Opening Remarks - United Nations Climate Change Talks

Your Excellency, Mr. Sahas Bunditkul, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand,
Mr. Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat,
Your Excellency Mr. Rachmat Witoelar, President of the COP 13,
Your Excellency, Mr. Janusz Zaleski, Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Environment, Poland
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, it gives me great pleasure to extend a warm welcome to all the distinguished participants attending the United Nations Climate Talks at United Nations Conference Centre.

I am happy to see that Bangkok has been chosen the venue for the First session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWGLCA) and the Fifth session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG). These are the most important follow up activities to the Bali Conference on Climate Change. I believe the outcomes of the meetings here will have significant impacts on the process towards a new climate change regime after 2012.

For many of us in the 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 looming question of their survival or extinction. Climate change is perhaps the biggest challenge faced by our generation, and what we decide to do today will decide the fate of all future generations.

Climate change knows no boundaries. No Nation can deal with this on its own. This is a problem that needs to be addressed by all nations working together by sharing resources and technologies. This is a shared problem in need of a global solution, and above all a multilateral solution.

Climate change is not just an environmental issue. It is a development issue, which has enormous economic and social consequences. We need to understand the magnitude of the economic, social and ecological challenges that confront us. Action to tackle climate change will not be easy and will require tough choices.

The Asia-Pacific region, while experiencing impressive economic growth is beset by economic, social and ecological imbalances. The region is a frequent victim of climate change related natural disasters and accounted for about 80 per cent of global casualties in natural disasters during the last 7 years. It is true that there has been a significant growth in emissions in the region, but on per capita terms developing countries from the Asia-Pacific are still far below the levels of emissions in developed countries. 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.

Developing countries in the Asia-Pacific cannot achieve this double goal alone. They require massive technology transfer and financial support. This is recognized by the UNFCCC as well as the Bali Action Plan, where technology and finance are identified as critical factors required by developing countries to take climate-friendly measures. We thus, urge the developed countries not only to reduce their emissions adequately, but to help meet the technology and financial needs of developing countries not only in the Asia-Pacific region, but all other developing regions. It is time to build solidarity, and it is time to re-commit to a global partnership for sustainable development.

With technological and financial support from developed countries, the region can find a cost-effective ways to address climate change, i.e. mitigating green house gas emissions without harming economic growth. Countries in the region need to focus their actions in terms of cleaner technologies, industries and jobs. 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. This is a new paradigm that can support the proactive participation of developing countries in climate action, with adequate support from developed countries.

ESCAP, as the regional commission and hub serving the Asian and Pacific region, has been promoting “Green Growth” approach aiming to improve the “ecological efficiency” and quality of economic growth. Many of the building blocks that have been discussed on climate change are essential components of the “Green Growth” approach. However, it is clear that a switch to green growth by developing countries requires the technological and financial support of developed countries.

When Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations visited ESCAP on his way to Bali last December, he said clearly that the climate crisis we are facing could be turned into a new opportunity for the next green revolution based on cleaner technology and a low-carbon economy. Thus, he describes seizing a new opportunity from climate crisis by opening the doors to the age of green economics. If we proactively use this opportunity, we will be able to turn the climate crisis into a new economic opportunity 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. And most importantly, we need global solidarity based upon genuine North-South and South-South partnership of governments, as developing countries cannot do this alone.

Your Excellencies,

The S-G has highlighted the importance of ESCAP in promoting a regional approach to achieve climate resilient societies. He has asked ESCAP to be a regional platform for follow-up to Bali, in articulating the Asia-Pacific perspective on the framework of climate regime beyond 2012.

During the Climate change Conference in Bali, ESCAP together with four other Regional Commissions held a joint event focused on “Regional Perspectives on Addressing Climate Change”. ESCAP is ready to serve as the regional platform for policy dialogue on the regional dimension of climate change issues, and for forging regional perspectives on the post-2012 climate framework to facilitate global-level discussions on the Bali Action Plan under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change process.

In all this, ESCAP seeks to work closely with member States, civil society and the private sector in the region to promote a more balanced and integrated approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation, to achieve inclusive and sustainable development in the region.

I wish you every success in your deliberations.

Thank you very much.