Norfund conference 2020
Ladies and gentlemen
Here in Oslo. …And also in Accra, Maputo, London and Boston – just to mention a few of the places that are with us this afternoon.
I am really glad to attend this 12th Norfund conference! This is an important event, addressing several of our time’s most fundamental issues.
These days, we can quote Charles Dickens, who wrote in 1859:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity (…)”.
Dickens’ tale of two cities is of course set in a different time, but still, we can nod when we hear the passage. In many ways, it bears resemblance to our own times.
The pandemic has hit the world hard. And like the pandemic, climate change has, and will, also hit us hard. It will affect us in different ways, and in very un-just ways. Because as so often before, it is the most vulnerable that pay the highest price.
Although developing countries have the lowest emissions per capita worldwide, they are the most exposed to climate change.
For me this injustice becomes evident when I stand eye to eye with people that suffer and are scared. Last year, I visited Tonga, Fiji and Samoa. There I met people who are fighting every day to stop soil erosion, and prevent seawater from destroying their land. They are among the people who have contributed the least to climate change, yet they risk to loose everything. For them, the climate threat is existential.
I am glad the aim of this year’s conference is to highlight climate change as one of the greatest barriers to poverty reduction in the years to come. The World Bank tells us that without urgent action, climate impact can push an additional 100 million people into poverty by 2030.
One of the things covid-19 has taught us is that global crises knows no boundaries. We are all in this together, and we have to solve the problems and dilemmas together.
The Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the SDGs, are our two main road maps to solving our common challenges. If we are to meet the targets they set out, we must pull together. Governments need to create incentives, scientists and technology experts need to innovate – and the business sector needs to identify and grasp new opportunities.
One of the main goals of the Paris Agreement is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep global temperature rise well below 2,0 degrees Celsius.
So how do we combine some of the most significant SDGs; creating jobs and at the same time reducing CO2-emissions?
One of the obvious solutions is clean energy. Lack of access to energy is a key constraint for businesses in low-income countries. 600 million people lack access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Clean, reliable and affordable energy is essential for business activity and job creation, and helps mitigate climate change.
Like in Mozambique, where Norfund’s investments creates jobs and reduces emissions. Six months ago, I met Belmira Americo Sitoe – together with His Exellency Ernesto Max Tonela, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy of Mozambique – whom we will hear from later today.
That day, Belmira finally got electricity in her home, and I witnessed a turning point in her life.
Power and clean energy is obviously an important change for Belmira and her family – as it is for many thousand households and businesses in Mozambique.
The good news about manmade climate change is that it is caused by us. Which means that we hopefully also have the capacity to stop, and to reverse the changes.
Necessity is the mother of innovation.
I hope, when faced with hard challenges, we are able to come up with better solutions for all. And when done correctly, climate action can unlock new economic opportunities for companies and investors and create much needed jobs.
History teaches us that global health challenges change societies – they change our lives. All of us already know this.
Future common challenges will add more experience to this knowledge.
Bill Gates wrote in August: "Covid 19 is awful. Climate change could be worse." And he continues with three lessons we can learn from the pandemic in our common fight against climate change:
- Let science and innovation lead the way.
- Make sure solutions work for poor countries too. (And I would like to add. for poor people.)
- Start now.
At a time when the impacts of the covid-19 continue to dominate our thoughts and the lives of most societies, it is important that we get started planning for how to build back cleaner, greener and better.
I wish you all a successful conference!