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Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Rick Duke’s Remarks at the Three Basins Summit Ministerial Session
November 30, 2023

Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Rick Duke’s Remarks at the Three Basins Summit Ministerial Session

Friday Oct 27, 2023


It is a privilege to be gathered here in Brazzaville for this important summit.  I want to personally thank President Sassou [Sah-Soo] for his leadership in not only maintaining responsible stewardship of the Republic of Congo’s own forests, which cover more than two-thirds of the country’s land mass, but in convening this distinguished group of counterparts to catalyze action and attention on the world’s three most critical topical forest ecosystems, and to elevate a common agenda for the three forest basins.

As we all work to tackle the planetary crisis of climate and biodiversity, there is global consensus that we have no chance of success without conserving, restoring, and sustainably managing forests. As President Sassou [Sah-Soo] eloquently stated in the note that preceded this summit, forests are “the lungs of the planet, global regulators of carbon balance, and guardians of biodiversity”.  The IPCC and IPBES are unequivocal – halting and reversing forest loss globally is critical not only for achieving our climate and biodiversity goals, but for the sustainable development of hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

As forests continue to be destroyed or degraded, and ecosystems reach tipping points, political leaders are confronting this reality, and the urgent need for action.

At COP26 in Glasgow, leaders representing over 90 percent of the world’s forests committed to the ambitious goal of halting and reversing deforestation and land degradation by 2030.

The United States, along with 27 other countries, helped to establish the Forest and Climate Leaders’ Partnership at COP27 in Sharm el Sheik as a key platform to drive global progress on that 2030 commitment. As we approach the one year anniversary of the Forest and Climate Leaders Partnership, it is clear that the leadership, vision, and knowledge of tropical forest countries is fundamental to shared success. I want to take a moment to thank Minister Matondo and her team in engaging this effort.

But the Forest and Climate Leaders Partnership is just one effort among many driving ambitious action to support our forests. After yesterday’s set of technical sessions, it is clear that there are forest and climate leaders around the world who are working every day to make sure that the next generation, and those that follow, live in a world where forests, and the communities who depend on them, are thriving.

President Biden, since day 1 in office, has made tackling the climate crisis an essential part of his domestic and international agenda, and instructed the federal government to develop a strategy for supporting global action on forests. This Plan to Conserve Global Forests – the first of its kind for the U.S. government – highlights the critical importance of the tropical forest basins of the Amazon, Congo, and Southeast Asia, and identifies actions to incentivize forest and ecosystem conservation and forest landscape restoration; catalyze private investment and finance to conserve critical carbon sinks; build long-term capacity with overseas partners; and help increase global ambition to set and achieve strong climate and forest goals.

Our   support for global forest ecosystems goes back further than two years – the United States has longstanding partnerships with governments in the major tropical forests in Africa, South America, Southeast Asia. In the Congo Basins, our Central African Regional Program for the Environment, better known as CARPE (CAHR-PEY) has been operating in the region since 1995 and has invested nearly $700 million to help countries in the Congo River Basin sustainably manage, conserve, and protect their unique tropical forest ecosystems. And we are increasing our pace of support to over 50 million for carpe this year. The U.S. government has long supported programs to combat illegal deforestation, support indigenous peoples, and develop sustainable enterprises throughout the Amazon Basin. In Southeast Asia we have deep cooperation on forest management, biodiversity conservation, land use planning, and combatting nature crimes like wildlife trafficking.

I applaud President Sassou for convening this summit, elevating the voice of tropical forest countries, and inviting the United States and other partners to listen and engage in dialogue with governments, civil society, indigenous peoples, and the private sector.

Thank you again, your excellencies and distinguished guests, for the opportunity to be here and participate in this fruitful discussion.