Mr. Juergen Voegele - World Bank


Keynote speech

As delivered by Mr. Juergen Voegele - World Bank Director of Agriculture and Environmental Services at the 1st GLOBE Natural Capital Summit

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for inviting the World Bank to be part of this important discussion.

You cannot have sustainable development unless we get natural capital accounting right. And it is not the concept that matters; it is turning that far-reaching concept into action.

We profoundly believe that poverty alleviation (and building shared prosperity) and environmental sustainability, as has been said earlier, is one and the same challenge. You cannot protect biodiversity or the Amazon Rainforest if people are hungry. And you cannot feed the world's hungry if you don't have ecosystem services. Let's be critically clear: maybe that was possible a few years back; it is not possible going forward. With climate change on top of us there is no question that this is the challenge in front of us.

We at the World Bank also profoundly believe that we need to move "Beyond GDP". As has been said repeatedly before, you can have a country grow while diminishing its natural assets. However, this is not the future we want for anything or anybody.

The reason we are so clear on this is in part because of who is in the room with us. Ian Johnson, who was the first Vice-President at the World Bank who really drove home the message that what we really need in development is a triple bottom line. We need to think beyond economics, we need to have an environmental bottom line and a social bottom line. So he is now one of the members at the Club of Rome. One of my former bosses, he has made an incredible contribution inside the organisation to take the thinking forward.

As I said, I don't want to repeat why this matters. Everybody understands why this matters, what is important is turning this into action. I just want to mention three ways in which the World Bank is turning this into action from where we sit.

I don't want to talk about WAVES specifically because my colleague Yuvan A. Beejadhur will have a session where we can go through the more technical details, so please bear with me.

The first thing, and it has been mentioned before, is that this will not happen as long as it's a conversation among environmentalists and within Ministries of Environment. It needs to be with the Ministries of Finance, and with the Ministries of Planning and Development and with the Heads of States. So what we've done just two months ago at the Spring Meetings of the World Bank and the IMF, we invited the Ministers of Finance for a 90 minute dialogue on "Natural Capital Accounting in the Post-2015 Development Agenda". We didn't really know what we would get, whether they would come, whether they would be enthusiastic, whether they would send their Deputy Ministers, etc. Now I can tell you that what actually happened took us by great surprise. 35 ministers of finance, including some Deputy Ministers, not only showed up, but brought with them their experience, and their vision and their practical details of how they are doing it in their own countries. Each Minister had 3 minutes, and it wasn't even the individual 3 minute statements that were so profoundly interesting, it was this whole feeling in the room after 90 minutes where those who were sitting on the fence, who had said "yeah, you know we kind of get it but we don't think we really have the political environment to take this forward", saw a path forward. The spirit at the end of the meeting was really incredible, where you then had a lot of Ministers saying, "wow you have done it, why can't we do it?" "You know here is how we did it, here are the obstacles and here are the political economy considerations, here are the technical considerations, here is what we need in terms of support from others". It was profoundly moving to see this, because it was an historic event. I don't think ministers of finance from around the world have ever sat down together at the table in such large numbers to discuss this profoundly important issue. So we will continue to do that. Our top leadership starting from the President, in the conversations that he has, in the bilateral meetings that we have with ministers of finance, will continue to make the case why this matters and what needs to be done to take it forward. I think the seven recommendations that you have seen upon the screen guide exactly what needs to happen in terms of priority and sequence, so we are totally aligned and attuned with that 100%.

Secondly, we have invested in the Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES). I don't want to talk about it, we will hear about it later. Leading the Agriculture and Environmental Services department, I am also personally involved in the team. It is both private and public sector that matters, both need to do this simultaneously in parallel, learning and working with each other. The "50:50 Initiative on NCA", where 65 countries, 90 corporations, 17 CSOs interact, is a testimony to this framework moving forward.

Thirdly, we have been working with GLOBE and we will expand this collaboration because it is one of the three critical pillars. Because you need the three pillars: you need the politics, you need the science, and you need parliamentarians to turn it into action.

At the World Bank there is no question in our mind that this is a hugely important issue, and that we will stay the course on this and that we will do what's in our convening power and within our financial means to support you all in your countries, if you come to us for help, to the extent that we can, and I will leave it at that.

Thank you.