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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

23 March 2021

Welcome Remarks

His Excellency Mr. Kondo Tomohiro, Vice Minister for Global Environmental Affairs, Ministry of the Environment, Government of Japan,

His Excellency Mr. Thierry Mathou, (Designate French Ambassador in Thailand,

Professor Kazuhiko Takeuchi, President of IGES,

Dear Distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to start by expressing appreciation to the Ministry of the Environment of Japan, Embassy of Japan in Thailand, and the Embassy of France in Thailand for organizing this side event along with the UN Issue-Based Coalition on Climate Change Mitigation and Air Pollution, co-led by ESCAP and UNEP.

This discussion is among the most important that will take place during APFSD, as achieving carbon neutrality is critical to our region and to meeting the global aspirations of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement.

Last week, ESCAP released the Asia Pacific SDG Progress Report 2021 which indicated that the region is not on track to achieve the 2030 Agenda. One of the most alarming findings is that the region has regressed on climate action and the situation in our region is worse than it was in the year 2000. 

Nearly half of all global GHG emissions are from this region.  Yet our analysis indicates climate change policies across the region are not ambitious enough to change course.  So, we need to draw from the leadership of countries that have set carbon neutrality targets and encourage more countries to make similar commitments.  

There are some encouraging signs – eight countries - Bhutan, Fiji, Japan, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Nepal, New Zealand, and South Korea in our region have announced carbon neutrality targets by 2050, China by 2060 and Singapore in the second half of the century. I note that we have a representative from Nepal in the panel today and look forward to hearing how Nepal seeks to achieve its target. 

Achieving carbon neutrality will take political commitment, cooperation across all levels of government, transformative change in energy, transport and other sectors, new solutions to infrastructure and development, and finance.

First, countries must make a clear and determined shift away from fossil fuels. Countries must phase out coal use and fossil fuel subsidies, which are prominent in our region.  For emissions to peak and decline as needed will require these phase outs to begin now. 

Secondly, we must accelerate transitions and investment in renewable energy. Half of the global energy consumption is in our region (85% coming from fossil fuels).  Decarbonization of the power generation is an imperative to the 1.5 C pathway.   

Nature-based solutions must also be leveraged to lead us towards carbon neutrality.  Biofuels, green infrastructure, eco-solutions in sectors from tourism to transport can cut emissions, increase resilience and reduce risks and vulnerabilities.

As we look forward to Building Back Better post-COVID-19 and the pathway toward carbon neutrality, economic recoveries and decarbonization should go hand in hand.  COVID-19 recovery packages are being designed and implemented at the same time countries are updating their NDCs. 

We know that globally, a green recovery could cut expected emissions in 2030 by up to 25 per cent.  Building Back Better should foster climate-responsive low-carbon and disaster-resilient development, green jobs and include a prohibition on carbon-intensive investments.

Achieving carbon neutrality must be a whole of society effort.  It requires leadership from national governments but can only be realized if subnational and local governments are involved, the private sector engaged, and civil society and individuals all become partners. Regional cooperation is also essential, as the pathways for developed and developing countries will be different, but sharing good practices, building capacities and mobilizing climate finance must all intersect.

The UN system has come together in the region through the Issue-Based Coalition on Climate Change Mitigation and Air Pollution, as one of the co-organizers of this side event.  The IBC is led by ESCAP and UNEP, along with other UN agencies in the region, and I am pleased that Ms. Dechen Tsering, Regional Director of UNEP is in the panel.  We are working together to help raise ambition on climate action in NDCs and to accelerate the phase out of coal. 

I wish you a fruitful discussion and I pledge ESCAP’s support to assist countries to realize their carbon neutrality targets.

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