‘Forest Ecosystems Life Support of Our Planet’ Stresses Deputy Secretary-General, Noting They Can Accelerate Sustainable Development, in Remarks to Conference

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s opening remarks for the ceremony of the first International Conference on Afforestation and Reforestation, in Brazzaville today:

J'ai le grand honneur d'être invitée aujourd'hui à la première Conférence Internationale de Reforestation et du Reboisement, sous la direction de la République du Congo, avec le soutien de l’Union Africaine.

We congratulate President Denis Sassou Nguesso for his vision on afforestation and reforestation launched in 2022, at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s twenty-seventh Climate Change Conference, in Sharm el Sheikh, and the fruition of his initiative in this gathering.  You have given life to your ambitious vision.

The outcomes of your Conference give impetus to decisive and collective actions to confront the global loss of forests and biodiversity, with the charge to spearhead a green and just transition for the benefit of all.

Today, our promises in the Paris Agreement are in crisis; the 1.5°C world we need is in the emergency room.  Our ecosystems are being threatened.

Forest ecosystems are the life support of our planet.  Their multiple benefits must be valued as powerful assets to accelerate national sustainable development pathways to improve the lives of all people, especially women and youth.

Forests cover nearly one third of our planet, contributing critical goods and services for sustainable livelihoods, economic development and human welfare.

Given their invaluable resources, these terrestrial ecosystems must be seen as part of our integrated multisectoral and multi-level strategy, reaching beyond the forest sector in national, regional and global discourses.

Here in green Brazzaville, we witness expansive forests and peatlands, vital rivers and water resources swathed by unique flora and fauna.  The interconnections of this web of life involves a balanced interaction of the traditional knowledge and custom of Indigenous and local communities.

Yet, our forests as a source of life — for our economies, our people and the planet — are under considerate pressure by continued trends of deforestation and forest degradation.

Balancing these pressures on forests — for food, energy, timber and other economic development objectives, requires a robust enabling environment and systemic approach to deliver on a package of socioeconomic transformative outcomes.

Efforts to tackle deforestation have been taken through global frameworks and targets under the Paris Agreement, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests.

Regional initiatives, such as the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative have also elevated political attention through partnerships across countries and regions.

Yet, we must be clear — the message is not only to preserve the world we live in but to improve the lives of everyone.

As part of the 2030 Agenda, we are charged with the mission of a green economic transition that ensures sustainable supply, security and resilience of our natural resources, while at the same time contributing to job creation and opportunities for social and economic prosperity.

This vision of forests — as a catalyser of multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) transitions is embedded in SDG15 on life on land.

Together with regulatory frameworks, strengthened institutions, pipelines of sustainable projects, and integrated financing strategies, we can chart the course for a new paradigm of global development and green investments.

Here in Africa, we have seen under the leadership of Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat and Josefa Sacko, African Union Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment, the transformation of the new Great Green Wall Initiative Strategy and 10-Year Implementation Framework (2024-2034), promoting regional integration, local ownership and inclusive people-centred approaches to restore landscapes and build resilience and jobs.

The Conference has highlighted that domestic resource mobilization, with long-term international development finance, can deliver impact, unlocking access to private financing, while ensuring accountability of all actors.

Bridging the digital and data gaps through science, technologies and innovation can also create new opportunities to monitor and evaluate restoration activities, empowering women and youth to the task.

With the support of the UN country teams and the resident coordinator, countries will have additional tools and support to design investment plans for a low-carbon and resilient development pathway aligned to UN country development frameworks.

Targets and actions on afforestation, reforestation and restoration could be incorporated into nationally determined contributions, due next year in 2025, and national biodiversity strategies and action plans, attracting public and private investments at scale.

Innovative mechanisms and financial instruments — including payments for ecosystem services, carbon markets and pricing, sovereign sustainable bonds, among other incentives, will need further attention to ensure access to and benefit sharing of the outsized returns on investment.

Carbon markets, for example, must ensure high integrity emission reductions, respecting the rights and livelihoods of Indigenous and local communities, while safeguarding biodiversity and guaranteeing permanence, accountability, transparency.

Through the UN Summit of the Future process, Member States are also working to guarantee that financing is deployed through the reform of the international financing architecture benefits a green economic transition.

As you take the outcomes of the Conference back, I urge you to carry this momentum and make sure that your voices are heard — at home and across the world.

The basins of the Congo, the Amazon and the Borneo-Mekong of South-East Asia are the lungs of the world.  In their splendour they serve as environmental bellwethers, providing global stability and security, while ensuring that indigenous communities and local economies thrive.

This November, the G20 in Brazil will provide an opportunity on the road to thirtieth UN Climate Change Conference, where high-ambition and economy-wide nationally determined contributions will be required and resources committed to.

We need your continued global leadership to guide the green transition towards a new development model that drives progress for people and planet.

For information media. Not an official record.