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Address by Minister Creecy during celebration of World Environment Day and 25-year DFFE-UNDP cooperation

Keynote Address by Ms Barbara Creecy, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment on the occasion of World Environment Day and 25-year DFFE-UNDP cooperation celebrations
Pretoria, 05 June 2021


Programme Director; Ms. Portia Chipane
Dr Ayodele Odusola, Resident Representative for the United Nations Development Programme, South Africa;
Ms. Cecilia Njenga Head: UNEP Office in South Africa;
Chairperson of the SANBI Board, Ms Beryl Ferguson;
SANBI CEO, Mr Shonisani Munzhedzi;
Mr Bishop Ngobeli President of the Institute of Environment and Recreation Management
Distinguished Guests joining us physically here and virtually;
Members of the media;
Ladies and Gentlemen;


It is a pleasure and an honour to join you and participate in the celebration of World Environment Day in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as well as the 25-year cooperation of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  

As a country we are deeply committed to the multilateral system lead by the United Nations and we firmly believe this to be the only sustainable route to tackling global problems on a united and consistent basis. As South Africa we are therefore proud to be associated with the UN programmes and the work they continue to do in our country and across the world.

This year signals 25 years of development cooperation on environment, nature, climate and energy between the government of South Africa through the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment and the UNDP.

It is therefore fitting that this dual celebration is hosted here at the National Botanical gardens managed by our own South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

SANBI is a long-standing DEFF-UNDP Implementing Partner. In fact, the very first UNDP-supported project in South Africa on the environment was implemented 25 years ago, by SANBI.

UNDP had mobilised resources from the Global Environment Facility on behalf of our former Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism, for South Africa’s first UNDP project which encompassed a 10-country scope, called the Southern African Botanical Diversity Network (SABONET). The phenomenal success of this project as an enabler and a catalyser is well-known.

Ladies and gentlemen,

World Environment Day comes as the global community, under the leadership of the United Nations, seeks to focus our attention on the increasingly urgent need to restore the earth’s ecosystem.

At the recent Africa Dialogue Series event, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres remarked that in order to pursue peaceful, sustainable development in the face of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic:

We need to move towards sustainable economic growth that protects the environment, promotes human rights and strengthens the social contract.

And we need a stronger sense of solidarity and multilateral cooperation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and leave no one behind.

Today’s event is a testament to the sense of multilateral solidarity and support that will help guide Africa and other developing nations through the current crisis.

The Sustainable Development Goals are part of the UNDP’s call to action to end poverty and inequality, protect the planet, and ensure that peace and prosperity are enjoyed by all the earth’s inhabitants by 2030.

These goals are inter-related, and focus on humanity’s relationship with the environment and sustainable development, through focussing on targets such as Zero Hunger (SDG 2), Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11), and Climate Action (SDG 13). It is through the UNDP’s work and partnerships in over 170 countries and territories that the goals are being met through integrated solutions to the world’s developmental problems.

The Sustainable Development Goals find expression in our own National Development Plan and also in the five year strategic plans of all government departments.

This year’s World Environment Day theme of “'Ecosystem Restoration” is an extremely appropriate way to continue building the foundation for this United Nations’ Decade of Ecosystem Restoration and achieving the SDGs. In the history of humanity, there has never been a more urgent need for all of us to heed this global rallying cry to heal our planet.

So ladies and gentlemen, this year’s celebrations of the World Environment Day take place concurrently with the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

This decade will see a concerted rally of efforts to protect and revive ecosystems all around the world, for the benefit of people and nature. The launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration in 2021 offers the opportunity to move from commitments to action.

The restoration of ecosystems means putting efforts to recover degraded or destroyed ecosystems, including conserving remaining intact ecosystems for the continued delivery of valuable services to the people. It is important to take note that all ecosystems can be restored, be they forests, wetlands or marine.

When it comes to restoration of ecosystems, every action matters. Be it from the local communities or traditional leadership, government or state entities, civil society organisations, business or individuals.  Restoring ecosystems carries substantial benefits for the people. For every dollar invested in restoration, at least seven to thirty dollars in returns for society can be expected. Restoration also creates jobs in areas where they are most needed.

