National legislation is all important if REDD+ is to be implemented in a way that is effective, fair and transparent, while reducing the risk of corruption.
The GLOBE Forest Legislation Initiative, supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Government of Norway, seeks to strengthen legislation and parliamentary scrutiny functions in forested developing countries in support of REDD+.
By working with senior legislators to improve forest governance, law enforcement, financial scrutiny, accountability and policy coordination, the initiative promotes sustainable forest management and safeguards the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples, while facilitating progressive and early engagement of national parliaments with REDD+.
Parliaments can play a key role in providing oversight of REDD+ financial flows and increase the public's participation and confidence in REDD.
Member states at the 19th Conference of the Parties in Warsaw adopted rules to guide REDD+ implementation. Pledges from donor countries such as the US, Norway and the UK mean the initiative is now backed by US $6.27 billion.
This clear policy signal brings additional momentum to REDD+ and opens new opportunities to attract private sector investment to conserve the world's forests.
In collaboration with UN-REDD, UNEP is developing legal frameworks relating to REDD+ for countries across Africa, South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
For example, through GEF financing, UNEP is working with GLOBE on the development of REDD+ legislation in Mexico, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Key achievements include REDD+ amendments to Mexico's law on Sustainable Forest Management.
REDD+ offers an opportunity for countries to pursue a more sustainable alternative development pathway to countries through the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of forests.
It is also an important catalyst for achieving an inclusive Green Economy. The true value of forests comes to life when national and local decision-making processes are directed towards natural capital investment; supporting livelihoods and achieving sustainable economic growth.
For REDD+ to succeed, we need to create the required enabling conditions; from good governance and sustainable financial mechanisms to the equitable distribution of benefits.
These enabling conditions are themselves the building blocks for an inclusive Green Economy.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In a Green Economy, growth in income and employment is driven by public and private investment that reduces carbon emissions and pollution, enhances energy and resource efficiency, and prevents the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
These investments need to be catalyzed and supported by targeted public expenditure, policy reforms and regulation changes.
While much of the world's private capital is locked up in carbon-intensive investment across the developed world, developing country investment in a low carbon future is on the rise. Clean energy investments reached US $244 billion in 2012, while outlays in developing countries reached US $112 million, according to estimates by REN 21 (Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century).
As leading financial institutions increasingly appreciate the imperative of climate change, resource scarcity and other environmental challenges, the current financial 'rules of the game' may not be well suited to accelerate this transition.
World Economic Forum estimates suggest that investment in infrastructure of an estimated US $6 trillion annually is needed over the next 16 years to deliver a low-carbon economy. Of this, nearly US $1 trillion is over and above the business-as-usual trajectory.
Such evidence shows that when investments are targeted towards greening key economic sectors, they can produce multiple benefits for society, for the economy, and for the environment.
UNEP has recently launched an Inquiry into policy options for guiding the global financial system to invest in the transition to a green economy. The Inquiry will lay out a series of options for advancing a sustainable financial system. It will engage, inform and guide policy makers, financial market actors and other stakeholders concerned with the health of the financial system and its potential for shaping the future economy.
Ladies and gentlemen,
To address the complex environmental sustainability challenges that the world is facing today, there is a need for urgent, concerted and effective action. This requires not only renewed political commitment, and the right decisions by the international community, but also the support of a web of actors, enabling conditions and institutional arrangements that will facilitate decision making and the translation of commitments into action.
The first ever UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) will take place in Nairobi this June as the highest level global platform for policy making feeding directly into the UN General Assembly, with a focus on the Sustainable Development Goals and the Post-2015 Development Agenda, including sustainable production and consumption.
I would like to invite you to engage with UNEA and use the platform to further action on climate change through REDD+ and similar initiatives that are worth replicating and that can inspire further action at the national and global levels. With civil society, policy makers, government and the business sector under one roof, there is no better forum to exchange ideas and move the environmental agenda further, especially in the context of sustainable development and poverty alleviation.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that the right policy choices need to be supported by the enactment of good legislation and regulation and adequate enforcement systems, as well as conducive environments and effective governance frameworks.
The legal and auditing communities have a very important role to play in this continuum: only with their full engagement can one dream of achieving ambitious goals and a safer world for all.