Climate Change Meeting Sets Out Key Proposals for Asia-Pacific Region’s Response

A major regional conference closed in Bangkok today with an urgent call for businesses and governments in Asia and the Pacific to make climate change adaptation central to their core operations.

The Asia-Pacific Business Forum 2009/Climate Game Change – Innovations and Solutions for Climate Change Adaptation brought together close to 300 representatives from the private sector, government, civil society and international organizations, with the aim of promoting new partnerships, ideas and resolve for combating climate change.

The Asia-Pacific business sector will face serious risks as a result of climate change, with South and Southeast Asia considered to be climate change “hotspots,” at particular risk from cyclones, flooding, and drought.

Co-organized by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the forum discussed climate change-related business risks and opportunities, shared views on how to support and facilitate climate change adaptation, and provided an occasion to meet like-minded environmental decision-makers and doers.

“The train is rolling and if you’re not onboard, companies may lose business opportunities and politicians may lose votes,” said Sida’s Director-General, Dr. Anders Nordström, in his closing remarks at the forum. He noted that there is a need for a better understanding of what is driving climate change as well as need for better access and sharing of information and experiences related to it.

“Discussions on climate change need to shift from normative statements to concrete actions,” said ESCAP’s Executive Secretary, UN Under-Secretary-General Dr. Noeleen Heyzer. “I think we have come some way here today with some innovative suggestions, but I want to emphasize that the discussion cannot stop here – it needs to continue and deepen to arrive at suggestions on a very practical level, at national, regional as well as global levels.”

In her closing remarks, Dr. Heyzer said that the business sector has a huge capacity in shifting the region away from the “present highly dangerous course,” and proposed the establishment of an Asia-Pacific business network to devise business solutions to the climate crisis.

In addition to Dr. Heyzer and Dr. Nordström, other speakers who addressed the forum included the Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, UN Assistant Secretary-General Angela Cropper – who delivered the event’s keynote address – and, the Special Adviser on Climate Change to Sweden’s Prime Minister, Dr. Lars-Erik Liljelund.

In today’s discussions, one panelist – Rohan Parikh, the head of Infosys Technologies’ green initiatives – stressed that early action on climate change does not need to be costly, with investments in greening business often recuperated within a few years only. Other speakers said that greening business can also create new business opportunities, and that attaining substantial reductions in greenhouse gases emission requires not only a strong sense of moral responsibility and political sensitivity, but also economic instruments for pricing carbon and creating a well-functioning carbon market.

The Sida report “Making Climate Your Business – Private Sector Adaptation in Southeast Asia” was also launched at the event. It noted that while government and non-profit organizations in the region are busy tackling climate change, the business sector is notably behind. “Now is the opportune moment for the private sector in the region to catch up: doing so will allow business to keep a competitive edge by accounting for emerging climate change risks,” it said.

The outcome from the forum will be fed into preparations for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, due to take place in Copenhagen in December this year.