Excellency, Mr. Ken O’Flaherty, COP26 Regional Ambassador for Asia Pacific and South Asia,
Colleagues from UNEP, UN Women and the UN Regional Collaboration Platform for Asia and the Pacific,
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to welcome you to this joint event that will focus on a very important question - Is 1.5 degrees within reach for the Asia-Pacific region?
ESCAP, together with UNEP, UN Women and the greenwerk, has just released a regional assessment on the Ambition and Potential of NDC Commitments of the Asia-Pacific Countries.
The main message of this report is that Asia and the Pacific is falling behind in its efforts: greenhouse gas emissions are projected to increase by 34 per cent by 2030 compared to 2010 levels.
However, given that the current contribution of the Asia-Pacific region to global greenhouse gas emissions is over 60 per cent, there is no doubt that ambitious climate action from countries is critical for achieving global carbon neutrality by 2050.
The frequency of disasters in the region and the science are a stark reminder that time is not on our side and lives and livelihoods are at stake, as well as hard-earned economic development gains.
Countries have no choice but to review critically current emissions reduction commitments and develop long-term low greenhouse gas emissions development strategies.
It is encouraging to see that regional leaders have been lining up to make their carbon neutrality pledges.
Bhutan has already achieved carbon neutrality and the Maldives has committed to carbon neutrality by 2030. New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and Fiji have passed bills on carbon neutrality by 2050. Australia, China, Japan, Malaysia, the Marshall Islands, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have issued policy commitments to carbon neutrality by 2050 or 2060. During the first week of COP26, Thailand, Viet Nam and India also announced their pledges.
Ambition for decarbonization is on the rise. A vast majority of countries in the Asia-Pacific region have worked hard to mainstream climate change into their legal frameworks and development plans, as well as establish bespoke climate funds.
Several countries have also demonstrated that a transition to green growth can be in line with the COVID-19 recovery. Indeed, most countries in the region cannot afford to double spend on climate and recovery efforts.
Furthermore, some of the lowest income countries are the most ambitious and are leading the way in terms of ambition and mainstreaming gender in climate policy.
More work is required to develop monitoring, reporting and verification systems (MRV) systems. This is a prerequisite to gaining the trust of financial institutions and climate funds and enhancing the opportunities for access to climate finance.
A supportive enabling framework is a prerequisite for the effectiveness and impact of any climate action. But how can we enhance further climate ambition and support low-carbon development?
Allow me to list some of those needed measures:
• Divesting from coal and fossil fuels and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies will unlock investment in growing renewable energy
• Applying carbon pricing instruments will create liquidity to drive economic activity up and emissions down
• Stimulating electric mobility will drive new smart city development and smart energy distribution systems
• Mandatory climate-related financial disclosure will help investors direct their investments towards climate action solutions that will help manage risks associated with climate-related problems
• Development of innovative financial instruments and implementation of debt-for-climate swaps can help to mobilize this additional funding for ambitious climate action
• Increasing investments into nature-based solutions will reduce the vulnerability of local communities while contributing to cost-effective mitigation and adaptation efforts.
All these measures are within reach for the Asian and Pacific countries. All stakeholders need to collaborate and build a strong case for decisive climate action.
The time is right for an alliance of governments, the private sector and financial institutions to help turn the full power of the region’s ingenuity and dynamism into the net zero development pathway that our future depends on.
ESCAP and the United Nations Regional Team stand ready to assist countries in Asia and the Pacific in these efforts.
Thank you very much.