Global Landscapes Forum 2015: Achim Steiner – Closing Keynote

Executive Director of UNEP and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, Achim Steiner, speaks at the high-level closing plenary session from the second day of the Global Landscapes Forum 2015, in Paris, France alongside COP21.

The closing ceremony takes a closer look at some of the initiatives that emerged through the Forum and offers a space for tracking progress as well as outlining next steps.

Sunday, 6 December 2015
Global Landscapes Forum, Paris, France
#GLFCOP21 #ThinkLandscape


Excellences, ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues, good afternoon or also good morning to some parts of the world because this closing session is being webcast live.

As Olivia just said, to those of you who are somewhere in the world perhaps watching right now, let me tell you that this forum has been remarkable, extraordinary, but you have not missed the opportunity to follow it because many of its sessions have been recorded and will be on the website. And I think whether you are a practitioner, a university professor, a minister, a forester, a farmer, do take a look at some of these sessions.

Just my own experience in attending a few today is that this has been one of the more remarkable fora in which often the audience was even better qualified than the panelists. That doesn’t happen very often. But that’s not to say that the panelists weren’t incredibly well qualified, no. It’s just the audience, just to make sure I don’t get into trouble with my fellow panelists, it delivered extraordinary insight.

I want to begin by saying that I have been invited to address you on behalf of the coordinating partners. I simply wish to note that a forum such as this – and if I understand correctly, it could be one of the, if not THE largest, forum that’s happening alongside this conference in Paris, the COP – has drawn together people from different disciplines and sectors.

And part of what made the coordinating partners commit to working together was this notion that we needed to move beyond sector perspectives. Some people shy away from complexity, but complexity is actually not only the new reality, it has been there for a long time, but perhaps the new realization. In a world of 7 billion people, with all the resource pressures, demands, lack of public policy progress at local, national and international level on certain key things, complexity is becoming, if you want, the defining arena within which we need to move.

What used to be a world in which you could exploit a resource and move on, in which a kind of mining of natural resources was – if you wish – the order of the day. We today have to manage a very different production system. One big step that this forum took some years ago, and I want to recognize in particular the leadership of CIFOR in having brought this about, but many others who have begun to create this narrative, is that we move beyond sector and start thinking in terms of place.

A place where people live, a place where a farmer produces, a place where commodities coming out of the agriculture and forestry sectors are traded, whether at the local market or the global market. But the knowledge that is associated with disciplines – be they the scientific disciplines, be they the social sciences – are in a sense forced to converge in order to provide a different understanding of how we can manage that complexity.

A landscape approach encapsulated in this forum that has now matured into really quite a remarkable event – coming alongside the climate change Conference of the Parties – has not only in its own right produced a different narrative and conversation, but by holding it in the context of the climate conferences has also enabled an audience to partake in the deliberations that otherwise would be very difficult to assemble. And I think again we need to be grateful for the opportunity that this has provided to us, but also to the broader climate community.

Because the transitions that are being discussed a few kilometers down the road in le Bourget are as yet very much focused on issues that relate to decarbonization, clean technologies. And, despite our very best efforts, the ecological infrastructure of this planet, agriculture and forestry, as integral parts of being able and enabling the world to address this challenge are not yet sufficiently recognized. In part, that is the task that the forum has taken on. And, through the forum, all of you individually, wherever you work, by contributing to the state of knowledge that we’re able to present here.

I do have to note that – and I hope this is something that all of you have shared – we need to give particular credit to those of you who have arranged these sessions and indeed the program as a whole. As participants, you have benefited from it as much as you have contributed to this synthesis of knowledge and also the outlook with which we will continue to make that part of the world that we capture in that notion of landscape a much more prominent part in the understanding of how it, yes, contributes to global warming through certain decisions and pathways – but actually also represents one of the most significant opportunities for addressing the challenge of climate change.

And perhaps this elusive notion to some that there are a great deal of win-wins to be found in bringing the conversation about climate change, about food security, about farming, about forestry, and about how we manage our ecosystems into a whole. The theory of change that is emerging through this landscape forum focuses very much on this notion of drawing the threads together around this concept of the place in which we manage resources and also practice production will change I think not only the way our different sectors look at the future, but will also hopefully change the way that a global climate process begins to translate into visions and perspectives for the rest of the world.

Let me once again thank all of you for having contributed to this, thank the organizers, and also in particular our colleagues at CIFOR – but many of our teams who are in the corridors, in the background, have made these extraordinary two days possible. It’s been a privilege to be here amongst you, and I think for all of us in the coordinating team of organizations, your presence here and the quality of discussions is the best validation that you could have given.

Thank you.