Speech/statement | Date: 14/10/2015
Speech at the Conference “Cutting ties between business and deforestation” in Oslo, October 14th, 2015 (Check Agiainst Delivery)
Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends and Colleagues,
I am happy to be here. And -- I am happy to see so many representatives from civil society, government and businesses together.
We are here-- together-- because rainforests are one of the most important ecosystems on the planet.
Living rainforests capture and store massive amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The carbon stored in the rainforests in Central Africa equals for example 2000 years of Norwegian emissions.
Rainforests contribute to the planets water cycle and influence rainfall patterns globally.
They provide a safety net of shelter, food and income to some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people.
They provide a home and cultural identity to indigenous peoples worldwide.
The importance of the rainforests is unquestionable.
A little more than one year ago, I invited many of you to a breakfast meeting at the Ministry of Climate and Environment. It was the last thing I did before leaving for the UN Climate Summit in New York.
There we launched the New York Declaration on Forests.
Countries, companies, civil society organizations and indigenous peoples' groups signed up to halting deforestation by 2020 and ending it by 2030.
Since then we have seen increasing private sector commitments to deforestation free supply chains.
At the breakfast meeting last year, I said that 60 per cent of all trade in palm oil was deforestation free. That number is now 96 per cent!
There are signs that other commodities will follow. This year two of the world's biggest traders in grains -- ADM and Bunge --have committed to deforestation free soy.
However, progress does not only happen abroad.
Orkla, Rema1000 and Norgesgruppen have all made strong commitments to ensure that palm oil in their products are sustainable and does not cause deforestation.
Their action has been noticed abroad and has contributed to the international progress for deforestation free palm oil.
This morning I met with the key representatives from the Norwegian food and feed industry.
Denofa, Felleskjøpet Agri, Felleskjøpet Rogaland Agder, Norgesfôr and Fiskå Mølle are pledging to use only soy from sources certified as deforestation free.
The companies also support actions to improve forest and land-use beyond their own chains of supply.
This shows a serious, responsible, forward-looking industry that use their presence on the ground in Brazil to drive change in a positive direction.
Their announcement is an inspiration to me, and a perfect start to this day! I hope it will inspire other businesses to do the same.
Since September last year, 41 companies -- with 1.4 trillion dollars in annual revenue -- have endorsed the New York Declaration on Forests.
Norwegian businesses make up 25 percent of these, which make you one of the largest groups of endorsers, only beaten in numbers by companies from the US.
For one small moment, I think we shall allow ourselves to be proud.
But just for a moment, of course.
Over time, commitments only have value if they are followed by changing practices on the ground. Preferably also by public policies to level the economic playing field in favor of such practices.
This part of the work has just started.
And it comes with layers of complexity. Land rights issues need to be resolved. Small scale farmers have to change their practices. Policy changes enhancing sustainable practices must be invoked. Knowledge must be shared. Capacity built.
I know that you will discuss some of these issues today.
I hope sharing experiences will help us all to take the next step for deforestation free agricultural commodities.
One month ago, I visited Mato Grosso in Brazil. A province three times the size of Norway. It still has 60 percent natural forest and wetlands cover. It also has large-scale soy and beef production.
I participated in a discussion panel consisting of representatives from national and regional government as well as private businesses and banks.
We were discussing how Mato Grosso could become a showcase of inclusive green growth. And a risk-free sourcing region for agricultural commodities.
In Mato Grosso and elsewhere, there is growing recognition that one actor alone cannot reduce deforestation. All stakeholders must work together.
Now, the alignment of interests is striking.
Forest countries are facing serious challenges due to deforestation. Sinking water levels, fires, erosion and decreasing food security are some.
Donor countries -- like Norway -- have set aside substantial funding for cost effective, international climate mitigation initiatives.
Private businesses have committed to zero deforestation in their supply chains. They are now relying on increased supply of sustainable and deforestation free commodities.
Civil society organizations, like Rainforest Foundation, have been promoting this agenda longer than most of us. Gaining valuable knowledge and experience on the way.
In addition, I note that some governments explore the possibility of implementing public procurement policies that do not contribute to deforestation.
Focusing on sustainable palm oil could be a first step.
Norway will seek close cooperation with other signatories when considering how to follow up the New York Declaration in this regard.
Together we have a unique opportunity to build public-private partnerships for production and protection. Food must be produced smarter, more efficiently and without destroying rainforests.
We need to demonstrate that forest protection can go hand-in-hand with income generation, employment opportunities and social development.
Lastly, I would like to extend my appreciation to the Rainforest Foundation Norway. The fact that we are all here together today-- agreeing on the importance of rainforests-- is largely caused by the pioneer work of Rainforest Foundation Norway and others like them.
I am therefore extremely happy that the Rainforest Foundation is the recipient of the Norwegian national TV fund-raising campaign this year, the so-called TV-aksjonen.
Next Sunday, a majority of Norwegians will happily donate to rainforests.
New public awareness around this topic will arise. Children are already posting drawings of orangutans on Instagram.
I am confident that we together can end tropical deforestation.
With this, I wish you an interesting and enlightening conference.