I am delighted to be opening the 2020 Green Growth and Sustainable Development Forum (GGSD), which is focussing this year on “Securing natural capital: Resilience, risk management and COVID-19”.
This forum is as timely as it is crucial, not only in light of the consequences of the pandemic on our societies but also in terms of what it says about the state of our ecosystem.
Natural capital – including the biodiversity on which our societies depend – is central to many economic activities and livelihoods, from agriculture, forestry and fisheries, to pharmaceuticals and tourism.
Ecosystem services such as crop pollination, water purification, flood protection and carbon sequestration are worth 140 trillion USD per year, or around one-and-a-half times global GDP. Protecting natural capital is not only key to protecting our economies; it is also critical for preventing future pandemics.
We know these facts, we know the evidence, yet global natural capital stocks continue to deteriorate. One-quarter of animal and plant species are facing extinction. On land, deforestation continues, with over 70% of terrestrial land degraded. Ocean-based natural resources are increasingly affected by over-exploitation, pollution and climate change impacts.
We can take no detours. Countries must integrate biodiversity considerations into their COVID-19 response and recovery plans. Building back better is our core policy objective.
OECD analysis shows that while good examples of green recovery measures exist, others remain neutral or harmful to biodiversity. Some countries have even rolled back environmental regulations or bailed out companies with a heavy biodiversity footprint without any environmental conditionalities. Others have introduced subsidies potentially harmful to biodiversity.
Biodiversity loss and climate change are challenges of a similar magnitude and urgency. They are fundamentally interlinked. They must be addressed together.
Nature-based solutions, such as protecting and restoring forests, can facilitate climate change mitigation and adaptation, by decreasing the risks of landslides and floods, and acting as carbon sinks. Wetlands regulate water flows and prevent coastal flooding, while also reducing damage from storm surges and erosion.
Let me highlight two priorities to safeguard our natural capital:
First, we must mainstream considerations for nature into economic incentives and regulatory frameworks. For example, integrated land-use and marine spatial planning can help prevent biodiversity loss by reducing the conversion of biodiversity-rich areas, and by minimising the negative impacts of production activities.
Moreover, we must ensure that growth in the food sector is geared towards the preservation of natural capital and resilience. Reorienting environmentally harmful agricultural subsidies – such as those provided to support intensive livestock production – towards targeted payments that preserve natural resources and the environment would help significantly.
Furthermore, better policies for fisheries’ monitoring and sustainable management would improve the quality and durability of the ocean ecosystem. This would increase fisheries’ productivity while also tackling illegal and unsustainable fishing practices.
Second, investment and financing decisions should better reflect natural capital considerations. Some countries are elaborating frameworks to identify “green” and “sustainable” investments, but we need consistent criteria and definitions.
OECD’s work on developing sustainable finance definitions and taxonomies has highlighted similarities across national systems, underlining how these could provide a basis for a common global framework.
The OECD-FAO Guidance for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains helps agri-businesses and investors address risks to people and the planet in global agricultural supply chains. It also helps them integrate biodiversity considerations into their business decisions.
Our work on FDI “qualities“ aims to maximise the impact of FDI on sustainable development, including firms’ carbon footprints, through their actions on climate change mitigation and access to sustainable energy.
The world is facing the most severe social, health and economic crisis since World War Two. While managing the crisis, and laying the groundwork for a resilient, green and inclusive recovery, we must take immediate action to prevent further natural capital degradation!
COP 15 (the Convention on Biological Diversity) in China is a critical juncture to commit to this action. Let’s not miss out on this unique opportunity to identify concrete ways to transform our relationship with nature, for the better.