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Opening speech, Bonn Challenge Asia High-level Roundtable

Keynote speech during opening session of Bonn Challenge Asia Regional High-Level Roundtable. 10 May 2017.

Good morning! Excellences, ladies and gentlemen.
 
Let me start my remarks by thanking Her Excellency Siti Nurbaya , Minister of Environment and Forestry, for the invitation to this important event, and you, Governor Noerdin, for hosting here in Palembang.
 
I am truly happy to be here and take part in the Asia Regional Bonn Challenge meeting. And I’m looking forward to listen to the discussion – the relevance is very clear:
 
We are already at the point where just reducing carbon emissions will not be enough. We must actively remove carbon out of the atmosphere. Otherwise, we will not be able to fulfill the Paris Agreement. But how can we manage this?
 
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC suggest that large scale carbon capture will be necessary to avoid dangerous climate change. In this, I’m happy to inform you that Norway is one of the countries where technologies for industrial carbon capture and storage are being put to use. The Norwegian Government and private sector are working on developing value chains that can hopefully make this economically viable in the future.
 
However, while we continue to refine much needed technologies for industry, transport and energy, we must not forget that nature itself has already developed some extremely sophisticated carbon capture machines.
 
They are called trees. Many trees make a forest, and protecting intact forests is currently the most cost-effective carbon capture option we have. Forest restoration is by far second-best – and represent a substantial carbon sink.
 
It should therefore be easy to agree in this room today on the fundamental fact that in order to limit global warming, we must both:
reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and increase the uptake and storage of carbon through forest and landscape restoration. And it makes a lot of sense not only for reducing emissions.
 
For a long time, conventional wisdom told us that environmental and climate concerns compete with economic growth. Basically that economic growth is linked directly to emission growth. We now do know better. Research and real-life experience from selected economic sectors tells us that this simply does not need to be the case.
 
In energy, for example, there are already thousands upon thousands of greener jobs to  be had, as conventional energy production is replaced by solar. In sustainable land use we have only seen a tiny glimpse of the future benefits for landscapes and livelihoods arising from improved management and intensified production. The opportunities are exciting and plentiful.
 
Dear friends, even though we address the issue of restoration in our discussions today, it is useful to remind ourselves that more can be done to avoid more areas ending up in a state where restoration is needed. It is becoming increasingly clear that growth cannot be sustained unless our natural resource base is maintained and protected from overexploitation.
 
Continued deforestation will create long-term problems that far outweighs short-term profit. We face a growing population and resource demands. We now know that we need to increase agricultural output to feed 2 billion more people by 2050. We also need to use our resources, especially water, more effectively. But we can no longer face these challenges simply by creating other problems that can damage our local and national economies.
 
I have seen myself – from previous work in Africa – how degraded lands carry little value for economic growth, and rather slows down human development. That is why highly degraded countries like Ethiopia are among the most ambitious participants in global efforts.
 
Restoration offers a way of meeting both growth demands and combating climate change, and a real way to correct past mistakes. By transforming degraded lands into productive landscapes we can improve crop yields, protect watersheds, and produce additional forest products, all the while capturing and storing carbon.
 
And clearly, we have made tremendous progress! The joint efforts of national and sub-national governments, of industry and companies, of farmers and local communities, of civil society and the international community to set bold restoration targets and together work hard to realize them is very encouraging.
 
Almost 150 million hectares have been pledged through this initiative alone. The Bonn Challenge has cemented restoration's place in the global development agenda.
 
The next step is making restoration happen on the ground. And here we need to do the things right – not only do the right things. Restoration works best when it involves local people, and when the technical solution is tailored to suit ecological challenges and economic issues that concern them. However, to make this recipe transformative – working on a landscape level and engagement with the private sector are needed.
 
My hope for this meeting today is that we manage to do more than update each other on the restoration activities of country and company commitments. I hope this meeting also will explore models of implementations that brings us closer to large scale efforts.
 
In closing, I’d like to take this opportunity to commend Indonesia's national and provincial leadership, not least through the efforts to combat peat and forest fires through systematic restoration and rewetting of Indonesia’s vast peatlands. In this endeavor, Norway stand by as a committed and strong partner for Minister Siti and your team.
 
We believe that Indonesia currently is in a political, economic situation that is conducive to make a transformative shift towards a truly green economy, where restoration of degraded lands can play a major role.
 
For now, I look forward to our constructive discussions. Thank you, and good luck to all of you.