13 December - Hilary Benn speech on deforestation
Forests and forest issues are a key focus of today's (December 13) discussions in Copenhagen. Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Hilary Benn, today delivered this speech, empahsising the need to agree REDD + here in Copenhagen, to help manage deforestation issues and thus limit dangerous climate change.
He added 'The geatest thing that we could do for the biodiversity of our natural world would be to secure an agreement here in Copenhagen.'
Read full transcript below.
Speech by Hilary Benn (UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to FOREST DAY 3 (Copenhagen 13th December 2009)
'I'm delighted to be here today and to have the opportunity to speak to you. And would like to congratulate you on bringing us all here in Copenhagen.
Five years ago Professor Wangari Maathai became the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
In her acceptance speech she described the birth of the Green Belt Movement which she created in Kenya in the 1970s. A response to the problems experienced by women living in rural communities.
The lack of firewood. The need for clean drinking water, having the right food to eat, somewhere to sleep and enough money for their families. Women – said Professor Matthai are often the first to become aware of the environmental damage as resources become scarce.
And in Kenya they saw the forests – so long taken for granted – had within half a century largely disappeared.
From the start, the movement planted trees – 30 million of them and still rising. Trees that now provide fuel, and food, and shelter and an income to support their children’s education and their families.
Trees, as Professor Mathai told us, also help conversation. Many people walk long distances carrying water. Whether they do so in the burning sun or in the cooler shade makes all the difference. The women in places where the trees had gone got out of the habit of standing and talking. It was just too hot.
With the cover of the newly planted trees they began to talk to each other again.
Now we are here today because we need more Green Belt Movements around the world. Our ancient forests continue to fall at an alarming rate. Illegal logging and the international trade in illegal timber damage the environment, cost governments billions of dollars in lost revenue, encourage corruption, undermine the rule of law and fund armed conflict.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us that land conversion and deforestation causes nearly two billion tonnes of carbon to be emitted each year. That’s around a fifth of all global emissions. And as each tree falls so does the earth’s ability to heal itself and to adapt to the effects of our changing change.
So what can we do ?
We need to lay down our axes and pick up our shovels. We need to plant trees. We need to manage our forests so they can absorb huge amounts of carbon a year. We need to preserve the habitats of thousands of the world’s animals and plants.
And here in Copenhagen this week we can make the choice to make this happen.
At its heart REDD+ is a very simple idea – pay countries rich in forests not to cut down their trees so that the trees can go on eating up carbon. That’s what trees do! And they do it very well.
Yes there are lots of questions. Who will pay for it? How much public money and how much private money? How do we make sure it gets to the right people at the right time and doesn’t get into the wrong hands? How do we make sure we back the right schemes? And once the system has been set up how can we include these forest projects in our emissions trading schemes, as surely we must?
Yes, they are important questions. But nothing like as important as our responsibility to find the right answers.
So the first thing we must do here this week to help our forests is to agree REDD+.
Now the European Union has now pledged $3.6 billion a year over the next 3 years towards fast start finance a total of $10 billion a year by 2012.
The UK and France said on Friday that 20% of this fast start finance should go to tackle deforestation.
Beyond that pledge, the UK believes that there must be finance for six years, so that by 2015 we can achieve a 25% reduction in deforestation from current levels. We believe that this will cost in the region of $25 billion - the majority of which of course should come from developed countries – to support the efforts of developing countries.
That should be our aim, and I am grateful that Gordon Brown’s call has been welcomed by the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea as a “game changer.”
Secondly, REDD+ must be part of an agreement this week. Over the next few days we need to work urgently with rainforest countries to turn this growing consensus into a final agreement. Without it there will not be a Copenhagen deal that achieves the 2 degree limit which the science tells us is needed.
We have five days left in which to get a climate deal. The UK Government as all Governments is making an all-out effort. We are not there yet. There is a lot of work to be done. But the progress we are making on deforestation shows that we can come together we can achieve something that a generation ago would have seemed impossible.
3 weeks ago I was in Brazil and heard what is being done there to safeguard its sovereign forests and biodiversity. They are creating a mosaic of protected areas covering 3 million hectares in the state of Amazonas, the first state in Brazil to enact a law on climate change and environmental conservation.
And through a forest fund it rewards people in conservation areas for preserving the forests.
So I would like to congratulate Governor Braga of Amazonas for the commitment he has shown both to conserving his state’s biodiversity and to improving the quality of life of the people who depend on the forest. But also for the leadership you have shown all of us.
Thirdly, agreeing REDD+ will only succeed if we - as developed countries – do our bit. So as well as contributing finance, that means stopping the purchase of timber from damaging deforestation and supporting the purchase of timber from sustainable sources. This will send a message and help to change behaviour. It will reduce the risk of deforestation moving from places - which are benefiting from REDD finance - to others which are not. Our responsibility as Governments is to use the power we have – when we buy timber - to help the market for products that don’t have a damaging ‘forest footprint’. And it’s not just about timber; it’s also about sustainable palm oil.
Now many of you will be aware that in Europe a proposal has been put forward to restrict the flow of illegal timber into member states. It’s a start but it needs to be stronger. It should ban illegal timber outright in the European Union. It should send a message to the world that our Community is not in the market for illegal timber and that we are serious about tackling deforestation.
The fourth thing we must do is to understand that, as Nick Stern reminded us, by preserving our forests we also safeguard our biodiversity.
Think of our mineral wealth, our timber, our fossilbfuels. Think of how ecosystems provide us with things that we take for granted.
They purify our drinking water. They produce our food. They decompose our waste. They give us with the means to heal the sick. They regulate our climate.
They are home to 70% of the world’s plants and animals, and more than 13 million distinct species.
And the greatest thing that we could do for the biodiversity of our natural world would be to secure an agreement here in Copenhagen.
An agreement which recognises biodiversity’s place in preventing, and adapting to climate change.
An agreement that protects and restores the plants, the trees, the soils and the seas that make this possible.
An agreement that maintains those natural ecosystems, not only for these reasons but because of their unique capacity to lift our spirits and to heal our souls.
The truth is that the great challenges that we face in this world – our changing climate, the security of our food supplies, a rapidly growing world population, the way we use the world’s resources, and the loss of biodiversity - are as separate only as the fingers of a single human hand are separate. It is how they work together that matters.
I believe that we can find the will to act. And in so doing we should draw strength from our past.
This year we celebrated 150 years of the publication of Charles Darwin’s, ‘On the Origin of Species’. Darwin revolutionised the way we see and think about our place in the world – who we are and where we come from. Darwin bequeathed to us this simple advice. He said:
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent…. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change. “
He was right.
He had the courage to tell us what the science told him. It is up to us to find the courage to secure the world’s future for our children and our grandchildren.
And the time to do this is now.
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