Developing countries need support to fight climate change, says ESCAP

Global success requires participation of developing countries

The head of the UN’s regional arm for Asia and the Pacific says that active support to developing countries is key to global success in fighting against climate change.

Speaking today at the climate change conference in Bali, Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), recalled remarks two days ago at ESCAP by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that a breakthrough in Bali could happen only with the active participation of key developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Our challenge, said Ms. Heyzer, was how to support developing countries in undertaking such actions.

She noted that developing countries will not be able to simultaneously achieve continued economic growth and take adequate climate action unless there is technology transfer.

The active participation of developing countries is indispensable for stabilizing green house gas emissions. However, Ms. Heyzer noted, imposing quantitative targets would be scientifically and politically challenging as economic growth uncertainties would make it difficult to make reliable projections on the long-term emission levels.

“The only way to actively engage developing countries in global action is to develop a market mechanism that helps climate change actions become compatible with the needs of countries to pursue rapid economic growth.”

Ms. Heyzer pointed out that climate change represents one of the greatest market failures ever, as it is associated with negligence of the externality of economic growth.

“Thus, we have to correct market failure by internalizing ecological costs into market prices. This is essential to shift from quantity of growth and pursue ecological quality of growth, which is a key pillar of the Green Growth concept that ESCAP has been promoting.”

The Green Growth approach seeks to address climate change without jeopardizing economic growth. Currently, green house gas emitters have no financial incentive to limit their emissions. Green Growth seeks to change this by shifting tax basis from income to environmentally damaging activities, such as fuel consumption. The initiative has been endorsed by the 62 member governments of ESCAP.

Asia-Pacific accounts for 34 per cent of global green house gas emissions. The region represents the highest level of ecological and socio-economic vulnerability to extreme meteorological events – it accounted for 84% of global casualties for the period 2000-2005.

Ms. Heyzer noted that some countries in the region are already embarking on voluntary measures to combat climate change. “The Government of China already has a goal to achieve a 20 per cent energy efficiency improvement as part of its 5-year economic development plan”.

Ms. Heyzer was speaking at a side event held by all five of the United Nations regional commissions. It was attended by UN Secretary-General’s Envoys on Climate Change, Han Seung-soo and Ricardo Lagos, Indonesian Minister of the Environment, Rachmat Witoelar, and head of the UN climate change convention, Yvo de Boer.