Opening Session of the United Nations Climate Change Talks

Your Excellency, Mr. Suwit Khunkitti, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Royal Thai Government,
Ms. Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the Framework Convention on Climate Change,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of ESCAP, the regional commission and arm of the United Nations, it is a joy to welcome all of you to the 2011 Climate Talks.

I am pleased to see that Bangkok has again been chosen as the venue for the two Ad Hoc Working Groups under the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol.

We are meeting at a time when climate change is no longer a distant threat. It is a reality for the people and countries of our region and a sign of what lies ahead. Weather- and climate-related disasters occur in Asia-Pacific with increasing frequency. The human toll is immense – more than any other region in the world. In fact, Asia has accounted for 80 percent of the world’s deaths caused by disaster in the last decade, especially in the Least Developed Countries, Land-Locked Developing Countries, and Small Island Developing States.

Action on climate change therefore cannot wait, and people are calling for action now. We need a new sense of urgency and a new sense of responsibility. It is our responsibility not only to protect our people, our planet and our economy today, but also to prepare for the economy and society 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.

-- Facing that responsibility, ESCAP has promoted a framework of inclusive and sustainable development for the countries of the region, building on shared prosperity, social equity, resilience, and environmental sustainability. Our low carbon, green growth development strategies, our programmes on energy security and water resources, sustainable cities and urban development, as well as our work on food security and sustainable agriculture are all part of the United Nations sustainable development paradigm.

-- ESCAP manages the UN Regional Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness in Indian Ocean and Southeast Asian Countries, which provides financing for disaster preparedness, early warning systems, last mile issues and community engagement for building resilience and adaptation across the region. The Trust Fund is a dedicated resource for people-centered disaster and climate preparedness, especially for our Least Developed Countries, Land-Locked and Sea-Locked States.

-- The United Nations Regional Coordination Mechanism (RCM) chaired by ESCAP brings together 30 United Nations agencies working on a joint ASEAN-UN Mechanism for Rapid Response to Climate-related and Other Disasters. This was endorsed by the United Nations Secretary-General and the ten ASEAN Heads of State at the October 2010 ASEAN UN Summit, in Hanoi, Vietnam.

-- Damage and Loss Assessments are performed by ESCAP, our sister regional commissions, and other United Nations entities after disasters strike. The methodology is part of the UN’s regional technical assistance and provides an indication of the socio-economic impacts and cost of climate-related and other disasters, in partnership with the World Bank.

-- Finally, ESCAP provides technical assistance to scale up disaster risk reduction and climate preparedness. We integrate these into economic and social development, putting people first and ensuring that mitigation, adaptation or rebuilding do not reinforce existing problems or patterns of social inequality, but bring about system change and social transformation.

Excellencies and distinguished delegates,

Climate change remains the defining challenge of our time. It also presents the opportunity of our generation. I hope that through the meetings this week you can advance on the Cancun Agreements. I am confident that your efforts here will move this critical global agenda and process forward.

I wish you every success in your deliberations.

Thank you for your attention.