G7 Environment Ministers’ Meeting


Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General 

6 May 2019 - Metz, France

(As prepared for delivery)



Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to address one of the greatest challenges we face: the protection and restoration of biodiversity.  In the “Anthropocene era”, human impact on our Earth has become so profound that it is resulting in the global mass extinction of species.

It is time to rethink our relationship with nature.

Biodiversity is the foundation of our human health and well-being but also our economies. Its benefits are often invisible in economic decision-making, but they are enormous. Globally, the total economic value of ecosystem services is estimated to be between 125 and 140 trillion USD per year – that’s almost twice the size of global GDP! Business and financial organisations also depend on biodiversity for the production of goods and services: Coral reefs alone generate USD 36 billion per year for the global tourism industry.

Yet biodiversity is rapidly disappearing.

In the space of a few decades, we have lost 60% of the world’s remaining vertebrate populations. In just five years, we destroyed an area of natural forest larger than the United Kingdom. Unless we change direction, the outlook is bleak: coral reefs, for example, are projected to decline by 99% if global warming reaches 2 degrees Celsius. In fact, even if global warming were to reach 1.5 degrees, it would still mean losing 70 to 90% of all coral reefs.

And inaction has a cost: the world is already losing trillions of dollars a year in ecosystem services due to land cover change alone.

Excellencies, it is not too late to halt and reverse many aspects of this catastrophic trend. We can be this positive change. It is not too late to build a new culture that respects nature and life. We can be this change. But we need to rethink our economic and business models, and we must take stronger action now. The G7 must lead the way! I am encouraged by the statements that many of you made in support of the Presidency’s initiatives for instance on marine litter and great apes.

But next year will be key! CBD COP 15 will set the scene for biodiversity action for the next decade and beyond.

The G7 can play a vital role now to pave the way for a successful outcome in 2020.

Our new report on Biodiversity: Finance and the Economic and Business Case for Action identifies concrete priorities for G7 and other countries to scale up action.

First, we need to strengthen the ambition of our biodiversity policies and get the economic incentives right. Economic instruments can play a key role but are currently underutilized. For example, revenue from biodiversity-relevant taxes is only 1% of the revenue generated from all environmentally-relevant taxes which themselves are only 1.6% of total GDP. This is microscopic! So what our tax policies essentially tell us is that we do not care about biodiversity! There is potential to scale these up, while also protecting the poorest and most vulnerable from their effects.

Second, we need to scale up, align and better track finance for biodiversity from all sources, public and private. Our preliminary estimates suggests that finance flows for biodiversity may be in the range of only 50 to roughly 80 billion USD a year. This data is partial and incomplete. We must track our resource flows better. We need to know what is happening.  Just as important is to reform the existing subsidies that are potentially harmful to biodiversity. We estimate these to be in the order of 500 billion USD a year! The G7 could commit to undergo a peer review process of the reform of subsidies harmful to biodiversity. The OECD delivered a review process in the context of the G20 on fossil-fuel subsidies: China and the US led by example and were the first to undergo one. Other key players followed. We should be no less ambitious on biodiversity!

Third, we need to integrate biodiversity in businesses and financial decisions. Most of them do not yet have a full understanding of biodiversity-related risks to their operations. Nor are they aware of the business opportunities arising from protecting and sustainably using biodiversity. Promoting due diligence in responsible business conduct is a good place to start.  The G7 can better engage businesses and financial organisations by supporting the creation of a multi-stakeholder group on biodiversity, business and finance. This group could develop a common methodological framework for measuring and integrating biodiversity in business and investment decisions.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, we need to pursue ambitious, specific, measurable and quantitative targets in the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. The G7 can bring its leadership and full support to reach an agreement on a focused set of headline indicators, for the state of biodiversity, the pressures thereon and our actions to counter such pressures. This is critical to monitor progress in a more consistent and comparable way across countries.

The OECD is helping. We already collect and track data across countries in a consistent and comparable manner on biodiversity-relevant economic instruments for Aichi Target 3 on incentives and the finance they mobilise. But we need such indicators across all the Targets. Because if we can’t measure it, we can’t manage it!

The most important outcome we can achieve for our citizens is to agree ambitious targets in Kunming in 2020 – and to deliver on them! We will also play our part to contribute to COP 15. At the Presidency’s request, we will provide a comprehensive update on global biodiversity finance so we know better where we stand. We will share further analysis on indicators to help build this much-needed post-2020 framework. And we will propose options to scale up actions and policy coherence for better biodiversity outcomes.

Dear Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

We can make a difference. We can redesign our growth strategies, our economic policies, and our industries to promote more inclusive and sustainable growth. And biodiversity must be a central part of this change. We can be this change. We have the evidence and the tools to achieve this transformation. Now we need your leadership.

The world counts on the G7. And you can count on the OECD.  Thank you.




See also:

OECD work on Environment

OECD work with G20



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