Speech by Minister Goldsmith at the Forum of Ministers of the Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean

Thank you – it’s an honor to be here, at the end of an inspiring trip to Ecuador and Costa Rica, just a few weeks after an equally inspiring visit to Peru and Colombia – and to meet many of you here today at the Leticia Pact ahead of COP26.

I could spend hours talking about the mesmerizing beauty of this whole region and the leadership – you are truly at the epicenter of global ambition on the greatest challenge facing us.

And it was wonderful to be able to spend time with friends – Andrea Meza, Carlos Correa and Gustavo Manrique, three phenomenal leaders – and my new friends from Panama, and I look forward to visiting them soon.

You’ll be happy to know that I won’t spend hours talking about the mesmerizing beauty of this region.

But I would like to share some thoughts, if possible, on what was achieved in Glasgow, during COP26.

The world has heard the message from ambitious, nature-rich countries – as well as climate-vulnerable nations around the world – and from many of these vulnerable countries and small island developing states.

Prime Minister Mottley spoke forcefully about the urgent need to stay below 1.5 degrees and provide greater support to communities who are devastated by a global crisis not of their making.

And the extraordinary Roxana Borda Mamani, a passionate and eloquent young Quechua activist from Peru – whom I met when I was there – spoke so movingly at the COP about the need to empower indigenous peoples and local communities.

I cannot claim – and I will not claim – that we have closed the gap between where we are and where we need to be if we are serious about tackling these big issues and reversing the degradation of the natural world, and the climate change that threatens us all.

But without a doubt, we’ve narrowed that gap significantly – and more, I think, than people expected.

And we created momentum.

We kept alive the possibility of staying within 1.5 degrees.

90% of the global economy is now listed at net zero – that was just 30% about a year ago.

We agreed on measures that undoubtedly mark the end of the coal age – and 2021 was the year that killed international public funding for coal-fired electricity.

And we are accelerating the transition to renewable energies, including green hydrogen.

We have finalized the Paris regulations, including the important article 6.

And a new ratchet mechanism – which has been under-reported, but is hugely important in my opinion – will help us keep the pressure on year after year.

And I am delighted that the UK is investing £100m to address the critical recommendations of the Access to Finance Task Force which we co-chair alongside Fiji.

And although we have not reached the promised and extremely important figure of 100 billion dollars – we continue to urge donor countries to keep this promise as we continue our presidency, and we have a good plan to achieve this and we are optimistic that we will be.

But what has made this COP different from previous COPs – and I think so important – is that nature has moved from the very margins of the climate change debate to the heart of our response to it.

And that’s important because we know – you know this better than anyone – that there’s no credible path to tackling climate change or getting to zero emissions that doesn’t involve a massive focus on protecting and the restoration of nature.

Indeed, climate change is just one of many devastating symptoms of our irresponsible and abusive relationship with the natural world.

If you will, climate change is the fever.

And the beauty of supporting nature is that it also allows us to solve so many other problems – pollution, poverty – even, as we now know, pandemics.

Nature-based solutions are undoubtedly the most effective, but they are also the most cost-effective, and we must support them.

And between us, I think we won that argument at the COP – and I see no turning back.

It is the bravery and leadership shown by the countries of the great oceans and the great outdoors, many of whom are represented here today, that has enabled the UK Presidency to be as ambitious as we are, enabled us to make – and win – the case for protecting and restoring nature.

And for that, I’m very grateful to you for being here today.

The Glasgow Commitment to Halt and Reverse Forest Loss and Land Degradation by the end of this decade – by 2030 – has been signed by 141 countries representing over 90% of the world’s forest cover .

And this statement is more than just a paper statement.

It is bolstered by unprecedented levels of public, private and philanthropic funding amounting to nearly US$20 billion.

…and by public commitments from the world’s largest buyers of agricultural commodities – agricultural commodities are responsible for the vast majority of deforestation

…and a similar commitment from major multilateral development banks and financial institutions managing assets worth trillions of dollars

– each of them committing to aligning their purchases and portfolios not only with the Paris objectives, but also with our deforestation targets.

