Opening remarks at APCW, 2019 High-Level Opening Session

Your Excellency, Mr. Mr. Varawut Silpa-archa, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Thailand,
Your Excellency Ambassador Thomson,
Your Excellency Ambassador Amena Yauvoli
Mr. Ovais Sarmad, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Climate Change Secretariat
Ms. Punyapha Visavakornvisisd, Youth Representative
Distinguished delegates,

Welcome to the third Asia-Pacific Climate Week. It is the last of a series of regional gatherings which will feed into to the preparations of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Climate Summit and build momentum towards the COP 25 in Chile in December. It is our opportunity to consider how we can quicken the pace of change - and respond to the Secretary General’s call for countries to come to the Climate Summit with increased ambition and bold proposals in response to the climate crisis.

Countries from across Asia and the Pacific are conscious of the areas where action is needed. Accelerating the transition away from dirty coal; supporting industry’s move to lower energy intensity; achieving sustainable urban development to cut the energy related greenhouse gas emissions from cities; strengthening our resilience to climate change fuelled disaster risk; and increasing climate finance because our region needs additional investment of $373 billion per year for climate action – are all challenges which require our urgent attention.

Yet they are challenges which it is possible to overcome in Asia and the Pacific. Our region has the potential to play a major role in ensuring the world achieves the Paris Agreement 1.5°C objective and action is being taken. Our countries include world leaders in renewable energy, with investments in some countries outstripping fossil fuel investments. The largest producer of solar power is in Asia and the Pacific and countries are driving forward ambitious plans to mandate energy savings and reduce the scope of international offsets to increase the share of domestic mitigation necessary.

Yet countries are also fully aware that more needs to be done if the Paris Agreement is to be met. Let me highlight two pressing priorities, among many.

First, we must move decisively to accelerate the transition away from coal power and stop building coal power plants by 2020. A transition which can only be achieved supported by carbon taxes, stricter emissions regulations and investments into renewables with rapidly increasing cost competitiveness. Financial institution must be incentivised to divest from coal power plants and increase financing for renewable energy projects. Natural gas must be considered as a bridge in the transition to sustainable energy.

Secondly, let us step up our fight against single use plastics, which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of their life cycle – from production, to refining, to waste management. We need biodegradable alternatives, regulations incentivising retailers to use and sell these alternatives, taxes on singles use plastic products and better monitoring to stop the leakage of plastics into our ecosystems, especially our oceans.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Our research demonstrates why climate action makes sense both to protect our planet and financially. A 1 per cent improvement in resource efficiency of material resources and energy combined could deliver the region up to $275 billion in savings. Achieving ecosystem conservation related targets of the Sustainable Development Goals could result in a gain of $3.3 trillion worth of ecosystem services per year for the region by 2050.

With these challenges and opportunities in mind, ESCAP has been working with development partners to strengthen climate readiness across Asia and the Pacific. We are helping to support the mixing of international climate financing with domestic resource mobilization; encouraging innovative climate action at the local level to feed into national efforts; and ensuring climate change related policies become mainstreamed into governance approaches – including budgeting.

Enhanced regional cooperation between the countries our region, the private sector and civil society can give scale to climate action across Asia and the Pacific. Let us raise our ambition, and together, apply our region’s unrivalled dynamism and ingenuity to overcome the greatest challenge of our time.

Thank you for your attention and I wish you successful Climate Week.