Greg Barker's opening speech to the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) Dialogue

Ladies and gentlemen - it is a pleasure to be able to join you today, and provide some opening remarks. The issues that you will be discussing…

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon Gregory Barker

Ladies and gentlemen - it is a pleasure to be able to join you today, and provide some opening remarks. The issues that you will be discussing today are not just important to me and my Department, but resonate with my colleagues across government.

Soon after coming into government in May 2010, the Prime Minister promised that this would be the greenest government ever. Showing leadership on forests, climate and poverty is critical to this. And the passion for forests goes much further than our government - it has been alive in the imaginations of the British public for many years.

The specific issues of deforestation were brought to my attention early in my career at DECC, when I travelled to Oslo to launch the REDD+ Partnership. I was struck by the political momentum behind this agenda, and the desire to move beyond the rhetoric, and to start to make REDD+ a reality. In the next few minutes I will set out how I think we need to do this: first by leveraging and spending the necessary finance for REDD+; second by designing REDD+ rules and standards that are internationally robust; and third by ensuring that the finance and the standards result in real action on the ground.

We got a resounding commitment to REDD+ ambition in Cancun. We now need to get on and deliver it.

Finance remains the critical issue for REDD+.

Analysis by the Informal Working Group on Interim Finance for REDD+ concluded that between €15 and €25bn is needed between 2010-2015, in order to achieve a 25% reduction in deforestation over the same period. To date, donor countries have pledged $6bn, so we’ve got a long way to go.

My government reiterated the previous government’s commitment to fast start finance, but we have also committed to going further. We will provide £2.9bn climate finance over the next 4 years, of which a significant proportion will be available for forests.

My officials are currently working with DFID and Defra to scope a possible REDD+ portfolio for UK finance, based on evidence and lessons learned from all existing major bilateral and multilateral REDD+ programmes.

Clearly the multilateral institutions are going to be vital to help build the necessary capacity for REDD+ in forest countries, and to implement REDD+ to deliver real results for climate and people, and we have already committed to supporting them, as participants to the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, and the Forest Investment Programme, to which we contribute £115m collectively.

But I am aware about the concerns around disbursing finance, and as well as considering options to build on our multilateral investments, I am keen to consider options for scaling up and building on our existing bilateral programme by providing large scale finance to a limited number of forest nations, to build the capacity for - and to generate - real REDD+ results, in coordination with other donors.

I am also convinced that while public finance will continue to play an extremely important role in the medium and longer term, in order to go to scale on REDD+ we will need to consider how to use public finance to catalyse private sector capital. I want to use our finance over the next 4 years to test possible approaches, working with other donors.

We need to be able to demonstrate the economic benefits of taking action now: achieving the EU’s target of a 50% reduction in deforestation by 2020 would save at least $450 billion in carbon-only damage alone , and protect wider ecosystem services valued at between $1 trillion and $3.25 trillion per year by 2020 .

The agreement reached on REDD+ in Cancun was landmark, in that it contains all of the detail we will need to incorporate REDD+ into an international climate agreement, and it helped to re-establish momentum for a multilateral process.

But there is more work to do. We need to understand better how to implement REDD+ in practice, to ensure that co-benefits for people and the broader environment are maximised, and results are monitored and reported on transparently.

And we need to qualify our ambition, in terms of the level of action that is required by REDD+ countries, and the finance that donors will provide to support this. We need to actively explore diverse and creative financing options, and we also need to support the design of the Green Fund to establish a future window for REDD+ finance.

I hope that in Durban we can make progress on the detail, and on the high-level ambition, and I will be working with my colleagues in other donor countries to try to build momentum over the next 10 months.

Critically, the REDD+ mechanism that we design needs to be grounded in reality, and be demonstrated to be deliverable.

And this will mean looking far beyond the forests sector to ensure that we identify and address the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, rather than treating the symptoms whilst ignoring the cause. We need to take a ‘whole economy’ approach; to understand where the pressures on forests are coming from, and why. Only then can we target our efforts and resources on easing them.

So we must do a better job of addressing the macroeconomic factors that can skew an economy away from sustainable patterns of natural resource use. We need to get long-term growth onto a more sustainable footing; to ensure we preserve biodiversity and natural resources for generations to come.

To do this, we will need to ensure that we are building on a solid foundation with a clear understanding of governance principles as they relate to the forest, land use planning, and distribution of benefits from REDD+. This will mean setting legal frameworks, clarifying land rights and tax revenue systems, and working closely with forest-dwelling communities. Forest governance is not just a safeguard to be borne in mind when considering REDD frameworks; it is an essential precondition for success.

Finally, we must do more to break the divide between forested and non-forested nations, between donation and delivery. Better co-ordination between donors can ensure coherence at a national level, making it easier for forest nations to take up the offer.

The REDD+ Partnership is an opportunity to really kick REDD+ delivery into high gear. Spotting priorities for fast start finance. Sharing lessons on implementation. And creating the right political space to discuss scaling up longer-term finance. So far, the Partnership has made some positive steps: establishing a database and running workshops to share lessons. We need to build the momentum more rapidly in 2011.

I wish you success with the Dialogue today - and applaud the initiative of RRI to bring together so many diverse interests. REDD+ is about more than just climate: it is a critical basis for low carbon, pro-environment and genuinely sustainable development. And we need to keep the dialogue broad to ensure that we have full engagement on this critical path.

Published 8 February 2011