Remarks by Angel Gurría,
22 September 2019 - New York, USA
(as prepared for delivery)
Dear Amina, Achim, Luis Alfonso, David, Irene and Eva, Ladies and gentlemen,
Nature Based Solutions (NBS) is a crucially important topic for the OECD.
The climate emergency keeps growing: we have already experienced an increase in global temperatures of around 1˚Celcius relative to pre-industrial levels, as well as more extreme climate-related weather events. Without adaptation measures, it is estimated that rising sea levels will cause annual damages equivalent to 4% of the world’s GDP by the end of the century.
Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are rising again, while plastic pollution, overfishing, ocean acidification and warming are devastating our marine ecosystems, depleting fish and killing corals.
Countries are making progress on NBS
Nature Based Solutions – the conservation, sustainable use and restoration of biodiversity and the associated ecosystem services – is a critical component in this battle. NBS can help us adapt to climate change, reduce the biodiversity loss, contributing to the creation of new jobs, to livelihood resilience and reducing poverty. Moreover, it can help us to develop a new way to relate to nature in a more respectful, sustainable manner.
Through NBS, we can protect shorelines, cool cities, complement built infrastructure, provide carbon storage, enhance biodiversity and increase human well-being. Take the example of mangrove trees: they can sequester greenhouse gases, protect marine life, maintain fresh water and defend against rising sea levels and storm surges.
A growing number of countries recognise NBS as key to effectively adapting to the adverse impacts of climate change:
• The UK modified its National Planning Policy to require that nature-based solutions be used in new developments as a tool for flood prevention.
• Here in the United States, a nationwide permit was created to make it easier to use natural processes, such as planting seagrass, to prevent coastal erosion.
• Mexico has pursued reforestation to reduce the risks of landslides and replenish its aquifers.
• New Zealand has taken steps to restore and protect its dunes.
• Developing countries are also acting on NBS, but they need support, both technological and financial.
OECD: taking the work forward
While many national efforts show the potential of NBS, implementation is patchy and we are swimming against the tide when we see old practices remaining such as the burning of the Amazon!
And we’re falling behind. In 2018 alone, 3.6 million hectares of old-growth forest were destroyed, bringing with it a great loss in species, flood control, and temperature regulation.
We need to overhaul the systems we have worked with so far and broaden our goals and ambition. Existing governance, existing regulatory policy, and existing financial practices act as roadblocks to nature-based solutions. This must change.
At the OECD, we are working to provide guidance for policymakers on the conditions to scale-up the use of nature-based solutions. Our recent report ‘’Biodiversity: Finance and the Economic and Business Case for Action’’, delivered to the G7 in Biarritz only a month ago, highlights how cost-effective restoration can deliver results for both biodiversity and climate.
The OECD is highlighting the need to align regulatory frameworks with climate mitigation and adaptation policy goals.
We have also pointed to the institutional, financial and investment barriers to the diffusion and the dissemination of NBS. We are working with governments to dismantle them. And we are increasingly partnering with the UN on this endeavour to help spread the word and the best practices.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Our global economic system is killing life on our planet. The only way to change this is through multilateral co-operation. Through the cumulative impact of a growing number of countries being aware – and acting upon – the opportunities that NBS provide. But it is also a battle against ignorance, against vested interests, against incompetence, against corruption, a battle against time! And we can still win this battle, including, as David mentioned, with the powerful engagement of youth.
The OECD stands ready to work with and for you in promoting NBS to design, develop and deliver better climate policies for better lives. Thank you!