Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to welcome you to the launch of the Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2021 on accelerating climate-smart trade and investment for sustainable development.
I would like to thank the Government of New Zealand for its sponsorship of this event. I would also like to thank the World Trade Organization for kindly agreeing to be our physical and virtual hosts, as well as our co-organizers and co-authors of the report, UNEP and UNCTAD.
We all know that international trade and investment have lifted billions of people out of poverty in the Asia-Pacific region alone. This economic growth, however, came at a steep environmental cost.
Climate change – caused in large part by greenhouse gas emissions from human activities -- has become the main offender of natural disasters in the Asia-Pacific region today, and they are set to become more frequent and more severe.
The latest report by the International Panel on Climate Change provides indisputable scientific evidence in this regard.
The Asia-Pacific region is not on track to meet any of the Sustainable Development Goals. In fact, Goal 13 on climate action has actually regressed since 2020. As such, it is high time to make international trade and investment climate smart.
As explained in this timely report, the links between trade, investment and climate change are complex.
The key is to ensure that the positive effects of trade and investment are maximized, such as by promoting trade and investment in renewable energy and low-carbon technologies, while minimizing the adverse effects by digitalizing trade and transport systems.
Putting a price on carbon and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies remain fundamental elements on which urgent progress needs to be made if trade and investment are to become more sustainable.
The Asia-Pacific region has become the largest emitter of greenhouse gases and the report finds much room for all economies to make trade and investment more climate-smart.
As key trade partners seriously consider putting border taxes in place on carbon to address carbon leakages and loss of competitiveness induced by domestic carbon pricing policies, economies in the region that are not taking steps towards reducing emissions risk are being pushed out of key markets.
The roll-out of COVID-19 recovery packages may provide opportunities to invest in low-carbon technologies and sectors, opportunities that should not be missed considering the urgency for action.
While implementing climate-smart policies comes at a significant cost, particularly for carbon-intensive sectors and economies, the cost of inaction is far greater.
Strengthened multilateral and regional cooperation, proactive domestic regulatory reform, as well as effective private sector engagement will be essential to ensuring that the economic transformation needed to mitigate the climate crisis takes place and that those most affected are not left behind.
I thank you for your attention and trust you will have a fruitful discussion.