Speech by the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, on opening the High Level Forum of GCA Convening Countries

“Every bit of land on this blue planet has its own climate story to tell. Some stories are more extreme than others, but everywhere in the world people need to adapt to their environment. Instead of fighting nature, we need to use the power of nature to our benefit. Nature-based solutions – to save harvests. To keep the economies going. To survive.”

Speech by the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, on opening the High Level Forum of GCA Convening Countries, 10 December 2019, at the COP25 in Madrid, Spain.

Your Excellencies, Special Envoy De Alba, fellow ministers, distinguished guests,

Welcome to the High Level Forum of the Global Commission on Adaptation convening countries. This is the very first meeting of the convening countries. It’s great to see so many people here today!

I want to say a special thank you to Chile and Spain. Your hospitality and hard work make it possible for the world to do what it needs to do over the next two weeks.

Because, ladies and gentlemen, the climate won’t wait for us. The climate is changing. Fast. Spain is no exception to this trend. From space we can clearly see that the Iberian Peninsula is getting drier and drier. Meteorologists forecast that over half of Spain’s countryside will have a dry steppe climate in the future, and may even become desert.

If we’d been meeting in Santiago today, I’d have started my speech by talking about the heavier rainfall and flooding in Chile. Next year, when we meet for COP26 in Glasgow, many participants will talk about coastal erosion in Great Britain, and the serious floods of the past few years.

When we hold the Climate Adaptation Summit in the Netherlands on 22 October 2020, we’ll be talking about the record-breaking, hot, dry summers that have hit our country in the past few years. In the summer of 2018 a tanker was on standby to supply part of the country with drinking water. This was unheard-of for a wet country like mine.

Every bit of land on this blue planet has its own climate story to tell. Some stories are more extreme than others, but everywhere in the world people need to adapt to their environment. Instead of fighting nature, we need to use the power of nature to our benefit. Nature-based solutions – to save harvests. To keep the economies going. To survive.

So last year, in October 2018, I took the initiative to set up the Global Commission on Adaptation. Under the leadership of our highly esteemed colleagues, Ban Ki-Moon, Bill Gates and Kristalina Georgieva we have since put in some very hard work.

In September we published our flagship report, Adapt Now: a global call for leadership on climate resilience. The hashtag #AdaptOurWorld was a huge success. Showing that there is momentum: for the Commission and for adaptation! We need to exploit this momentum to scale up solutions and speed up climate adaptation. And the good news is that we can do it!

On 24 September, the Global Commission on Adaptation launched the Year of Action at the UN General Assembly in New York. This was a direct response to UN Secretary-General António Gutteres’ call for action. Eight Action Tracks for themes like Water, Food Security and Infrastructure are now being fleshed out, with concrete actions and goals for funds, number of people reached, cities and so on.

And we’re getting results, ladies and gentlemen! Many countries, institutions and businesses are joining our efforts to increase, accelerate or fund adaptation. I can tell you that more than thirty partners have now joined the Action Track for Water, which I coordinate. Partners like the World Bank and the World Resources Institute, as well as organisations like the World Wide Fund for Nature or a food producer like Danone.

At the end of this High Level Forum, we’ll be launching the Infrastructure Action Track. No discussion, no long report, just two pages of action points.

The Netherlands is proud to host the Global Centre on Adaptation, which was set up to accelerate sharing of best practices and learn from each other. It’s an international organisation, and crucial to monitoring and speeding up progress on climate adaptation.

In addition to its offices in the Netherlands, the Centre has now opened an office in Beijing. And we’ll be opening offices in Miami and Dhaka very soon. With Norway’s support, we’re working to open an office in Africa. And we’re also talking about opening local offices in other regions: close to the problems, and close to local governments, businesses and communities who will have to put solutions into practice.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is the backdrop of our meeting today. Many actions are under way. We know what we have to do. But I won’t be satisfied until we have long lists showing how the landscape has been adapted, all over the world.

For instance, by planting mangroves along the Indonesian coast as protection against floods. Or by offering personalised weather data to farmers in dry parts of Africa. By turning school playgrounds in Paris into cool, green oases ¬– a great adaptation strategy that enhances wellbeing during heatwaves.

These are all great examples, but they are still independent, isolated projects. So we still have a long way to go before we have a truly future-proof system. We can’t do this without regional embedding, the commitment of government authorities – right down to street level – the expertise of businesses, and funds from agencies like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

And this is where you come in. When we asked you to become a convening country last year, your role was basically to appoint the Commission and give your political support to its mandate and ambitions. But now we’ve moved on and we want – no, we need – more! Now the Year of Action has been launched, we as convening countries can actively take part. Each country can take action and, above all, show what they’re doing.

So I’d like to invite you to get involved in the Action Tracks and see what joint action we can take in your country. As an example for the rest of the world. In the Year of Action, we will sow the seeds for long-term investments that will pay dividends in the future.

Ladies and gentlemen, this brings me to the big international Climate Adaptation Summit to be held in Amsterdam on 22 October 2020. It will mark the end of the Global Commission on Adaptation’s Year of Action. But it won’t mean our efforts stop there. In fact, this is when we will really start to deliver!

At the Climate Adaptation Summit in Amsterdam, the results of the Action Tracks will be brought together, and we will start to deliver, moving forward to 2025 and 2030. The Global Centre on Adaptation, with offices all over the world, will form the institutional anchor, keeping us on track. For this reason, I’ve asked the CEO of the Global Centre to take a leading role in organising the summit. Put the date in your diary: Climate Adaptation Summit in Amsterdam, 22 October 2020. We hope to see you all there!

Ladies and gentlemen,

The climate won’t wait for us. We can only rise to the challenge by radically changing our thinking, and by making plans and sticking to them. I’m counting on you!

Thank you.