Opening speech Oslo REDD Exchange

By Tine Sundtoft, Minister of Climate and the Environment, Norway. 

Ladies and gentlemen, your excellencies, friends and idealists!

Welcome to you all on behalf of the Norwegian Government’s International Climate and Forest Initiative.

I took office as the Minister of Climate and the Environment in Norway just two weeks ago. I am delighted to meet so many dedicated, change making people here today. We will discuss one of the most crucial questions of all: How do we protect the tropical forests of the world and ensure that they continue all their essential functions in the future?

Let me share a few observations with you. Climate change is a global problem. It must be solved globally. And there can be no victory without urgently slowing, eventually halting and ultimately reversing tropical deforestation.

Reduced deforestation is one of the few absolutely necessary options to reduce emissions fast enough to limit global warming to two degrees. Thus, drastically cutting tropical deforestation is a must. Not in the distant future, but in the next few years. You all know the facts about the significance of forests within this picture:

  • Efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation could generate up to one third of the reductions we need to be on track to the two degree target 
  • Forests protect against effects of climate change like floods, droughts and landslides. Hence, the conservation and sustainable management of forests is a key element in adapting to climate change. 
  • Only 7 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by tropical forests. But it is a vital 7 per cent. For it contains around half of the animal and plant species in the world. 
  • 350 million of the world’s poorest people depend for their survival on forests. 
  • Another billion people depend on the ecosystem services that forests provide

Unfortunately, tropical forests are currently worth more, in financial terms, dead than alive.

The protection of forests must become an economically attractive alternative to the destruction of forests. Most of the world’s standing tropical forests are found in countries in great need of economic growth. An easy way to private profit or government revenue is through deforestation. However, both the short-term and long-term consequences of forest destruction are huge.

The saving of forests must be understood to contribute more to national development and income than destructive uses of the forests. Otherwise, destruction will continue.

I can promise you that Norway is committed to be part of the solution, both through domestic actions and support to mitigation measures abroad. A cornerstone of the new government’s political platform is that we will further strengthen Norway’s climate change mitigation efforts.

I am proud to say that my party was among the key proposers of this initiative when the Parliament discussed the Norwegian Climate White Paper. We have followed the development of the initiative with great interest over the last few years. I am excited to have taken over the responsibility for this ambitious undertaking.

I am very happy to announce that the government is firmly committed to continue and further improve Norway’s engagement on this issue.

One important change has already been made: The responsibility for the climate and forest initiatives has been clearly placed in one ministry; the Ministry of the Environment.

Of course, the initiative will continue to be an important element of Norway’s development assistance. We will maintain a constant focus on supporting sustainable social development - And we will fight poverty through our work to improve the management and conservation of forests. The rights and participation of indigenous peoples’ and other forest dwellers will be of particular concern to us.

But it is above all, you in this room – and your colleagues back home - who are doing the real job. You are working day and night to confront the forces of destruction/ . You are developing alternative approaches to doing business and protecting the rights of your communities

I want you all to know that we are deeply impressed and grateful for all you are doing for our common goal.

Norway has some very valued partner countries. Norway has bilateral partnerships with a number of countries in addition to global initiatives. Some of these are here today, and we look forward to hearing national insights from Indonesia, Brazil, Ethiopia and Peru.

But during the conference civil society is at the centre of attention. Norway will be maintaining its support to the civil society. We are currently supporting 42 different organizations. 15 of these will present their work at the result bar both today and tomorrow. We know that civil society complements in crucial ways the work done by governments.

We are, then, a diverse group of people here at Oslo REDD Exchange. This reflects the nature of fighting deforestation - it demands an effort from all of us. And we need to work together. Therefore I am very happy to have 450 people from 60 different countries, representing all these groups. We can learn and gather inspiration from each other.

In two weeks I will be travelling to the climate conference in Warsaw. I will take the insights from Oslo REDD Exchange with me and work to ensure a strong international agreement that includes forests.

I hope that you too will make use of this opportunity to learn from keynote speakers and fellow participants.

Please use this opportunity to join in the discussions, to take home and use the wisdom gathered in your daily challenge of making REDD+ work. Safe and thriving tropical rainforests are our future, our common future.

Thank you.

Published 29.10.2013
Last updated 16.02.2015