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Thank you, Ryan.

It’s wonderful to be here at the British Academy.

– and Patrick, it has been a pleasure to read Nature positive? as well. 

I’d like to say a few words about the defining challenge of our age – and what we can do to start treating it that way.

The facts couldn’t be any clearer.

We have known them now for some time

And so I won’t reproduce them.

But it is worth reminding ourselves that we are currently losing – a staggering 30 football pitches worth of forest every single minute. 

That a million species face extinction

That just as we’re stripping the ocean of life at an appalling rate, we’re filling it with trash just as quickly. 

And all of this against the backdrop of worsening climate change. 

Or to put it another way. 

The Earth is 4.6bn years old. 

If we were to scale that back to one year, we’ve been around for one less than one hour

Our industrial revolution began much less than one minute ago. 

And in under one second, we’ve managed to destroy more than half the world’s tropical forests. 

And it shouldn’t need to be said, but another second like that – and we are finished. 

Because while this is self-evidently an ecological tragedy 

…whole ecosystems that took millions of years to evolve being simply grubbed out in a blink and species lost

…it’s also an unfolding human tragedy.

Take land use and food security. 

It’s an extraordinary thing, undoubtedly, that in the last 40 years or so we trebled global food production. 

But the manner in which we achieved that – globally – cannot possibly be replicated for future generations.  

Around the world – we’ve seen massive soil erosion, hopelessly unsustainable use and pollution of water, wholesale degradation of ecosystems, biodiversity collapse and so on. 

An estimated half a billion small farms are already battling diminishing yields.

And around a billion people face various degrees of hunger.

Which makes the prospect of feeding a predicted 9 billion people by 2030 all the more alarming.

Meanwhile agricultural commodities are the main cause of global deforestation – as much as 80% of it. 

And in addition to directly undermining the livelihoods and lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world who depend directly on forests

as well as devastating biodiversity

…deforestation is now one of the biggest source of emissions, which means increased climate change and that in turn means increased risks of drought, floods, pests… 

And if you add to that the now well-documented relationship between the destruction of ecosystems and the emergence of zoonotic diseases like Covid

…we can see that the manner in which we have achieved that food miracle – trebling global food production – has cost future generations a great deal. 

Indeed it has literally cost the earth.

Across land and sea, the evidence is utterly overwhelming.

Professor Dasgupta and Lord Stern before him have shown us what the destruction of climate and nature means for our lives and our economies

So there can be nothing more important than turning this trajectory around.

To some extent, that is already beginning to happen in relation to the low-carbon revolution. 

The cost of renewables has tumbled, their uptake is accelerating fast, low carbon vehicles are on the cusp of going mainstream.

The market in many respects is racing ahead of the politics, and ahead I think of what anyone could have predicted just a few years ago. 

Clearly, I’m not suggesting it’s job done – we’re pressing every country to ramp things up ahead of the all-important COP26. 

But when it comes to attaching a value to nature and a cost to its destruction

…we’ve barely started.

And that has to change – because technology alone cannot save us. 

We know there is no credible or sensible pathway to net zero, or to adapting to climate change – or to any of the sustainable development goals – that does not involve protecting and restoring nature on an unprecedented scale

Nature based solutions – mangroves, forests, sea grass and so on – could provide a third of the most cost-effective solutions that we need if we’re going to keep within 1.5 degrees of warming

as well as helping species recover and helping communities adapt to the inevitable changes that are already happening.

And the magic of protecting and restoring the natural world, beyond saving beautiful species and unique ecosystems, is that in doing so we’re also tackling so many other major challenges as well – hunger, poverty, pollution, even pandemics.

And yet– nature based solutions currently receive less than 3% of total global climate finance.

So as presidents of the all-important climate conference COP26 in Glasgow this November, we’re putting nature at the heart of our response to climate change – both domestically but also internationally. 

And because so much of what we need to do involves persuading others to step up, we know we need to be seen to be leading.

And of course like every country – we have much to do to close the gap between where we are and where we need to be, but I do believe the UK is showing that leadership.

