Climate Game Change - Innovations and Solutions for Climate Change Adaptation

Excellencies, Distinguished Speakers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a joy for me to welcome all of you to the Asia-Pacific Business Forum 2009 - “the Climate Game Change – Innovations and Solutions for Climate Change Adaptation”. I would like to express my deep appreciation to the Swedish International Development Agency for co-hosting this important conference with the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

The Asia-Pacific Business forum was started as an annual ESCAP forum for multi-stakeholder dialogue between private sector, governments, civil society and development organizations in the region. Recognizing that partnership with the private sector is key to addressing development threats and challenges ahead of us, we in ESCAP use this forum to invite the views and perspectives of the private sector on current policy issues, as well as promote the role of business in promoting inclusive and sustainable development in the region.

The theme of this year’s Forum – Climate Change – is indeed very timely in view of the multiple crises that the world is facing at the moment. The financial crisis has further complicated the region’s quest to address climate change through both mitigation and adaptation and to ensure water, energy and food security. With economic slowdown, credit squeeze and reduction in external capital flows, the financial resources required for creating a low-carbon global economy through managing both the risks and opportunities presented by climate change would be severely limited. Faced with these sobering prospects, I would like to highlight the importance of industry and business to the climate change solution, and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead as we navigate the difficult road ahead.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Climate Change is real and caused by human actions. In Asia-Pacific, climate change is no longer a distant threat; it is a reality and a sign of what lies ahead. For many of our Pacific Island States, it is a question of their survival or extinction. Rising temperatures are causing sea levels to rise; increased frequency of extreme weather events such are storms and cyclones are resulting in frequent floods and land erosion. Other visible effects of climate change include water shortages, reduced agricultural productivity, forest fires and increased prevalence of diseases. All are likely to have devastating effects, particularly on the poor. This region is currently responsible for 34 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. It is also the home to 7 out of the 15 major global greenhouse gas emitting countries. This region also suffers from the largest number of human casualties from natural disasters in the world. In fact, it accounted for 80 per cent of disaster related global casualties in the last decade.

Therefore, action on Climate Change cannot wait, and people are calling for action now. Otherwise, future generations will look back on us and ask us what we did and why it took us so long to act. We need a new sense of urgency and a new sense of responsibility. A responsibility to protect not only today’s economy but also to prepare for the economy of the future. We must be responsible in how we use the earth’s resources. The earth’s gifts which we take for granted are not guaranteed.

So far, the talk about the economic impact of Climate Change has mainly been of the potential threat. Yet, we should also look for the opportunity for new growth, for innovation, and for a modern economy based upon green growth, energy efficiency and increased use of renewable energy. If Climate Change is the challenge of our generation, it also presents the opportunity of our generation. Opportunity or threat, this is a problem that we need to solve together.

Business or the private sector is an integral part of the solution. The ways in which business can be involved in addressing Climate Change are many:

Business needs to be ready to adapt to the physical risks presented by climate change such as extreme weather events and changing ecosystems, and ensure that they have the systems in place in order to minimize potential disruptions. Business should also be ready to utilize the opportunities that may emerge from changing socioeconomic and market conditions that could result from global and national responses to climate change such as providing goods and services needed to aid adaptation across society or to deliver services or expertise to help different populations to deal with climate change.

Business has a central role to play in the implementation of the comprehensive “Green growth” approach promoted by ESCAP. The Green growth approach promoted by ESCAP has five components:
Eco-Tax Reform through promoting a revenue-neutral green tax and budget reform by using pollution/emission levels as a basis for taxes.
Development of sustainable infrastructure which provides increased transport, energy and water services, but with less consumption of material and other resources.
Demand-side management through promoting sustainable consumption.
Greening of jobs and businesses by enhancing eco-efficiency of production and green products.
Development of eco-efficiency indicators- since what gets measured gets done.

ESCAP and the Republic of Korea are establishing a partnership where ESCAP would act as an implementing agency for the Multi-million dollar fund set up by the Republic of Korea to helping countries in the region adopt a low carbon green growth development path.

Business also has a central role to play in the development and adoption of new technologies for energy efficiency and renewable energy, which are essential to ensure a major and decisive shift away from a high dependency on fossil fuels to an increased use of renewable energy resources, including hydro, solar, and wave and wind energy. The sustainable energy security framework promoted by ESCAP has several components, many of which have direct relevance for industry and business. These include:
increasing energy efficiency to lower energy intensity of economic growth;
lowering dependence on fossil fuels;
upscaling the use of renewable energy;
encourage innovation and competition; and
improving governance in the energy sector.

We believe that Governments have a key role to play by providing the right frameworks to promote and facilitate private sector action. Since implementing mitigation and adaptation measures could create opportunities for Business by increasing business niches, it is in the private sectors’ own interest to enter into dialogue with Governments to establish clear frameworks and new financial mechanisms to combat climate change, such as carbon-trading and taxation initiatives. This will not only help ensure action by all parties, but also provides more predictability for business in terms of the future costs of adaptation and mitigation measures.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Asia-Pacific, our region, has the skills and human resources to exploit new developments in clean energies and technologies, which provide huge opportunities for business to tap resources in a more efficient way, and in turn improve energy efficiency and lower carbon intensity of our economy. Many private sector companies within our regions are pioneers in renewable energy technologies, and regional trade and cooperation can play a stronger role in the transfer of these technologies by the private sector.

If we use this opportunity, we will be able to turn the climate crisis into a new economic opportunity that advances sustainable development; and encourages green technologies, green industries and green 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.

Last but not the least; I cannot overemphasize the importance of mainstreaming ecological sustainability into the core business of private companies. The tipping point in our efforts to address the Climate Challenge would be reached if the principles of conducting business in a socially and environmentally responsible manner are woven into the intrinsic fabric of doing business.

Friends, Ladies and gentlemen,

For too long have we been overloading our atmosphere with green house gases without any accountability for what happens. We have failed to give value to our climate. It is time for all of us to remember that we have borrowed this planet from our children, and it is our duty to leave a world fit to live in for future generations. We need to shift from a development paradigm that focuses only on the rate of economic growth to one that ensures quality of growth which is inclusive and sustainable, resulting in shared prosperity, social progress and ecological sustainability for all.
I wish you all a very Happy New Year and a pleasant stay in Bangkok.

I thank you.