Ministers, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, last week the world lost one of its greatest champions: Maurice Strong, who became the first Executive Director of UNEP following his successful leadership of the Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment.
In Stockholm, in 1972, Maurice said that: 'It's one thing to have a conference, quite another to ensure a proper follow-up.Significant decisions can be mad... But it's what happens afterwards that is important. Otherwise talk is just talk'. I think those words - that attitude - marked as big a turning point for environmental policy as the declaration itself.
Look at the effect of legislation rooted in the Montreal Protocol. Instead of the initially-agreed halving of 5 CFCs, 98% of 100 ozone depleting substances have been eliminated. The ozone layer will recover to pre-1980 levels by the middle of the century; two million people a year by 2030 will avoid being diagnosed with skin cancer; and now parties are building on that success by discussing the phase down of HFCs.
Or what about Kyoto? When the Protocol was signed in 1992, there were just 54 climate laws and policies, but after, that figure doubled every 5 years and now, as the Secretary General highlighted in the opening session yesterday: there are over 800 climate laws and the global legislative architecture on climate change is undergoing a ground-breaking change.
We need to maintain that momentum; live up to that legacy. Because what matters most about COP21, isn't putting ink on an agreement, it's putting the agreement into practice. And that - like the rest of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development - depends entirely on our ability to shape the contours of tomorrow's economy - to make it greener and more inclusive.
Some of this will be market led, as the financial arguments become increasingly clear. For example, according to the International Energy Agency, the uptake of more viable energy efficiency investments could boost economic output by $18 trillion in the next 20 years, which is more than the combined economic output of the US, Canada and Mexico.
In a world of austerity and growing competition, not many countries or companies can afford to turn their back on such opportunities, any more than they can afford to turn their back on sustainable trade - trade in environmental goods and services, which is expected to be worth over $2 trillion by 2020, fast outpacing growth in traditional sectors of the economy
However, much of the change will need to be directed by ambitious legislation and policy, if we are to shape market outcomes to ensure that developed countries deliver the $100 billion a year in climate funding they promised to help keep global warming below 2 degrees; leverage feed-in tariffs to help redirect the $6 trillion currently invested in fossil fuels towards the renewables, which have already created over six and half million jobs; use intellectual property laws to scale-up clean technologies, which could deliver over a third of the reduction in carbon emissions needed by 2020; and deliver new standards to control consumption and production, which for something as basic as air conditioning, could create energy savings equivalent to switching off 2,500 power plants.
We've made a good start, thanks to the support of organizations like GLOBE International, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and, of course, the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
Together, we've been able to help legislators better understand the connections between green economy, climate change and sustainable development and produce legal guidelines on issues like mitigation and adaptation, which look beyond the obvious to related issues like safeguards on human rights that will be outlined in a new report being launched here at COP, this Thursday.
But we need to do more - much more. Legislators have a key role to play in strengthening the laws and writing the policies that can move us toward a green economy. That includes swapping piecemeal development legislation for a more efficient, holistic approach, facilitating broad access to information, public participation and justice, ddeveloping an integrated regulatory and legislative landscape that emphasizes the financial markets and ensuring that national expenditure prioritizes green investment and natural capital.
Again, we are not starting from scratch here. Just as we have been able to work with legislators and parliamentarians to advance the legal landscape, through the UNEP Finance Initiative, we have been working with over 200 banks, insurers and fund managers for the last 20 years to better understand the links between environmental, social and financial performance. That experience is now driving the UNEP Inquiry, which is helping individual states build frameworks that put sustainable development at the very heart of their financial systems. By examining the rules and governance of financial markets, it has opened a dialogue at the highest level on market reform and how to unleash investment in the green economy.
Such reforms and initiatives will ensure the best possible return on investment, both nationally and internationally. But to really get the most from it we will need more private companies to make sustainability an integral part of their business model and of the wider economy, which means transparent, robust reporting will be crucial for investors to make informed decisions.
Speaking just after the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was agreed, Mark Carney, Chairman of the G20 Financial Stability Board said 'The challenges currently posed by climate change pale in significance compared with what might come' and that people should be 'anticipating broader global impacts on property, migration and political stability.' Some institutions are already taking steps to lead on environmental and social and governance - by introducing changes to stock indexes, listing rules and regulatory frameworks. But there is more to be done to advance financial regulations, accounting and reporting standards, discourage short-term trading and encourage companies and investors to transition to more sustainable, more robust and, ultimately, more profitable, business models.
So we should support the Financial Stability Board's central idea 'To develop consistent, comparable, reliable and clear disclosure around the carbon intensity of different assets' or to have companies 'disclose not only what they are emitting today, but how they plan their transition to the net-zero world of the future'.
This is ambitious, but not so far from reach. The financial community itself is increasingly aware that the rules of the game have changed and that sustainable investments can generate sizable, sustainable returns. For example over 360 signatories to the Global Investor Statement on Climate Change - responsible for more than $25 trillion in assets - are pushing for courageous political leadership in the climate agreement and carbon pricing, plus a controlled transfer of subsidies away from fossil fuels and towards renewable technology; some 1,400 fund managers, responsible for $54 trillion in assets, have committed to the Principles for Responsible Investment; and UNEP's partners in the Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition have developed the strategies and instruments to decarbonize broader market portfolios worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Until now, much effort has been focused on eradicating harmful behavior- on what not to do. What we are starting to see here, from the law-making community and the financial community, is a much-needed movement towards more conscious and proactive decisions that will drive the technology, funding and co-operation to deliver for the real economy - one in which growth is both sustained, inclusive and sustainable.
Ladies and gentlemen, the task of a creating a model that can balance the diverse needs of nine billion people with a planet of dwindling resources is indeed a daunting one. But then, so was convincing the world to repair a hole in the ozone layer that they couldn't even see. We can get this thing done. As the world prepared for Rio+20, expectations were equally high, and economic growth was equally low. But we cannot allow tired old arguments about the costs of sustainability to stymie our progress here in Paris. Because controlling climate change, delivering the Sustainable Development Goals and making the transition to an inclusive green economy will drive growth, even as it reconciles our world of today, with our children's tomorrow.
So, let me end as I began, by giving the last word to the late Maurice Strong, sending a message to Rio that could just as easily have been written for Paris. 'We must rise above the lesser concerns that preempt our attention and respond to the reality that the future of human life on Earth depends on what we do, or fail to do in this generation. What we have come to accept as normal is not normal: as increased human numbers, the growing intensity of human impacts and the demographic dilemma faced by so many nations threaten to erase the developmental gains that society has achieved since the dawn of the industrial revolution...
'The United Nations alone cannot be expected to undertake such initiatives but it can reach out to the many others around the world that are willing and able to engage'.