Address by EU Ambassador to Nepal, H.E. Nona Deprez at the launching of Human Development Report 2020
Human development and the Anthropocene
Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Honourable member of the National Planning Commission,
Honourable Director General of ICIMOD,
Honourable chair of the Federation of Community Forest User Groups Nepal,
Honourable Executive Director, Global Climate Fund,
Honourable Ms Sapana Roka Magar, activist,
First of all, I would like to thank Ayshanie Labe, country representative of the United Nations Development Programme here in Nepal, for the opportunity to participate in this launch with this excellent panel.
The subject we are discussing today is very close to my heart and a top priority for the EU, and I’m encouraged to share this panel with people who share this conviction and have demonstrated with their actions, throughout their life, that change is possible.
As the saying goes, we have not inherited the earth from our ancestors; we are borrowing it from our children. We have a huge responsibility: we are now, in the next 10 years, in one of the last windows of opportunity to influence the current trajectory of climate change to lessen global warming. Also, with the COVID-19 crisis hitting the whole world, we have to take care to respond economically at the right scale, without indebting future generations.
One of the most important lessons we can draw from this year’s human Development Report is the interconnectedness of these questions. Planetary and social imbalances reinforce each other: climatic or economic shocks engender inequalities, which in turn exert pressure in systems. Ecosystemic realities do not care about political geographies: countries and continents are interlinked by oceans, rivers and mountains. As we’ve seen this year, sadly, viruses don’t need passports to infect the whole world. To quote from the report, “we must reorient our approach from solving discrete siloed problems to navigating multidimensional, interconnected and increasingly universal predicaments”.
While we continue to focus on fighting Covid-19 and its consequences for the global economy, the clock has not stopped ticking on the other global crises: the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis, pollution and the over-exploitation of resources. These crises are interrelated. Climate change accelerates the destruction of the natural world through droughts, flooding and wildfires. Biodiversity loss and unsustainable use of nature are in turn key drivers of climate change.
What is at stake with Climate change is our common future, the future of our children and the future of our fragile planet. A green recovery is not only about climate change. The pandemic has reminded us of links between environmental degradation and the impacts on human health. Air needs to stay cleaner, and biodiversity loss needs to stop. We have to “build back better”. For the health and wellbeing of our people.
In fact, it would be an economic disaster not to act on climate and environment. Over half of global GDP depends on nature and the services it provides. And business is already moving ahead. When we look at the costs of non-action, it becomes clear we cannot afford not to invest in a green transition, we cannot afford to forget about the Paris promises.
The post-COVID economic recovery and the transition to a sustainable, socially just, resilient and climate neutral economy can and should go hand in hand.
There is a tendency in every crisis both at the level of each individual as in groups, to turn inwards, to shut out the dangerous world but the global transition induced by the Paris Agreement is fostering international collaborations, a sound competition and a race to the top among leading economies, leading to more trade, more investment, more innovation and more job creation.
The European Union understands this approach, and has put forth a very ambitious agenda called the European Green Deal. As the continent where the industrial revolution originated, our natural ecosystems have suffered longest and we have to contend with centuries of emissions. We are a rich continent today, but we also understand our responsibility towards our citizens and the rest of the world. The EU green deal sets the target to make the European Union Climate neutral by 2050.And recently, the European council agreed to increase the EU’s emission reduction target for 2030 from 40% to 55%.
A “green recovery” does not mean a trade-off between economic growth and the environment. The EU’s greenhouse gas emissions declined by 23% in the last 30 years while our GDP increased by 61%. This is a very telling outcome. It is and it must be a win win solution. But this solution also lies outside the European borders.
With the European Green deal, the EU hopes to lead by example, by setting very ambitious standards at home, encouraging and supporting partner countries to follow suit. The EU Green deal is part of a European recovery from COVID that gives more back to the planet than it takes away. We truly hope that we can continue our close cooperation with Nepal tackling climate change.
The European Green Deal is in its essence a modern growth strategy, a strategy to bring together environmental, economic and social sustainability. It needs to be a just transition, leaving no one behind, as that is a driver for conflict, whereas resource scarcity will already fuel insecurity and ultimately conflicts.
Young people constitute major victims of social and economic consequences of the pandemic while at the same time they will have to bear the burden of the effects of climate change.
Our policy response should therefore take into account their specific situation and support their active participation in the labour market and social life as a whole.
The threat of climate change necessitates a “whole of economy” and “whole of government” approach. To be effective, climate action must address the core of the economies, energy systems, key domestic and export industries and infrastructure. The crucial success factor in building broad societal support for ambitious climate goals is the integration of socio-economic aspirations. This approach allows business, government and civil society stakeholders to rally behind shared goals and to come together to chart a path towards a desirable future, to avoid division and policy or political instability.
Global solidarity, open and fair trade, rules-based order, and multilateralism are crucial to avoid lapsing into fossil fuel and resource intensive recovery, thus putting people and the planet irreversibly in peril.
We need to work together on this on an equal footing, not exporting ‘our’ standards, but forging ‘global standards’ together.
The EU has been a long standing partner and friend of Nepal supporting various efforts of the government of Nepal to climate action and to increase the resilience of Nepal since many years.
The EU Green Deal has three strategies, aiming to adapt to and mitigate climate change. These strategies point to a new and better balance of nature, food systems and biodiversity; to protect our people’s health and well-being, and at the same time to increase the EU’s competitiveness and resilience.
The first one, the farm to fork strategy, deals with both the enormous impact that agriculture has on emissions and pressure on ecosystems, and how food systems have a direct connection to the health of citizens. Some of the targets set are:
The second one, the EU 2030 Biodiversity strategy, addresses the loss of nature by human activities and will put Europe’s biodiversity on the path to recovery by 2030, for the benefit of people, climate and the planet. Some of the targets set are:
The third one, the New Circular Economy Action Plan, addresses the overuse of resources and generation of waste. Today, in the EU, only12% of secondary materials and resources being brought back into the economy. Many products break down too easily, cannot be reused, repaired or recycled, or are made for single use only. There is a huge potential to be exploited both for businesses and consumers. The EU will:
At the heart of the European Green Deal, are European citizens. The three strategies aim to increase their wellbeing by providing better choices, better health, and a better environment. As we know well, providing good quality public goods and services is the most basic form of social protection, and one of the most important ways of creating cohesion within a society.
The ambition is also that more countries follow suit, and their citizens can benefit as well. If we have one lesson to take away from 2020, a very difficult year, is this: in the words of Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission: “Main lesson from #COVID19: the job gets done when the world comes together. Let’s now do this in the fight against climate change. EU is ready to lead the way towards a green and digital recovery.” We need to join forces at a global scale, leaving no one behind, if we are to succeed in leaving the world a better place than we found it. This is the magnitude of the challenge. And the European Union is there, to partner with Nepal, in its Green Recovery.