4 November, 2013

The High Level Forum on Biodiversity & Development Post 2015

Ladies and gentlemen.

I am delighted to be here today to address the High Level Forum on Biodiversity and Development, Post-2015. I know many of you have travelled thousands of miles and I thank you for your dedication and commitment to our common cause, ensuring we work collectively towards the future we all want. On behalf of the people and government of Malaysia, I wish you a very warm welcome and Selamat Datang. We are especially honoured by your presence today.

I would like to thank the Government of Norway for generously supporting the participation of delegates from developing countries and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge for providing technical support to the Malaysian organizers, namely the Office of the Science Advisor and MIGHT.

I am especially pleased to note the election of Professor Zakri last January as the Founding Chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and his appointment last month as a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Scientific Advisory Board. This is another example of Malaysia’s readiness to play a leading role in the international community.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the Muslim faith, we are taught the concept that human beings are trustees of the world. As a Muslim, this concept has stayed firmly with me throughout the years and as I stand here today in times of unprecedented challenges to nature and the environment, I know that our efforts in protecting the planet, mankind’s only home, will determine what kind of world we bequeath to our children and grandchildren. As we look to define a new global development agenda, this event is timely in reminding us of our moral obligation to be good global stewards by pursuing sustainable development; development that is truly equitable and fair.

At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, Heads of States pledged a change of course on the development path and to take urgent action to address environmental problems. Agenda 21 was designed to lead us to a better world in the 21st Century that can usher development which is not only sustainable but also inclusive. Twenty one years on, it is abundantly clear that problems related to water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity remain the greatest global challenges facing the world today. And obviously, the strength of the words written in 1992 was not matched by the strength of subsequent actions and effort. Little islands of success cannot help us achieve our broader global objectives.

We have carefully noted that the geo-political base as well as the economic and social outlook of the global society has changed since 1992. The issues and challenges we face now are different from those of the last century. The global connectivity, increasing awareness to development and our ability to influence each other will make it important that we approach the future with hope and optimism.

As Albert Einstein said, “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” We need to explore new options that are simple yet achievable; comprehensive yet robust and common but differentiated.

The world today is more interconnected. This deepens both opportunities and risks. Opportunities to be influenced and risks to be spread. The need now is to look at collective opportunities that help us achieve national priorities and spread risks to minimize any downside.

If one were to be asked to cite a singular critical environmental problem that has brought all the countries and societies together, it would be climate change. The proof of increasing global warming, the limitations of quick solutions to guard against climate change and variability, the need to ensure equity in embracing solutions pose an important question before us. Can we make use of the coming together to ensure we translate the principle of common responsibilities and differentiated actions into results on the ground?

Sustained efforts to deal with the climate change issue led to establishment of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) with a sole goal of having informed and scientific policy making from a platform that is inclusive and implementable.

Both climate change and biodiversity loss are global problems which know no borders. As such, Malaysia joins the world in our concern about the environmental threat arising from carbon emissions and habitat as well as species decline and extinction. Accordingly, lower carbon emissions and environment-friendly technologies that is combined with long term actions for protecting our biodiversity are critical drivers within Malaysia’s sustainable development strategy. Indeed, green technology is one of the key tenets of Malaysia’s New Economic Model, which underpins the nation’s sustainable development efforts.

At the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, Malaysia committed to a 40 per cent reduction in the intensity of emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 2020, using 2005 levels as a baseline, subject to technology transfer and new and additional funding from developed countries.

I am also happy to note that during the Earth Summit in Rio 20 years ago, we pledged to the world to keep at least 50% of our country under forest and tree covers in perpetuity. Today, our green cover is at 74% and 56.4% of our landmass is forested – a strong signal to the world of how Malaysia walks the talk. Malaysia has a long history of natural resource conservation, reflected in our policies and plans such as the 1998 National Policy on Biological Diversity and the Central Forest Spine initiative, linking four major forest complexes in Peninsular Malaysia with a network of ecological or green corridors to create one contiguous, forested wildlife sanctuary.

Malaysia is also very active and committed in the Coral Triangle Initiative to ensure that our marine ecosystem remains healthy so that this rich biodiversity can be enjoyed and sustainably utilised for wealth creation, in line with our objective to be defined as a developed nation by 2020.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The after effects of the global financial crisis four years ago linger in significant ways. Last year saw the worsening of the European debt crisis, downgraded prospects for global growth, and gloomy predictions of world trade. Facing instability, countries around the world are searching for strong new sources of economic growth; businesses are seeking certainty in investments; and people covet quality, long-lasting jobs.

