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CLIMATE ACTION PROGRAMME

20 December 2017

UN Environment: “Stop ‘boring’ language to spur climate action”

In a recent interview Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment has argued that technical jargon alienates people keen on taking climate action, calling for an urgent change in language.

During an interview for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Mr. Solheim said that the most searched term on the internet in 2017 was ‘Hurricane Irma’, the catastrophic hurricane that hit part of the Caribbean islands this August.

“It shows people want to know about these things but when it comes to explaining why it’s happening and what can be done to stop it, we’re not speaking in a language that everyone understands”, he argued.

He explained that the language of environmentalists has been ‘boring’ and ‘uninspiring’. He added: “If we just speak a technical language, with many acronyms and politically-correct phrases, no one will listen”.

“You cannot bore people into action. They need to be excited and inspired to take action and change their behaviour”.

Meantime, he took the opportunity to shed light on the important issues of deforestation and land degradation and the severe climate threats they pose.

Sustainable land management has not gained enough attention, despite the significant economic and social benefits it can bring.

Research on the topic suggests that restoring degraded land can generate $7 to $30 in economic benefits for every dollar invested, offering tremendous potential towards achieving the below 2 degrees temperature increase set by the Paris climate agreement.

However, funding for landscape restoration will need to be scaled-up by more than $300 billion a year, but  it currently only represents approximately 3 percent of climate finance.

Mr. Solheim continued: “We need to find ways to change that - and one way is to use the transformative power of the financial system”.

Last week, during the One Planet Summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, UN Environment partnered with BNP Paribas to scale up green investment in emerging countries.

This new partnership will attempt to identify suitable commercial projects with significant environmental and social impact and raise $10 billion in financing by 2025, targeting smallholder projects mainly related to renewable energy access, agroforestry, water access and responsible agriculture.

Erik Solheim said: “The partnership with BNP Paribas sets a signal to the finance industry that ‘business as usual’ is not an option anymore. We need to design sustainable agriculture and forestry in a way that solves the climate crisis, rather than contributes to it”. 

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