Net-Zero Dialogue|Irina Bokova


Source: China-Europe-America Wechat Official Account

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Former Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova's Speech


Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, allow me first and foremost to congratulate the organizers and sponsors of this so important initiative, the launch of the China-Europe-America Net-Zero Transition Platform, which aims at accelerating the indispensable green transition to sustainability, and what is also equally important, social progress.


The conference has very important items on its agenda, the Energy Transition and Imperative for Sustainability, Indispensable Green Finance, Smart Transportation and Smart Cities, as well as Government Initiatives and Business Investments in Decarbonization.


The debate is particularly relevant today after the Glasgow COP 26 conference. And I believe your platform will not only contribute to the exchange of ideas, but also to support practical solutions to reach a global net-zero economy.


The two United Nations reports before Glasgow warned that the world is way off track to cap rising temperatures, with current national pledges set to result in an average of 2.7 temperature this century. We all know that sticking even to 1.5 limit will not prevent extreme weather worsening or sea levels rising. But it's seen as vital to avoid runaway impacts on humans and on planet's ecosystems, including widespread hunger and forced migration.


It is overwhelmingly accepted that climate change is a very significant threat to humanity. And while there are countless solutions to tackling what has been described by the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently, “the existential threat of our times”, it is still not fully clear how these solutions will be financed.


It is a daunting task, but it remains the single most important component of our response to climate change, and also to the sustainability transition across all components.


One of the most important aspects of this debate definitely is how to mobilize private capital, private financing for solutions for the public global good. There have been a number of important initiatives brought up by the United Nations, the United Nations Global Compact and the other organizations from the United Nations system.


I would just like to mention a few of them, the Principles for Responsible Investment, the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, convened by the United Nations Environment Program, and also those who built bridges together between public and private investment in transportation, in the smart cities' development, in the sustainability of urban development.


There are also a number of independent studies that call for a significant ramping up of investment to fight climate change, especially for developing countries. And some of them indicate that globally, finance must rise eightfold to meet the estimated 5 trillion needed annually for climate action by the year 2030, or an average increase of more than 430 billion a year this decade.


We see that climate financing is trending upward. It averaged in 2019 and 2020 more than 630 billion, a 10% rise from the previous biennium. But the rate of increase slowed from earlier years, and definitely but not nearly as the speed required.


And during the Glasgow 26, an important and also positive development, the 26 banks, insurers and investors with 130 trillion at their disposal pledged to put combating climate change at the center of their work.


Albeit all these impressive efforts, still a much greater share of the world's money is invested in ways that contribute to climate change, not to preventing it. And this must change. Fortunately, financial innovations and mechanisms are being developed to help protect ecosystems and improve livelihoods, thus fighting climate change.


Let me, in this juncture, turn my attention to an issue that in a program that took us deeply with my experience as Director General of UNESCO, the Man and the Biosphere Program that aims to protect and restore the nature's biodiversity and also putting close link with the threats with climate change.


This UNESCO intergovernmental scientific program is one of the most successful among the United Nations system. The establishing of 737 biosphere reserves all over the planet in 131 countries and also 22 trans-boundary reserves, which serve as a very solid scientific basis for enhancing the relationship between people and their environment.


It combines also the natural and social sciences with a view to improving human livelihoods in safeguarding natural and managed ecosystems, thus promoting innovative approaches to combating climate change and economic development that are socially and culturally appropriate, but also environmentally sustainable.


Restoring our planet's landscapes is one of the most important ways to combat climate change. Forests and agriculture make up over 30% of the solution to climate change. But they receive less than 3% of climate financing.


This year, the United Nations kicked off an important Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, with the massive global call to action to mobilize the political and financial support necessary to restore the world's deforested and degraded ecosystems over the coming decade, and thus to support the wellbeing of 3.5 billion people around the globe or half of humanity.


According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, restoration of 350 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 will generate $9 trillion in ecosystem services and remove an additional 13 to 26 gigatons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.


Ecosystem restoration and the protection of biodiversity are fundamental to achieving the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly on climate change, poverty eradication, food security, water and biodiversity conservation.


Plugging this massive financial gap will require a coordinated effort between the public and the private sector from the local to the global level.


As scientists warn us about the sixth mass extinction of wildlife which accelerates, it is our responsibility and the responsibility of all stakeholders, first and foremost, policy makers and the private sector, to rise to the challenge and to bring policy frameworks, incentives, innovation and financing. It requires multilateral efforts and platforms, strong cooperation, albeit all the recent political and geopolitical challenges.


This is a historic responsibility that should not be missed. I wish success to the conference, and I hope it will be just the first of a series of such debates within the China-Europe-America Net-Zero Transition Platform.


Thank you for your attention.


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