The resilience of socio-economic and environmental systems is now being tested against the demands of a rapidly growing global population and sustainable economic growth. Malaysia is no exception: we are also actively trying to strike a balance between environmental conservation and development. This has not been an easy path for a developing nation; In Malaysia, we look for ways to achieve the twin objectives of development and environmental protection, realising full well that it is a difficult and delicate equilibrium to achieve. After all, if we look around the world, many high-income countries achieved prosperity at the expense of the environment, not in concert with it. Nevertheless we take lessons from the experience of others, and strike that delicate balance between development and environmental conservation, we must.

For Malaysia, the past three decades have been a period of rapid and sustained growth. Measuring growth with the traditional Gross Domestic Product yardstick, Malaysia’s economy has increased more than a hundredfold. Over the past four decades, we have averaged nearly 7% annual growth. Poverty rates have fallen from 49% to less than 4%. Per-capita GDP has risen from US$370 to more than US$9,000.

This growth has been matched by a fundamental change in the structure of our economy. Like many Asian countries, we have moved from a basis of agriculture and raw commodities to a multi-sector economy driven by services and manufacturing.

The New Economic Model, introduced in 2010, focused on three key principles which include high income, inclusiveness and sustainability. These three principals will drive our progress towards a fully developed nation; a competitive economy strategically positioned in the region and global landscape, environmentally sustainable and offering a high quality of life.

The New Economic Model includes a commitment to sustainability, not only in our activities, but in considering the impact of development on our environment and precious natural resources.

Again, Malaysia has been at the forefront in articulating the need for a balance between the environment and development. For us, this is the crux of sustainable development: to achieve such goals as relieving poverty by availing ourselves of our natural resources without compromising the ability of future generations to do likewise.

My main concern as Prime Minister is still to ensure whatever we do, we have the people’s interest as the utmost priority. The Government of Malaysia is committed to the creation of jobs, the pursuit of sustainable development and to ensuring the well-being of the people.

However we must temper the pursuit of wealth creation with concern for the environment. High, sustained economic growth and environmental stewardship can and must go hand-in-hand. Wealth creation may be accompanied by improved living conditions in totality. Raising the quality of life must be an integral part of the New Economic Model.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000 as a roadmap to deliver development that is sustainable by 2015. Countries, including Malaysia, have done remarkably well and have achieved all the targets of the MDGs. However, we also recognized that a development agenda needs to have sustained commitment and that is why we have earnestly embarked on refining the MDGs to adopt a new and informed agenda – the development of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs will continue the fight against extreme poverty, and add the challenges of ensuring more equitable economic growth and environmental sustainability, especially the key goal of curbing the dangers of human-induced climate change.

The SDGs, if correctly formulated, would not only accelerate work begun under the banner of the MDGs but would recalibrate actions in areas we had limited success – globally. The SDGs should strive for greater economic and social inclusion and emphasize the integration and balance among economic, social and environmental aspirations. Thus, there should be a unified, people-centered development agenda for the post 2015 period, with sustainable development at its core and under the umbrella of world peace. Poverty eradication, as agreed in Rio, should remain an overarching purpose of sustainable development.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Nature’s diversity provide humanity with our most fundamental needs. We depend on it for food, for fibre that keeps us warm and for fuel to power our economy. Eroding these benefits erodes our well-being. The sustainable use of resources and protection of biodiversity must be incorporated into the Post 2015 framework.

The MDGs fell short of integrating the economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development as envisaged in the Millennium Declaration. The need to balance environmental protection and development were not properly brought together. We must go beyond the MDGs and the SDGs must ensure that it takes into account the interconnected nature of the sustainable development challenges.

In the Rio Declaration of 1992, the world recognized the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and acknowledged that developed countries bear a responsibility in the international pursuit of sustainable development relative to the pressures their societies place on the global environment and to the technologies and financial resources they command. With a majority of the world’s biodiversity residing in developing countries, it is essential that any global development agenda renews commitments to coordinated effort and mobilizes resources adequate to effect genuine progress.

Malaysia is ready to play its role to realize the spirit of this important principle but we will also expect other countries in particular the developed and industrialised nations to meet their roles and obligations. We must work together if any effort is to have global impact.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I hope that this meeting of distinguished minds will ask the right questions and subsequently find actionable answers to those questions which could then be taken up by responsible governments across the globe, all seeking that ultimate goal of balancing long-term growth with preserving mother earth for future generations. This is an imperative that we can no longer afford to ignore. It must be done and it must be done now. On That note, I wish you the best in your deliberations and I look forward to the solutions that I am certain we we will soon uncover. I thank you all for being here and it is with great pleasure that I now declare this High Level Forum on Biodiversity and Development Post 2015 open.
Thank you.

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