Speaking notes by Minister for Infrastructure and the Environment Wilma Mansveld at the Interactive Dialogue on SDGs and Climate Change

Speaking notes by Minister for Infrastructure and the Environment Wilma Mansveld at the Interactive Dialogue on SDGs and Climate Change, New York, 28 September 2015

  • Last week my EU colleagues and I had an audience with Pope Francis. He spoke of three crucial aspects of climate action and sustainable development: solidarity, justice and participation.

  • As a labour party minister, these words have special meaning for me. People are entitled to dignity, safety, health and opportunities for development.

  • That’s why the Sustainable Development Goals are so important – they are waypoints for development. And we should do our best to reach each and every one of them.

  • Key to this is an effective approach to climate change. Because if we fail to ensure that our investments in sustainable development are climate-proof (or resilient), they will be a wasted opportunity.

  • That’s why the climate negotiations in Paris in December should be aimed at a resilient and climate-neutral global community.

  • Three false arguments come up in current climate discussions:

  • 1) First, it’s said that economic growth and climate action cannot go together.

  • This has been proven false by the New Climate Economy Report (Calderón Report). Climate action and sustainable growth can go hand in hand, with benefits on both fronts.

  • 2) Second, it’s said that governments and businesses have diverging responsibilities.

  • I think the Calderón report disproves that one, too. We really do need everyone on board: governments, non-state actors and business.

  • 3) Third, it’s said that developed and developing countries have diverging interests.

  • The challenges and opportunities are so big that we should all contribute according to our ability. This means that a country whose means increase, will see its contributions increase by the same proportion.

[Adapting to Climate Change]

  • We know that climate change is happening now – in some places it has already had a devastating impact.

  • But we need to end poverty, feed a growing global population and provide energy – preferably clean energy – for all.

  • So we have no choice but to adopt a strategy of resilience. This means protecting everything that’s important and valuable to us, and reducing disaster risks. But how do we become more resilient?

  • The answer to this question will be crucial to progress on the Sustainable Development Goals – and should promote worldwide solidarity, justice and participation worldwide.

  • I believe it starts with targeted action:

  • We need to increase knowledge, especially among women and girls. Women are disproportionately affected by disasters, so their participation is needed to make Disaster Risk Reduction strategies more effective. < > We need planning and programming to mitigate risks. < > And we need solid partnerships and coalitions, finance and implementation.

    Global funding builds global capacity: developed and developing countries, vulnerable and less vulnerable groups – all should work together to achieve resilience and help each other. And there’s an important role here for businesses and local governments.


  • Adaptation may be a global issue, but it should also take regional, local and business circumstances into account. A few examples:

  • 1) Information and communication technology (IT): higher temperatures, heavier rainfall, drought and severe storms threaten air-conditioned buildings, high-voltage infrastructure and local electrical networks.

  • 2) Energy: energy is vital to our economy and social well-being. Without it, society would grind to a halt. Resilience means more and better contingency plans for power stations, backup generators and cooling water.

  • 3) Transport: extreme weather conditions are already affecting key infrastructure (like roads, railways and bridges): heavy rainfall and higher temperatures damage road surfaces; summer heat bends rails and stops moveable bridges from working.

  • 4) Public health: 13 per cent more people die during a heat wave, and those with pre-existing conditions are especially vulnerable.

  • The hay fever season may be prolonged, and new diseases or other risks to public health may emerge.

  • The impact of extreme temperatures is greater in urban areas, as hard landscaping absorbs more heat during the day and loses less of it at night.

  • The use of medication to manage chronic conditions may double at population level.

[National Adaptation Strategy]

  • These examples underscore the need for a national, comprehensive strategy for climate adaptation, where business is part of the solution.

  • We’ve already discussed the role of business with, for instance, the Dutch agriculture sector (LTO), a large multinational consumer goods company (Unilever) and a major telecom and IT provider (KPN).

  • Together we’ve identified and analysed the risks of climate change. The aim is for government and business to reinforce each other’s efforts. We can only meet the challenge by working together!

  • My message to other countries:

  • 1) Develop your own National Adaptation Strategy.

  • 2) Share it with all stakeholders and compare best practices.

  • 3) Strengthen them by setting up public-private partnerships between developed and developing countries.

  • 4) Implement and finance actions and programmes by these partnerships.