It has been shown that human activity has negatively impacted both the diversity and abundance of animals and plants. This has left thousands of species with insufficient habitats for their long term sustainable survival.

So often the value of natural ecosystems is underestimated. 2017 it was estimated that, at 2015 values and the state of ecosystems at the time, the value of ecosystem goods and services was worth more than R274.6 billion per year or around 7% of the country’s GDP in 2015. 

These services are made up of:

  1. Provisioning services (for example, livestock fodder, harvested renewable resources and genetic resources.)
  2. Cultural services (for example, aesthetic, recreation, religious and bequest values) and
  3. Regulatory services (for example, carbon storage, local climate regulation, pollination, pest control, erosion control, flow regulation and water & air quality).

Over the past 25 years, the DFFE and UNDP have worked on several projects collaboratively in areas of biodiversity, climate change and international waters, land degradation and in particular in collaboration with the Global Environmental Facility (the GEF)

Since 2001, biodiversity projects have dominated the distribution of projects by focal area standing at 50% with 58 projects, followed by climate change mitigation and adaptation at 24% with 28 projects, land degradation at 11% with 13 projects, chemicals and waste management at 4% with 5 projects, international waters at 1% with 2 projects and multi-focal area projects at 9% with 11 projects.  

The Global Environment Facility 6th funding cycle has further awarded the country an additional USD6.2 million to implement Bioprospecting/ Biotrade projects which span across the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga Provinces.

The project is currently in its implementation phase, and will enhance local and sustainable beneficiation of the African ginger, Aloe ferox, Rooibos, Honeybush, and Pelagonium sidoides value chains in the above mentioned provinces. This particular programme is co-financed by the infrastructure development leg of my Department, which would extend this programme’s impact to Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces.

 It is envisaged, that this programme will contribute to the growth of the sector by 400 hectares of additional supply of cultivated natural ingredients to the region; create jobs across the value chain and develop models for conservation for economies based on indigenous biodiversity.

And of course, this programme, as with all UNDP progammes, is consistent with targets of the SDGS, namely SDG1, 8 and 12, (No Poverty), 8 (Decent Work and economic Growth), and 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production.)     

Further advocating the achievements of the SDGs is the GEF Small Grants programme. This facility provides financial support to community based organizations and other stakeholders for the implementation of environment projects that contribute to environmental sustainability, economic and social development.

Since its inception in 2001, the SGP has supported over 120 projects to the value of over USD$ 5 million, with cash co-financing of about US$ 7 million and in-kind co-financing of over US$ 2 million.

The independent evaluation of the program undertaken in early 2015 showed a strong correlation between the programme and poverty alleviation, livelihoods, job creations, and environmental conservation, with projects building capacity, and catalysing income generation within communities.

The Small Grants Programme has contributed to a number of areas, including:

  • Climate change mitigation – whereby there is increased usage of energy efficient technologies such as solar stoves and lighting.
  • Training and awareness on climate change and renewable energy, which has reached over 10 000 people around the country.
  • Addressing land degradation in rural areas through specific projects, whereby more than 12 000 hectares of communal land has been preserved and protected for small scale subsistence agriculture.
  • And improving the capacities of over 100 community-based civil society organisations, with a focus on women and youth.

These projects have played a significant pioneering role in adapting South Africa’s economy to the realities of climate change, and embarking on the pathway to a just transition to a low emissions economy and a climate resilient society.

This year will see the hosting of two significant Conferences of the Parties organised by the United Nations on climate change and biodiversity. As a signatory to both the Paris Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity, South Africa remains committed to fulfilling our responsibilities to contribute to the global effort in relation to both these agreements.

It is important to stress once again today, that for South Africa and the African continent as a whole, ambition in relation to achieving the objectives of the Rio  Conventions, is directly linked to international support from developed countries with regard to both finance and the technological means of implementation.  In this regard we agree whole heartedly with Secretary General Guterres consistent call for more support from developed to developing countries.

I would like to conclude with a quote from Ban Ki-Moon, the former Secretary General of the United Nations:

Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all

As we have seen today governments and partners such as the UNDP are making important strides in addressing the issues plaguing our environment. In the face of the climate crisis, environmental degradation and pollution such cooperation and mutual assistance has never been more important.

I thank you.


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