Honorable Ministers, distinguished panelists, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Global Landscapes Forum. Thank you for the honor of opening such an important gathering of policy makers, technical experts, entrepreneurs, NGO organizers, donors, and citizens. We are all here today because we care deeply about conserving our forests; we are concerned about our collective food, water, and energy security; and we understand the strong linkage between a healthy productive landscape and our ability to withstand the impacts of climate change.
This is the third Global Landscapes Forum. The first one in Warsaw succeeded in bringing the farm and forest communities around a shared agenda. Last year, in Lima, we consolidated this alliance, and dug into the lessons from early successes. This year’s edition will take stock of how far we have come in realizing our vision for sustainable landscapes, and what more can be done to transform how we manage our land and forests, to achieve prosperity and resilience on a global scale.
The event and partnership for landscapes has grown with every year: This weekend brings together 8 Coordinating Partners, 13 Implementing Partners, more than 40 sessions, 10 landscape laboratory stations and 7 Thematic Pavilions. In total, more than 100 organizations from across the globe are contributing actively to the Forum by hosting discussions, exhibitions and creative opportunities for knowledge sharing. It is accompanied by a youth capacity building program, a social reporting bootcamp and a photo exhibition to reach out to diverse communities and stakeholders. Up to 100,000 people are visiting the website, millions will be reached through social media and many are following our livestream right now from across the globe.
We are living through momentous times. I see this daily in my work as Vice President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank. In each and every one of the sectors that I oversee -- Agriculture, Energy, Environment, Transport, Urban Development and Water -- the investment choices we make today will matter greatly in twenty years. Climate change already threatens to push into poverty more than a hundred million people by 2030 unless we act quickly and strategically to support climate-smart development across sectors -- while protecting the poor. And we can’t postpone acting on adaptation any longer. The way we make our decisions, our choices, cannot be business as usual.
This year, we have seen new climate records being set, and natural disasters visibly demonstrating the increasing consequences of climate change for people and economies. 2015 is set to be the hottest year on record and El Niño is already starting to wreak its expected havoc with abnormal rain patterns in many regions around the world. We are seeing every day headline news about the droughts and floods threatening hard-earned development gains. We are also keenly aware of the massive increase in migration and refugee flows, and of course these are exacerbated when degraded land can’t sustain livelihoods and jobs any longer.
Everyone here at COP 21 knows that this is just the beginning. What we’re seeing today is what life on Earth looks like with a 1 degree increase in average temperatures over pre-industrial averages. And we’re all here because we know it’s time to start preparing for increase of 2 - or even 3 – degrees now. There are so many things that need to be done, but one at the top of the list is the support to, and investment in, sustainable landscapes.
As I look around the audience, I am happy to see so many of the key players who have an impact on land use and management. I want to thank the many partners of the Global Landscapes Forum and our host, the French government, for bringing us together. I especially want to thank the funding partners that have made this possible: UKAid, the Australian Department of the Environment, USAID, the CGIAR Program for Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and Credit Suisse. We should also thank South Pole Group who are helping us in offsetting our carbon footprint by investing in a landscape restoration project in Ghana.
At the Bank, we have been working at the landscape level for over 2 decades, and we welcome the momentum we see in this area as countries share their national plans for climate action, and prepare to implement the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals.
Working across sectors at the landscape level is going to be critical for us to deliver many of the solutions to our most pressing challenges: We need to work across economic sectors to find synergies, so that the best use can be made of scare resources such as a land, forests and water. Today, seventy-eight percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas. Preserving and restoring the health and productive potential of natural assets is key to deliver both jobs and resource security.
We know that integrating trees into agricultural landscapes boosts yields and reduces vulnerability to droughts. We know that preserving forests in watersheds helps protect water supplies for urban consumption and hydropower in uncertain climates. We know that restoring mangroves protects coastal lives and economies from extreme weather events. We know all these things. But actually doing them on a meaningful scale is not going to be easy. It’s going to require new levels of – meaning more - coordination, finance, and knowledge. I am hopeful that we will all give special attention to these issues in each of our respective spheres of influence and make these new levels happen.
The Forum this year focuses on four themes: Landscape Restoration; Rights and Tenure; Finance and Trade; and Measuring progress toward climate and development goals. None of these themes are academic exercises. They are each connected to real opportunities, and to the ambitions expressed by a growing number of countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions at the same time they are boosting inclusive, green growth.
On this note, I would like to invite you to watch and listen to a video address from our host, France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Laurent Fabius.