Green Growth & Sustainable Development: The Asia-Pacific Perspective

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

Introduction

Twenty years ago, at the Rio Earth Summit, the world embraced the idea of sustainable development. Twenty years later we are still struggling to make our development paths more sustainable, more inclusive and more resilient.

The first principle of the Rio Declaration was that people are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development, yet two decades on, social equity remains elusive.

The message from the countries of Asia and the Pacific is that getting it right means that Rio+20 must rebalance the pillars of sustainable development – ensuring that people are placed more firmly at the centre of the post-Rio+20 agenda.

It is time to reset global development, to forge a new development paradigm, and to find new engines of sustainable growth.

Our generational challenge and opportunity is to grow, better, together.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

Asia-Pacific Growth and Development

The Asia-Pacific experience of development is, in many ways, a microcosm reflecting our shared global challenges.

Amidst the ‘new normal’ of global economic turbulence and volatility, no region has grown more strongly than Asia and the Pacific, which remains a growth pole for the global economy.

But current Asia-Pacific growth is no longer sustainable. There has been a cost to our people and to our planet - with rising inequalities and ecosystems stretched almost beyond their carrying capacities.

We are confronted by major risks, resource constraints, and social inequalities which threaten our social fabric and ecological well-being.

The key to moving forward, to forging more inclusive and sustainable prosperity, is to use our development challenges, such as poverty and wide disparities in social and physical infrastructure, as new engines of growth.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

Greening Asia-Pacific Growth

Greening our economies is an important challenge as we sustain the growth we need to reduce poverty, especially in the face of worsening resource constraints and climate change.

In 2005, the Asia-Pacific region adopted green growth as a regional strategy to achieve sustainable development, and in October last year, our Regional Preparatory Meeting for Rio+20 adopted the Seoul Outcome, outlining a framework for green economic policies to support sustainable development and poverty reduction.

There are now a number of national and sub-national Asia-Pacific examples of effective green growth policies and strategies, including those from Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and the Republic of Korea. There is a need to build on these ‘green shoots’, to replicate and scale-up the practices that are making a difference.

In support of these efforts by our member States, ESCAP has developed a Low Carbon Green Growth Roadmap for Asia and the Pacific. Launched in April, our Roadmap shows the road that has already been travelled and offers a practical guide for policymakers, providing more than 100 different policy options and case studies. A capacity development programme has also been developed and is now being offered online.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

Asia-Pacific Initiatives to Build Sustainable Development

As important as green growth can be, it will not solve the root causes of persistent poverty alone. In keeping with the aim of placing people at the centre of sustainable development, green growth must be integrated with inclusive social policies to ensure that the costs and benefits of transitions are justly shared.

In the Asia-Pacific context it must also support efforts to increase regional economic integration for inclusive and sustainable development.

New resolutions, passed last month at our 68th ESCAP Commission session, on promoting paperless trade and improving sustainable transport systems have further strengthened our efforts towards greater regional economic integration in this direction. We have also prioritized the special case of our Pacific Island developing nations – whose stewardship of the Pacific Ocean ‘blue economy’ as a global commons requires greater regional and global support.

Energy is another golden thread connecting economic growth, social equity and environmental sustainability. The Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative takes on very specific additional challenges in Asia and the Pacific – with global demand for energy predicted to grow by another 33% between 2010 and 2035 – and 50% of that growth expected to be attributable to China and India alone.

ESCAP has been mandated by our member States to explore options for the creation of an integrated energy ‘smart-grid’ – in effect an Asian Energy Highway – to improve regional energy efficiency, better share regional energy resources for energy security and increase the share of cleaner and renewable energy sources in the Asia-Pacific energy mix.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

Conclusion

In conclusion, if the original Earth Summit was about the idea of sustainable development, Rio+20 has to be about getting sustainable development right for our people and our planet.

With looming challenges and increasingly limited resources, we will not have many more opportunities to do so.

Asia and the Pacific is home to two thirds of the people of our world. We accept our shared responsibility to help create the future we want – and believe that the outcomes of Rio+20 offer the best chance of our generation.

ESCAP, as the regional development arm of the United Nations in Asia and the Pacific, with the new mandate from this outcome document, will do so together with our sister regional commissions.

Thank you.