Chief Executive issues welcome to World Forum on Natural Capital

The following is a transcript of the opening speech delivered by the Trust’s Chief Executive, and Chair of the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital, Jonny Hughes to delegates at the 2017 World Forum on Natural Capital, held in Edinburgh on 27 and 28 November. 

Welcome everyone to the third instalment of the World Forum on Natural Capital. Our focus this year is Better Decisions for a Better World and I’m delighted to announce that over the next two days we will have over 700 people from 60 countries in attendance to collectively explore this theme.

We also have a few new additions to this year’s event, which I’ll explain later in this opening session.

Since the last World Forum in 2015, the theory and practice of natural capital has continued to gain momentum across the world.

Increasing numbers of businesses are using accounting and evaluation tools such as the Natural Capital Protocol, and many governments have woken up to the fact that in order achieve long term stability and prosperity as a nation, a systematic understanding of natural capital is just as important as tracking GDP.

Immediately after our 2015 event, we saw the Paris Agreement, and within that agreement, increasing recognition that the restoration of ecosystems and biodiversity is critical if we are to get anywhere near hitting our climate change targets.

Take peatlands for example. They cover just 3% of the world’s land surface but in their degraded state they are responsible for around 7% of global anthropogenic climate change emissions. We know how to fix them and in doing so turn a global liability into a global asset. So let’s urgently make the required investment and reap the returns.

Climate Change Minister Roseanna Cunningham inspects Red Moss of Balerno Reserve © Scottish Government

Ecosystem restoration for climate mitigation was the key message of the letter we sent to COP 21 in Paris two years ago, and it is a message that is beginning to get through.

Since 2015 we’ve also seen green bond issuance grow from $42 billion to a predicted $150 billion this year, and we’ve seen China turn aspirational pronouncements on ‘eco-civilisation’ into hard policy and action.

Yet progress is still too slow. That’s why we are here again. Frankly, we need to keep at this until we achieve a more mature economics.

A transition to a new economic model which fully incorporates the four capitals – human, manufactured, financial and natural is the goal. Environmental economist Pavan Sukhdev assured me last week it is four – not five or six – but I appreciate that’s a live discussion!

One thing everyone in this room is absolutely agreed on is natural capital is one of them, and its integration into public and private sector economics will help us make consistently Better Decisions for a Better World.

At this point I would like to thank our partners: the International Union for Conservation of Nature, UN Environment, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Natural Capital Coalition, all of who have all been on board since the inaugural event in 2013.

Urban bee

And new for 2017 – we’re delighted to welcome the Green Economy Coalition as a partner. And with the addition of the Green Economy Coalition, a key focus of this year’s event will be ‘putting natural capital at the heart of the green economy and bringing the communities working on natural capital and the green economy closer together’.

To this end, we have three questions that will guide the discussions over the course of the next two days: How do we support better decision-making, how can we put natural capital at the heart of the green economy, and how can we create pathways to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals?

We’d like you to think about these over the course of the two days, and we’ll be sharing some of your answers in the closing plenary tomorrow.

We’re also especially grateful to our funders and sponsors. Particularly our headline funder the MAVA Foundation for their very generous support, and also our four principal sponsors, the Scottish Government, Oppla, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.

It is this support – combined with the expertise, commitment and energy of our partners that help make this event possible.So thank you.


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The following is a transcript of the opening speech delivered by the Trust’s Chief Executive, and Chair of the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital, Jonny Hughes to delegates at the 2017 World Forum …

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