Nature Based Solutions (NBS) Momentum High Level Event, “Nature is undercooked and overlooked in climate action”, United Nations, New York

  • Hon Aupito William Sio
Pacific Peoples

Kia Ora. Ni hao ma. Greetings and Warm Pacific Greetings.

It has been an honour to work with China and other coalition members to assist the Secretary-General in preparing for his Climate Action Summit. Nature-Based Solutions for climate change are something New Zealand has a strong focus on, and we look forward to working with many of you here to further this agenda.

Nature is undercooked and overlooked in climate action. When it comes to nature, the world is doing too much of the wrong things – like deforestation - and not enough of the right things – like protecting wetlands.  The way humans live with nature will play a fundamental role in our ability to shift the world to a low-emissions future. 

Together with our co-lead, China, we proposed a commitment that we asked countries, sub-national entities and corporations to sign up to:  to unlock the full potential of nature in climate action.   We have had an enthusiastic response.  Thank you to all those who have been in touch to join the commitment and to tell us what you’re doing. Tomorrow at the Summit you will hear about the scale of some of what our coalition members are doing, driving a transformational shift in climate action.  

The transformational shift can’t be incremental or at the margins: there must be systemic approaches so that many actions working together add up to systemic improvement.

In forests and landscapes the “systems response” includes preventing deforestation, enhancing protections, restoration of ecosystems. In agriculture and food that means investment in science, production processes, greening the supply chain, dealing with food loss and waste. In oceans, that includes planting mangroves, protecting coral reefs, and strengthening the resilience of fisheries and aquaculture. 

In New Zealand we’ve have been thinking about the barriers to systemic approaches and the tools needed to unlock nature’s potential including investment, measurement and science.  After all, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. 

So New Zealand’s national contribution to this pillar is leadership of an initiative that strengthens countries’ ability to monitor agricultural greenhouse gases.  If we can measure, we can accelerate the development of mitigation strategies, improve transparency, gain greater access to climate finance, and improve the climate benefits resulting from development and other investments. If you’re interested in partnering with New Zealand in this important work, please get in touch with my delegation.

Nature may currently be an undercooked piece of climate action, but its strength is that every person has a relationship with nature. It resonates with every country, and every national or cultural world view. In my country we have the concept of kaitiakitanga, which is recognised in law and describes the guardianship responsibility of humans towards the natural world of which they are part.

The worldview of our Indigenous peoples of New Zealand, shared by the traditional and cultural perspectives of many Pacific peoples, recognise that our rivers, oceans, forests, the winds, the rain, the sun, the stars are all manifestations of metaphysical beings and they are all interconnected, operating under natural laws.

You will each have your own relationship with nature, your own world view of the role it plays in your life. And so we believe that the message of nature-based solutions will reach beyond the UN to people around the world.

So my message is: don’t ring fence nature, as something that must be excluded from climate action, but something to place at the heart of it.

And let’s do this together. Kia kaha. Stay strong. Thank you for listening.

Closing Remarks

Today’s Momentum event has been inspiring.  We knew there was tremendous potential for nature to play its full role in climate action, and after listening to today’s event I am optimistic that the transformative shift to a low emissions future is underway.

There’s a couple of quotes from today’s session that resonates with me as we focus on Nature-Based Solutions. The first is by the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Muhammad who said, “We’ve picked a fight with nature and now we have to make peace with it”.

The second quote is by Indigenous Amazonian speaker, Sonia Guajajara who said, “The fight for Mother Earth is the mother of all fights.  And I am young enough to know that Mother always wins – not her children. It’s been our experience in the Pacific that Mother Earth has chastised us through king tides, tsunamis and Category 5 storms.

The action described today adds up to a lot.  And I am eagerly looking forward to the announcements at the Summit tomorrow where I believe we will give nature-based solutions the profile they deserve.

After all, as the IPCC has told us in recent reports, if we are to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, every sector must play its part, starting now.  

This is the opportunity for the Nature-Based Solutions coalition to show that we are putting nature in our plans, to ensure that investments are made and action is done; that we are scaling up nature-based solutions in forests, landscapes, wetlands, oceans and food systems; that we are valuing nature and shifting financial flows to enhance it; and that we are collaborating in every dimension to grow the global effort on nature.

The NBS Manifesto commitment is to unlock the full potential of nature in climate action. Today’s event holds out the promise of doing just that, of increasing resilience and reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and also protecting biodiversity, strengthening food security and underpinning sustainable livelihoods.

As the Māori people of New Zealand say: “Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou, ka ora ai te iwi.” With your food basket and my food basket, the people will thrive.

I want to thank China for working together with us on this. Xie, xie. Thank you.