France pledges $200 million to rainforest protection initiative

United Nations –Speech by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, during the conference at the UN on protecting the Amazon (excerpts)

New York, 23 September 2019

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In 50 years, nearly 20% of the Amazon rainforest and 25% of mangrove forests has disappeared. And you said how essential the Amazon rainforest and the Congo Basin are for our humanity in terms of climate change and the fight for biodiversity. So I won’t spend any longer on the challenges.

Indeed, we’ve taken this initiative because, let me say, these fires shocked the whole world just as the G7 was meeting and also because France itself, as you said, has a presence in the Amazon, through French Guiana. This is why in a few moments I’ll be sharing my time with President Rodolphe Alexandre and letting him speak. And I also want to thank the grand tribal chief for his presence with us today, which also testifies to the involvement of all the populations in this project. And they’ll also be saying what we want to do in our part of the Amazon, if I may put it like that, and do with everyone.

Many things have been done. And I say this all the more readily because France hasn’t been a leader in those efforts. And I really want to thank Norway and Germany who, I think I can say, out of the countries which have committed themselves and contributed, have provided very special leadership by paying over $1 billion to the Amazon Fund set up in 2008, by also mobilizing initiatives with the FATF for Central African forests and by being extremely committed to the issue for over 10 years. (…)

We’re mobilizing, as it were, this alliance, which, by bringing all the relevant, necessary players together, must be effective. States, financial backers, NGOs, international organizations, regional governments, indigenous populations. We’re going to talk honestly. What are our risks? There’s one, for a start. The elephant in the room – or, rather, not in the room: Brazil. Everyone is saying, “how are you going to do anything without Brazil?” Brazil is welcome. And I think everyone wants to work with Brazil. Two states in the room have committed themselves. And I think you’ve done a huge amount of work – I want to thank the regional presidents – to persuade all the states of the region. I personally believe we’ll get there. I think an extremely inclusive initiative like today’s is necessary. One which shows respect for everyone. It’s the spirit in which we launched all this, and I’m confident that the coming weeks and months will enable us to achieve political solutions which make progress possible.

The second thing, the second pitfall of our initiative is that we’ll meet up and talk about figures, say a few words and that, underneath all this, there are no results. As you said, and when I look at things it’s what worries me because, basically, you’ve got the Amazon Fund, which has been suspended – or rather, it’s being suspended today – because Brazil, as it happens, isn’t taking into account the whole of the Amazon rainforest and the criteria defined by the backers. There’s the very important PROGREEN Fund, announced by the World Bank a few moments ago, for a seven-year period, covering all the forest areas, with very large contributions, from Germany in particular, which I thank again. The Inter-American Development Bank, along with Natural Capital LAB, which you mentioned, which is looking at biodiversity but perhaps isn’t focused just on the Amazon. You’ve got bilateral aid – Donald Tusk is here, he’s also mobilized, and will correct me if I’m wrong – but the European Union, for example, accounts for €280 million spread over various cooperation programmes. You’ve got all the bilateral projects, the non-governmental sector and, for example, the Conservation International organization, cher Harrison [Ford], whose action is extremely effective.

The risk is of fragmentation, slowness and ultimately ineffectiveness. So it seems to me that we must now try to create action targets and a method. From listening to us and talking to many of you, I think we can say we have six action targets. The first is preserving biodiversity in the management of protected areas, combating fires, illegal felling etc. The second thing is developing a sustainable value chain in forest territories, i.e. encouraging the by-products of biodiversity, agroforestry, zero deforestation, and therefore a whole effort to change things with the agrifood industry too, with our own trade requirements and the principles we set ourselves. The third target is formulating sustainable soil and forest management practices in consultation with local people and stakeholders on the ground. The fourth principle is promoting traditional practices and know-how: you clarified this perfectly with your examples, showing that we have solutions in traditional practices. The fifth principle is cross-border cooperation for protected areas, and the sixth is speed and, as it were, the assessability of the action we’re going to take. We must prioritize channels that lead quickly to initiatives by local people, where we can assess what we’ve done and not find ourselves bogged down, having invested in such-and-such a vehicle in order to say we’re investing, and waking up six months or a year later saying it didn’t go to local people. I think if we stick to these six principles, we can take effective action.

So what I’m perhaps suggesting after this meeting, in line with my two predecessors, is that everyone should designate a work team here and now, and that together we – the donor country, partner country and key civil society players – should specify now the very precise method, the governance, so that when COP in Chile takes place we can define this action plan and, already, the timetable for the first projects. There are several projects awaiting money, finance, and so I think they now need, above all, a very clear timetable on our part, our rules set out on paper and our criteria, so that we can then move quickly and clearly.

Those are a few key points. Against this backdrop France will contribute $200 million to this issue and these initiatives. And I know what’s expected of our Amazonian and African friends, because there’s a huge number of things to do. I now hand over to President Alexandre./.

Image: lubasi

Published on 01/10/2019

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