28 countries are now working together to break the link between agricultural products and deforestation – while supporting livelihoods and increasing sustainable trade

…and it was backed, I’m delighted to say, with a £500m commitment from the UK

…and is also supported by a growing initiative by consumer countries to introduce due diligence legislation, of the type we have already introduced in the UK

– designed to help strengthen forest governance around the world and reduce the impact of our own supply chains on other countries.

COP26 also crucially secured almost $2 billion to help indigenous peoples and local communities defend their forests.

And there was an indigenous leader at the COP, whom I had the pleasure of meeting, who said: “We have protected 80% of the world’s forest biodiversity without any support, often in the face of acute danger; can you imagine what we will be able to do with support? »

Working with indigenous communities will therefore be at the heart of what we do, not least through the commitment we have made to the Amazon.

The UK did this as a result of my visit to Carlos Correa in Colombia and friends in Peru – we were able to pledge to support the amazing work taking place in critical parts of the Amazon, but also through the LEAF Coalition which I hope will grow significantly in the coming year.

Now the UK remains in the COP Presidency until we hand it over entirely to Egypt towards the end of this year.

And our commitment is that we will do all we can to inject scrutiny and accountability at all levels to ensure these promises are fully delivered – and built on.

So there is a lot to do – and I look forward to working with the world’s most ambitious countries, many of whom are here today.

But we have also seen that even the most reluctant countries, companies and even institutions are feeling pressure.

They have seen that we are taking small but important steps to shift the immense power of the market from destruction to resilience, sustainability and renewal.

This change is happening. But we need more pace, and we need more urgency – and the only way to get that is for governments in particular to use the levers that are solely within their control.

Governments set the rules.

We have the ability and the responsibility to adjust these rules so that pollution, degradation and waste become an unbearable burden

…and that the market learns to recognize the true value of these natural systems on which we all depend.

This is a critical year for all of us.

We’re going to have to work together to make sure that all the decisions we make at the different milestones this year are more than the sum of their parts – and that we’re truly setting the world on the path to recovery.

And we have a great opportunity, if we agree a new global agreement on marine litter and microplastics at the UNEA, to help accelerate the transition to a more circular economy.

…and an ambitious new global biodiversity framework at CBD COP15 – with mechanisms to hold Parties accountable.

And the UK is so proud to be part of this extraordinary global coalition committed to protecting at least 30% of the earth’s land and at least 30% of the oceans of the planet by 2030.

We all need to work together to get this deal.

Many of you play extremely important roles, and I am very grateful to you.

When Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador and Panama made their announcement – this extraordinary vision of a new highly protected and highly connected marine reserve, covering an incredible half a million km2 of ocean

… I can tell you, as someone who was there at the COP, cajoling countries, trying to get everyone to raise their ambition, that moment really sparked something good, a green arms race to the COP – with countries beyond this continent wanting to try and engage and bask in the glory that they could see these four countries enjoying as a result of their announcement.

It really helped raise the ambition – it helped us – so again, I’m very grateful to you.

This is exactly the ambition we all need – and the UK pledged at the COP to support its initiative, we took a small, timid step in that direction today.

And as I’ve been able to tell my friends in these four countries, the UK will be committing £2million to help get the process started – but it’s the start of a longer-term relationship.

And there’s no good reason why we can’t make this a decade that really begins to turn things around and reconcile our lives with the natural world.

In my meeting with the president of this country, President Alvarado, I said yesterday that this is without a doubt the defining challenge of our time.

And we will all be judged on the basis of our ability to do so.

So I really look forward to continuing to work with these ambitious countries here in this region.

And Andrea, thank you once again for inviting me, for looking after me these past few days, for giving me so much of your time – but far more importantly for the incredible global leadership we need now .

Thank you very much.

About Matthew Berkey

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