Secretary of State’s Biodiversity speech in Brazil

Thank you.  It’s a great pleasure to be with you today.

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

The Rt Hon Caroline Spelman

Thank you.  It’s a great pleasure to be with you today.

The economic crisis that recently affected much of our world highlighted the risks that all investors face.  Anyone with a stake in a financial market has a vested interest in avoiding a similar crisis in the future. And needs to see a greater degree of accountability and transparency in the investment process.

The same principles and ethics should be considered when we look at our relationship with the natural world.  We should be able to put a value on nature. We should be able to make that value visible.

That’s what Pavan Sukhdev’s talked about in his report on the economic value of the natural world. To help us understand the true value of nature it should be measured and valued according to the services it provides.  Whether it’s cleaning water - capturing carbon or filtering pollution - services must be paid for, offset, or secured.

This may sound more like a business plan than the language we are more used to when making agreements to protect our living planet.  But it may go some way to explain why business is further down the conservation path than many national Governments - including the UK.

The enlightened have embraced the concept of biodiversity and sustainability.

Andreas Goss - UK CEO of Siemens said -

‘we only have one life and one planet to live on….. together we must take good care of ourselves and our planet’.

Samuel Palmisano Chairman of IBM has been quoted as saying -

 ‘I’m convinced we can build smarter, more sustainable economies and societies. I’m convinced we can build a smarter planet’

Paul Polman CEO of Unilever said - 

‘we want to be a sustainable business in every sense of the word’.

They all know it’s the right thing to do. Not for the sake of a balance sheet.  Nor just from an economic standpoint.  But from a social and environmental view point too.

The importance of this issue was brought home to me during my visit to the Chapada dos Veadeiros [vey-a-deer-os] National Park on Wednesday.  I saw first-hand the grandeur and majesty of the park and its various waterfalls.

It was also brought into sharp focus when I learned of the Cerrado’s [ce-ha-do] magnificent mosaic of forest and grassland.  A patchwork of land that’s nearly four hundred and fifty times bigger than the UK’s largest national park.

Had Charles Darwin seen the Cerado [ce-ha-do] when he stayed in Brazil back in the 1830s I’m sure he would have recognised the huge biological wealth of the Brazilian ecosystems he encountered. But he would have been unable to comprehend its economic value. A value instinctively understood by the indigenous people of Brazil

The pioneering discoveries of Darwin and the other great naturalists of his age broke the lock on previous human thought and started a scientific revolution.  A revolution that continues to this day. A revolution that excites us.  That amazes us as new discoveries bring fresh light to the world around us.

It’s this excitement, energy and endeavour that we need to tap into as we look forward to the next biodiversity conference in India.  And look to build on the momentum gained from Nagoya.

Where a new strategic plan for global biodiversity was formed. Where everyone saw the need to help finance conservation projects around the world. And where we agreed a new protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing.  

I know you’ve already signed up to this accord. It’s our intention to follow suit soon. Just another example of how in step we are on global issues.  I want to build on this. I want to strengthen our relationship further.  I want us to promote initiatives that demonstrate the economic value of biodiversity.

We’ve had some success already. In 2009 our International Sustainable Development Fund approved a joint project to assess the economic contribution of your wide network of protected areas.  The fund sponsored another project looking at the relationship between the private sector and biodiversity. This will serve as a starting point for your version of the TEEB for Business Report.

The UK coalition government has created an international climate change fund which the departments of environment, energy, climate change, agriculture and international development all share.

All of which ties in neatly with my main announcement today. Earlier I mentioned our agreement around a global biodiversity plan.  For the international community to deliver on this - work needs to take place at a national level.  In the UK we’re about to publish a national scientific assessment of our natural environment.  An assessment that shows its value to our society and to our economic prosperity.

The first report of its kind in the UK. It’s ambitious. It’s ground breaking. We’ve never attempted such an approach before.

We’re also looking to publish a policy statement that will set out an ambitious vision for the natural environment.  A vision that will stress the economic value of the natural environment as well the benefits it provides to public health and wellbeing.

Here in Brazil I know you’re looking to put together a national roadmap too. A piece of work that will help you meet the goals and objectives agreed in Japan.  I know you’re also looking to develop a series of national targets and an action plan.  These will help you make a positive contribution to the new global conservation effort.

We’d like to help.  We’d like to make a contribution of just over ninety thousand pounds to help you develop your strategy.  I very much hope this contribution will inspire others to get involved. 

From civil society - through local government and on to the private sector - everyone has a role to play. So whether it’s the big conversations needed to build on the good work that’s already taken place.  Or the changes needed to incorporate natural capital into the planning process and economic development.  Even the small, simple behaviour changes individuals can make in their day to day lives.  Everyone and everything can make a difference.

It’s this ethos that underscores the work taking place around our Darwin Initiative.  Since its launch at the Rio Summit in 1992 over eighty million pounds has been invested in more than seven hundred projects around the world.

Twenty initiatives have received funding here in Brazil.  From a project providing training for rearing crab larvae in the south of the country. Through a detailed survey on plant biodiversity in the Brejo [Brey-ju] forests. On to the impact of water management systems on river dolphins in the Amazon. This work and the work of all the other projects provide us with a real, tangible legacy to the Rio summit nineteen years ago.

So it only seems right that today - here in Brazil - we officially launch round eighteen of the Darwin Initiative.  I am delighted to tell you that we will be making more than twenty-five million pounds available over the next four years for new Darwin projects.  This increase in funding underscores the importance we attach to biodiversity, ecosystem services and the essential role they play in all our lives.

I very much hope that more projects in Brazil look for further funding from this initiative. I also hope that those projects that are successful should not underestimate the importance of the role they play in preserving our natural world.

By working together and by persuading people to change, each of us can make an enormous difference.  Not just on a local scale. But nationally and internationally too.  And on so many different green issues.

So today I’m calling for everyone’s help in all of this. Help us push for change. In Izabella and me you have two individuals determined to make a difference. Determined to use our political will to drive this agenda forward.  Just as we did in Nagoya. Determined to spread the understanding that if we all work together _we can and will__ _create a better world. Because time and again, we have shown that together we can achieve more than we could ever have hoped for.

Obrigada e boa sorte (Thank you and good luck).

Published 8 April 2011