Speech by Minister for International Development Cooperation Peter Eriksson at Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development

Published

Stockholm, 12 May 2020.
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Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, global friends,

The free world and open society, as we know it, has partly and temporarily been shut down for many citizens. Factories have had to close as global value chains have been severely interrupted. People have lost their jobs. And politicians with nationalistic agendas have been pointing the finger at ‘someone else’, in the search for someone to blame when faced with the weaknesses of their own societies.

A pandemic will not last for ever, but its effects will be felt for years to come. This is a time for reflection on what is fundamentally important to human life.

The Secretary-General of the UN has repeatedly called for world leaders to wake up to the reality before our very eyes and to lead by action and not merely by words.

We are gathered here at this virtual meeting, because the two major crises the world has been facing for many years now – climate change and biodiversity loss – are getting worse as each year goes by. Scientists are clearly and repeatedly telling us that the time for humanity to change course is about to run out.

We know that investments in fossil fuels are fundamentally wrong. The world needs to lower emissions by at least 7 per cent every year until 2030. That is if we are to have any chance of staying within reasonably safe limits for human society. So why do we still keep subsidising and investing in fossil fuels? I believe that the young generation, many of whom are now losing their first jobs, are expecting us to kick-start nothing less than an economic transformation without precedent.

The extensive use of pesticides and large agricultural fields with monocultures are devastating. Devastating for pollinators, bees and other insects. And for all of us. The rate of species extinctions is accelerating. And the tiny honeybee is essential for human food security.  

We also know that the cutting down of large forests without letting them grow back is causing great harm to wildlife.

We also know that healthy forests and healthy oceans are a prerequisite for the clean air we breathe each day. We know that all the microbes that are too small for our eyes to see are cleaning our water and our air, and making ours soils healthy.

But when our economic systems work against all these helpful creatures that we depend on, this is a threat to human security.

On top of this, the world’s top scientists are now also warning us that there is a connection between the destruction of the natural world and a pandemic like COVID-19. They point to a spill-over effect of diseases when more and more people are brought into contact and conflict with wild animals.

And I’m convinced that it is only by building an open society that is just, transparent, inclusive, gender-balanced and, of course, free from fossil fuels and free from destructive environmental activities, that we can build a future that is sustainable, which we all want.

We can still prevent the worst by continuing to analyse and better understand the links between climate change, the loss of biological diversity and human security. We can prevent future crises by building strong institutions, supported by a vibrant civil society and by building global common trust and a common understanding that we are in this together.

The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us that the world is indeed in desperate need of a Green New Deal. The starting point of that Green New Deal is the ambitious implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.

The health of people is heavily dependent on the health of the planet. And I think we can agree that we deserve a better future than one in which we are stuck indoors and can only meet on a computer screen, unable to interact in real life, especially with our elderly relatives and friends.

Sweden has a strong commitment through our bilateral and multilateral development cooperation to addressing climate change and biodiversity loss, and to assisting countries in building back greener, more resilient and more sustainably out of the COVID-19 crisis.

Thank you.