The following speech by Inger Anderson, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, was delivered at the Global Landscapes Forum in Nairobi, Kenya on October 11, 2023.
“A warm welcome to everyone to the Global Landscapes Forum, a forum that we at UNEP are proud to take part in. We know that climate change and the climate crisis, that nature and biodiversity loss, and that crisis and pollution and waste and the crisis associated with these are bearing down on the planet.
As you all know, this July was the hottest month on record, and we are seeing this extreme weather, whether it’s droughts or floods or other impacts that are really having a bearing down on communities and on economies.
We are seeing billions of hectares degraded, millions of species facing extinction, and of course we know that our oceans are drowning in that toxic sludge from our development, including plastics and other harmful pollutants.
And the impacts of Africa are also very much at play. We have been privileged to see the Africa Climate Summit taking place here in Nairobi, and we saw a commitment to make a difference, because we know that 100 million people on this continent are affected by weather, climate and water-related hazards, whether it’s too much and flooding, or whether it’s too little and drought. And in the Horn of Africa, we also know that we have been facing the worst drought in 40 years. And that is an injustice.
But as was made very clear in the recent Climate Summit, Africa does not want to play that victim role. Africa will step up and cut its emissions, even though they are negligible. Africa is not asking for handouts or charity. Africa is asking for justice, so that Africa can address loss and damage, so that Africa can create resilience.
And that’s about transforming a narrative, transforming a narrative that indeed, the solutions lie here on the continent. Countries outside the continent who have made clear carbon commitments know that they cannot do it within their own boundaries alone, that they have a footprint outside from the things they import and from their overall consumption.
And so, what Africa leaders invited everyone to do was essentially to come and invest in the continent. A continent where you can have green and clean energy. Why investing? You will create jobs and opportunity and poverty reduction. That is the opportunity that lies ahead.
And so, Africa has created and crafted this new vision for the earth to drive success, to deliver on the Kunming Global Biodiversity Framework, to deliver on the Paris Agreement to deliver on the land neutrality measures that are instituted under the Desertification Convention and to deliver on the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. That is what I hope you will be discussing here at the Global Landscapes Forum.
We at the UN, we were proud to announce the World Restoration Flagships, which are some of the most ambitious and the most inspiring examples of communities and nations making peace with nature, to quote my Secretary General, António Guterres.
Africa was on the forefront of this announcement because we were proud to see the Great Green Wall being part of these announcements, the small island nation of Comoros and indeed Rwanda and Uganda, all nations that have shown great success in how to restore mountain ecosystems or other ecosystems under threat.
But we have to look beyond land and I hope also here at the GLF you will be talking about Africa’s abundant resources for renewable energy. There are massive opportunities, as I mentioned, and by investing in renewable energy, Africa will not only provide energy for itself, but Africa will also have the opportunity to earn foreign currency through exports of energy if it so chooses, or indeed the world has the opportunity to drive investments to Africa for jobs, for industry and for development.
So what are we all waiting for? Let’s now roll up our sleeves and get to it. It’s not like we don’t know what to do. I hope that everyone here will be learning about what’s happening in your landscapes and in your community and what you can do to enhance and create greater resilience.
We are in the middle of the decade, the UN decade of Ecosystem Restoration. We hope that many that are engaged in restoration will apply for world restoration flagship status and we hope that you will all hold yourselves and your governments and businesses accountable for promises that they have made for commitments that we have made.
So please join the generation restoration and help this continent continue to shine.”