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Helen Clark: Speech at the Side Event of the UN Chief Executives Board on Forests and the UN-REDD Programme, UN Climate Change Conference – COP20, Lima, Peru

08 Dec 2014

I am pleased to be addressing this meeting on the importance of forests and the UN-REDD Programme in tackling climate change and achieving sustainable development.

As the largest terrestrial storehouse of carbon, forests play a crucial role in climate change mitigation. As a vital source of energy, water, livelihoods and biodiversity, they play a key role in adaptation by supplying the ecosystem services which society depends upon. And the health of forests is essential for the 1.6 billion people, including many of the world’s poorest who depend on them for their food, fuel, medicine, shelter and income.

Yet despite these evident benefits, more than thirteen million hectares of forests are cleared every year. This deforestation accounts for around twenty per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and it is threatening our collective future.

This problem cannot be solved unilaterally. In order to protect forests and realize their full contribution to sustainable development, multi-stakeholder approaches are needed. Governments of developed and developing countries, governors of states and provinces, the private sector, indigenous peoples, civil society, and multilateral organizations must all work together.

It was very encouraging to see this range of stakeholders come together at the Climate Summit in New York hosted by the UN Secretary-General in September. The message came through loud and clear that without decisive action on deforestation and forest restoration, global warming cannot be limited to two degrees Celsius.

The Summit highlighted a number of critical steps which each sector can take between now and next year’s COP in Paris to drive progress on these forest issues:

Developing forest countries can put forward nationally-determined mitigation contributions which include ambitious goals and policies to reduce forest loss and increase reforestation. They should identify how much they can achieve unilaterally, and how much more they could achieve with international support. They could continue to enhance implementation and enforcement of land-use reforms to grow their economies without destroying forests. This will take political will, and the international community needs to support these efforts.

Advanced economies need to deliver large scale economic incentives, particularly for REDD+, in the context of the new climate agreement. If 2014 was the year in which the private sector came forward in full force to tackle deforestation, 2015 needs to be the year when governments respond and deliver in full force on the promise of REDD+, which they have worked so hard to design over the last seven years.

The private sector must eliminate deforestation from its supply chains without delay. This means broadening sustainability practices to cover other commodities, and bringing more companies in both developed and developing countries on board.

Indigenous peoples must be empowered to continue to play their vital role in protecting forests. That means we need to see governments formalize and protect their rights, and the private sector respect their right to give or withhold ‘free, prior, and informed consent’. We must see conflicts resolved in a manner consistent with good governance, equity, and respect for human rights.

Since 2008, the UN-REDD Programme – jointly implemented by FAO, UNEP, and UNDP – has supported REDD+ readiness efforts in 56 partner countries across Africa, the Asia-Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean, by giving direct support to the design and implementation of 21 UN-REDD National Programmes.

With the decision of the Warsaw COP last year, REDD+ entered a new phase of delivery at scale. UN-REDD agencies recognise the need to support countries to move beyond readiness activities towards what will lead to results-based payments.

Thus, the UN-REDD Programme is strengthening its support to developing countries through a new Strategic Framework. It will support efforts to contribute to climate change mitigation through the implementation of REDD+ activities as agreed under the UNFCCC negotiations.

The new Strategy will align closely with the elements of REDD+ which are specified in the Cancun COP agreement, and then elaborated upon in the Warsaw Framework. It will help countries address issues associated with the Cancun Agreement on Safeguards. It will see a greater focus on preparing countries to receive results-based payments.

As countries embark on unprecedented transformations in their forest and land use management to meet ambitious sustainable development and climate change mitigation objectives in the next ten years, I am proud that the UN system is stepping up to this challenge by bringing together the full and integrated support of key UN agencies in support of country needs and demands.

The UN system is committed to building on the progress of the strong global Forests coalition which came together for the September Climate Summit. At UNDP, we will work closely with our UN-REDD partners – FAO and UNEP; the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility; and the broad multi-sectoral coalition which came together for the Climate Summit to build on the momentum around forests issues. It is vital to carry this productive partnership to Paris and beyond.

I look forward to hearing shortly from other participants in this event, who will tell us more about their achievements, their aspirations, and their needs for REDD+. After the panelists speak, the floor will be opened for interventions and questions.

But first, I am delighted to invite Achim Steiner and Maria Helena Semedo to elaborate further on the UN’s contribution to forests and how we can continue to enhance our delivery as one.