Noeleen Heyzer, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), today called on developed countries to help meet the technological and financial needs of developing countries facing the challenge of climate change.

“The challenge for the region’s developing countries is whether they can switch to a less polluting pattern of production while maintaining the growth and development they require,” Heyzer said. “We need global solidarity based upon genuine North-South and South-South partnerships of governments, as developing countries cannot do this alone.”

Heyzer made the call in her remarks at the opening session of the United Nations Climate Change Talks, taking place between 31 March and 4 April at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok, Thailand. Those in attendance included Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister, Sahas Bunditkul; Indonesia’s State Minister of Environment and president of the UN’s climate change talks, Rachmat Witoelar; and Yvo de Boer, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The meeting, organized by the UNFCCC, is the first round of talks to follow on from the landmark agreement on a road map towards strengthened international action on climate change, reached in Bali, Indonesia, in December last year. Parties agreed at Bali to formally launch negotiations on enabling the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention. These negotiations need to conclude in an agreed outcome by the end of 2009.

According to de Boer, the challenge is to design a future agreement that will successfully halt the increase in global emissions within the next 10-15 years, dramatically cut back emissions by 2050, and do so in a way that is economically viable and politically equitable worldwide.

Heyzer noted that for the Asia-Pacific region, climate change is no longer a distant threat. “It is a reality and a sign of what lies ahead,” she said. “For many of our Pacific island states, it is a looming question of their survival or extinction.”

The climate change talks in Bangkok will convene sessions of both the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (first session) and the Ad hoc Working Group on further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (first part of the fifth session), during which Parties need to advance the Bali Road Map agreed last December.

ESCAP’s Executive Secretary said that with technological and financial support from developed countries, the region can find cost-effective ways to address climate change.

“Countries in the region need to focus their actions in terms of cleaner technologies, industries and jobs,” Heyzer said. “Rather than focusing on the quantity of growth, countries need to incorporate quality dimensions that reflect inclusiveness of development and the adverse consequences of climate change.”

She added that this is a new paradigm that can support the proactive participation of developing countries in climate action, with adequate support from developed countries.

Echoing comments by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Bangkok on his way to Bali last December, Heyzer said that the climate crisis could be turned into a new opportunity for the next green revolution – based on cleaner technology and a low-carbon economy that advances sustainable development; and encourages new kinds of cleaner technologies, industries and jobs.

“In this, we need partnerships between public and private sector as well as civil society to bring about a paradigm shift not only in policies but in behaviour,” Heyzer said. “It is time to build solidarity, and it is time to re-commit to a global partnership for sustainable development.”