Asia-Pacific countries reaffirm commitment to sustainable and inclusive growth ahead of Rio+20

Girl working in a rice field near Chengdu, Sichuan.

Asia-Pacific countries concluded three days of discussions here today on sustainable development challenges facing the region, including growing natural resource constraints, climate change, hunger and poverty, and reaffirmed their commitment to make economic growth more environmentally-friendly and inclusive.

Over 120 delegates from 20 countries attended the 22-24 February Committee on Environment and Development convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) to review progress in addressing sustainable development priorities of the region ahead of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) also known as Rio+20, to be held in Brazil in June.

The second session of the biennial ESCAP Committee provided an opportunity for the countries of Asia-Pacific to review the complex, deepening and converging crises facing the region, namely, food and fuel price volatility, increasing scarcity of natural resources and uncontrolled consumption patterns, record biodiversity loss rates, as well as the accelerating impact of climate change.

“An assessment of resource intensity shows that the region consumes three times the resources as the rest of the world to produce one unit of value added,” said Mr. Shun-ichi Murata, ESCAP Deputy Executive Secretary while opening the Committee session. “Given the levels of persistent poverty, and resource constraints, such resource-intensive growth patterns are not sustainable,” he added.

In a keynote address, Ms. Mingquan Wichayarangsaridh, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Thailand, informed the session that the Royal Government of Thailand was formulating policies in support of sustainable development under the concept of Sufficiency Economy. “Regional cooperation is an important vehicle to provide an important platform to further spread the benefits of such initiatives,” she added.

The Committee session also explored possible collective solutions to challenges before the region in order to strengthen concerted action in pursuit of sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. A side event provided participants the opportunity to share best practices and practical know-how on green growth.

Many countries attending the Committee emphasized the urgency of improving resource and energy efficiency to sustain economic growth necessary to reduce poverty. Some countries called for a green growth approach based on resource efficiency as an effective strategy to overcome resource constraints and pursue sustainable development in the region.

The Committee session concluded with a renewed commitment to strengthen inclusive and sustainable development and reaffirmed support to the “Seoul Outcome” adopted by the Asia-Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for the UNCSD which was held in October 2011 in South Korea. The Committee also outlined a set of recommendations which will be presented to the 68th ESCAP session to be held in May 2012.

Closing the session, Mr. Rae Kwon Chung, Director, Environment and Development Division, ESCAP, stressed the need for Asia-Pacific countries to improve resource-efficiency through the green growth approach in order to sustain economic growth necessary to reduce poverty.

There is growing optimism that the region can transform the challenges facing it into opportunities by shifting towards a Green Economy and applying it appropriately to the specific conditions of the region as a means to promote sustainable development, he added.