Speech van minister De Bruijn voor The Economist's Sustainability Week

Toespraak van de minister  De Bruijn (Buitenlandse Handel en Ontwikkelingssamenwerking) op 7 oktober 2021, ter gelegenheid van The Economist's Sustainability Week. De toespraak is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Ladies and gentlemen,

First I would like to thank The Economist for organising this important four-day sustainability event. I am honoured with this opportunity to address participants from so many fields of expertise. I will talk about:


For too long we have considered these 3 E’s as separate entities, assuming that reaching the best outcome for one E can – by definition – only be done at the expense of another E. The reality is that the three E’s are closely intertwined and interdependent.

Let me briefly discuss how we are doing in terms of Economy, Equality and Ecology. Our global economy has seen a massive growth in GDP in recent decades. One could argue that is a good thing. But looking at Equality, we see that many people do not have equal access to both tools and opportunities for progress.

Then there’s the third E: Ecology. Here, the news is bad all round. Depletion of our natural capital is seriously jeopardising the progress we have made in recent decades.

Climate change is not only an environmental or economic crisis. It is also a social crisis. Climate change is a catalyst for inequality. It hurts those already struggling with poverty, food insecurity and inadequate housing. At the same time, these people could be affected by policies meant to mitigate the effects of climate change.  

Looking forward, we should start working with nature in a sustainable way, also for the sake of our economy. For instance, as our agricultural sector is affected by biodiversity loss through decreasing animal pollination and soil fertility, financiers of these activities face risks.

Only for Dutch financial institutions, exposure to biodiversity loss amounts to more than 500 billion euro. It is hopeful that economic practices that clearly conflict with sustainable development are now starting to be seen as financial risks or market failures.

For true prosperity we must balance the 3 E’s. That is why the Netherlands is no longer measuring prosperity exclusively in terms of GDP growth, but also in terms of the impact of our activities on the environment and how costs and benefits are distributed among individuals or groups. We are aiming for policies that integrate Economy, Equality and Ecology.

In order to succeed, we must work together and learn from each other – governments, businesses and financial institutions, and NGOs. As we have been doing in the past week. The 3 E’s should also guide us at COP26. For a successful COP, we will need to reach agreement on several points:

First, we need bold action on greenhouse gas reduction and phasing out coal, if we are to stay within reach of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.

Second, at the same time, we need stronger action to help countries adapt to climate change – the most vulnerable countries in particular.

Third, and finally, we need the financial resources to make it happen, and to strike a better balance between mitigation and adaptation in our public climate finance.

Ladies and gentlemen, if we do not act to combat the climate crisis now, we will put our future at risk in all its dimensions. So let us move swiftly and efficiently towards a more sustainable future. Let us indeed combine social and economic wellbeing with sustainable economic growth, by addressing all three critical dimensions:

And Ecology.

Thank you.