At home we were the first to legislate for net zero by 2050,

…first to mandate biodiversity net gain on new developments, 

…first to make land use payments conditional upon good environmental stewardship

…the Environment Bill takes the world-leading step of requiring a new, historic, legally-binding target to halt species decline by 2030.

And more.

We are stepping up internationally as well.

We doubled our International Climate Finance, and are investing at least £3bn of that in nature-based solutions – and we know that is important in and of itself, but also in our dealings with other donor countries.

On the back of our commitment, we’re launching a hugely exciting new programmes.

A new £100m Biodiverse Landscapes Fund to connect and protect vast transboundary landscapes – providing safe passage for wildlife and green jobs for people. 

We’re rolling out a new £500m Blue Planet Fund which is going to help protect fragile marine ecosystems from a whole multitude of threats. 

We’re building major new projects to protect and restore some of the world’s most important ecosystems. 

We’re increasing our efforts to reverse biodiversity loss, and to stop the illegal wildlife trade.

And we’re building new partnerships between business and government – raising significant funds to help forest countries protect what they have and to restore their degraded lands. 

And the good news is that we know that we can turn things around. 

Because protecting and restoring nature works – for people and for the planet.

Look at Costa Rica.

They’ve doubled their rainforest in roughly a generation – growing their economy putting and more than half their country under canopy. 

Or take marine protected areas really anywhere in the world. 

Wherever they are created and implemented carefully – with the coastal communities who rely on them – we see commercial stocks rebound and livelihoods secured. 

That’s why we’re leading efforts to protect at least 30% of the world’s land and 30% of the world’s ocean, by 2030.

G7 members have signed up – along with more than 90 other countries.

And we’re leading calls for a new treaty under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to protect those two thirds of the global ocean that lie beyond national jurisdiction.

We’re continuing to grow our magnificent Blue Belt around the overseas territories – already protecting an area of nature rich ocean bigger than India. 

In the run up to the next biodiversity conference in Kunming, we’re doing more heavy lifting I think than any other country to secure the highest possible ambition. 

Targets, but also mechanisms to hold governments to account for their commitments.

All of this is critically important.

But without systemic change, we will forever be playing catch up.

So as major contributors to the multilateral system, we’re using our leverage to press the multilateral development banks to mainstream nature – right across their entire portfolios. 

There’s no point having bits of investment here and there in nature or climate, if the rest of the money is taking us in the opposite direction.

We’re making the same demands of business.

– lobbying them to get deforestation out of their supply chains by 2025, and to go nature positive or at the very least to go nature neutral. 

And we’re calling on governments to identify and then use the levers that they uniquely hold to help markets value nature and attach a cost to environmental destruction. 

If you consider that the top 50 food producing countries spend $700 billion a year – every year – supporting often-destructive land-use.

And that’s around four times the world’s aid budgets combined.

And coincidentally, it’s roughly what scientists believe we’re going to have to spend if we want to reverse environmental destruction and help nature recover. 

So you only need to imagine the impact if this support could be redirected towards renewal and protection – something we’ve got the whole G7 looking at now.

This is a core part of the campaign we’re running internationally ahead of COP26.

And alongside that work, we’re building a global alliance of countries committed to breaking the link between commodities and deforestation

– something we’re doing in law in the UK.

If we succeed globally, we have the capacity to flip the market in favour of sustainability and forests.

I want to end with two brief observations. 

The first is that in the real world, the economy is a subset of the environment. 

As we destroy the environment, we destroy the economy. 

And that basic truth needs to be reflected in all our decisions, and in the market – where the rules are going to have to be shaped so that the true value of nature and the cost of its destruction are properly reflected. 

And the second is simply that there’s very little that needs to be done, that’s not already being done – by someone, somewhere. 

We have all the tools that we need – 

-we just require the political will, and we need to scale up, fast.

If we do that, then there’s absolutely no reason we cannot make this the decade we reconcile our lives and our economies with the natural world on which ultimately each and every one of us fundamentally depends.

Thank you very much – time for some questions. 

The keynote speech was followed by a Q&A session.

The Rt Hon Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park is the Minister of State for the Pacific and the Environment