Opening remarks at the Launch Event United Kingdom-Italy COP26 Engagement to Thailand “Climate Change: Meeting the Immediate Threat”

Excellency Mr. Varawut Silpa-archa, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Thailand,
Excellency Mr. Brian Davidson, British Ambassador to Thailand,
Excellency Mr. Lorenzo Galanti, Ambassador of Italy to Thailand,
Excellency Mr. John Murton, UK COP26 Envoy,
Distinguished participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to join you for the Launch Event United Kingdom-Italy COP 26 Engagement to Thailand. I am delighted to be with you alongside partners from the Royal Thai Government and other stakeholders.

Addressing climate change is not a topic of discussions for policymakers only. Youth and other activists continue to demand for urgency. Time has now come for everyone to be a part of this global movement to save our precious planet!

You may recall the 25th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 25) under the Chilean Presidency that took place in Madrid in December 2019 was marked by stark divide between peoples’ demands and increasing company pledges via-a-vis the official positions of Governments.

At COP 25, the officials could not resolve the unfinished business of COP 24.

This list of ‘unfinished business” includes the following items:
a. An agreement to enhance ambition for GHG reduction to 1.5 degrees - the talks were also aimed at getting more countries to agree to higher goals;
b. An agreement on reporting requirements for transparency and “common timeframes” for climate pledges (Article 6 of Paris Agreement);
c. Creating an international carbon market under Article 6 of the Paris agreement (rules for voluntary market mechanisms).
Science remains clear on the climate change emergency.

We had some good news from Madrid, though. For example, at COP 25, 177 companies pledged in cutting emissions in line with the 1.5 C target as part of the Climate Ambition Alliance; while a group of 477 investors, controlling $34tn in assets, called on world leaders to update their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and step up ambition.

Global conversation has turned the tide further and change in social norms.

Ladies and gentlemen,

May I highlight some of the opportunities and priorities for COP 26:

i) Increase NDC ambitions: Specific commitment from countries to raise the ambition of NDCs to achieve the 1.5 C. At the UN Climate Summit in 2019, 70 countries pledged to deliver more ambitious NDCs in 2020, which accounted for over one-third of global CO2 emissions. We need to do more.
ii) Joint climate action platforms: Emergence of regional and sub-regional platforms for joint climate action such as in Asia and the Pacific;
iii) Super year 2020 for nature: Address the nexus between climate, biodiversity and ocean in 2020. UN Ocean Conference will take place in Lisbon in June 2020.

Ladies and gentlemen,

UN family and certainly, UN ESCAP is committed to work with member States in the Asia-Pacific region to play a catalytic role in the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

In view of this, may I highlight one opportunity and possible solution in Asia and the Pacific.

Our region accounted for about 50 per cent of the increase in global emissions. So, making renewable energy infrastructure cheaper is one of key strategies, which will include power generation from renewable energy sources, as well as from existing and new power plants.
Also, ensuring rapid decline in cost of renewably produced electricity will further impact household, transportation sector, industry and electric vehicle production, and that will need leadership, especially for energy transition and SDG7 roadmap.

In fact, these policy options can create new investment and business opportunities, and further act as engines of economic growth and bring numerous social and environmental co-benefits such as tackling air pollution.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me highlight three specific areas of possible ESCAP engagement to strengthen our programme support for climate change:
(i) Technical support for review and raise NDC ambitions, and improve climate action readiness in climate financing, governance and local action;
(ii) Capacity building support for the National Expert SDG Tool for Energy Planning (NEXSTEP), SDG 7 roadmaps and Ocean Cities;
(iii) Advisory services in preparing policy and instruments for developing carbon taxes and green bonds, stricter emission regulations and lowering risk for renewables investment.

Going forward, UN ESCAP stands ready to work with the United Kingdom-Italy co-presidency of COP 26 in three priority areas:

(i) Create evidence on the benefits of action and to push low-hanging fruits for climate mitigation through knowledge products to have concrete results, especially for the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and middle-income countries in our region;
(ii) Launch cooperation platforms with ASEAN on improving sub-regional cooperation for climate mitigation, with a focus on the sustainable management of natural resources as the solution has to come to push the agenda much faster;
(iii) Organise side events and other associated events with selected member States to build the momentum in the areas of climate finance, renewable energy, climate governance, and identify links of climate to the biodiversity oceans and SDGs in Asia and the Pacific.

Strong leadership is essential to bring governments on-board by mobilizing business leaders, academics, youth and CSOs, which can help find solutions to combat climate change and implement the Paris Agreement. This is our homework. We need everyone to become champions of climate change response.

I wish you a very successful meeting. Thank you.

Related SDGs: Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation, Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth, Goal 14: Life below water