H.E. Mr. Bat-Ulzii Bat-Urdene, Minister of Environment and Tourism of Mongolia,
H.E. Madame Zulfiya Suleimenova, Vice Minister of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan,
H.E. Madame Vilaykham Phosalath, Vice Minister of Public Works and Transport of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic,
H.E. Mr. Amenatave V. Yauvoli, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Fiji and the Chair of the senior officials segment,
Excellency Ministers, Vice Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Distinguished Delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to the ministerial segment of the Seventh session of the Committee on Environment and Development.
The theme of the Committee, “Protecting our Planet through Regional Cooperation and Solidarity in Asia and the Pacific,” acknowledges that reinvigorated multilateralism is critical to accelerate progress towards sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region.
We are gathered here today to review the current state of our common environment and development and find transformative solutions for the challenges of our region.
Our region faces three critical environmental challenges which I would like to highlight as our reference for your further discussions.
The climate crisis highlights the urgent need to low-carbon transformations and scale up ambitions.
The region accounts for over 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, having increased by about 20 per cent between 2010 and 2022.
Despite a series of announcements from countries to reach net zero emissions by mid-century, current ambitions as set out in nationally determined contributions fall short of what is needed to reach the Paris Agreement targets.
The high rate of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation poses a serious threat to human well-being, livelihoods and food security.
Among all regions, Asia and the Pacific sees the most rapid and serious decline in biodiversity-related ecosystem services.
The marine and coastal ecosystems are also heavily affected by overexploitation, habitat destruction, aquaculture and invasive species.
Increased air pollution levels and waste exacerbate public health challenges.
Nearly 90 per cent of the population of the region regularly breathes air considered to be unsafe by the World Health Organization.
Solid waste and plastic pollution also have negative impacts beyond the vicinity of the source, even extending to the marine ecosystem.
The problems we face are transboundary in nature which requires solidarity, commitment and coordinated action.
By doing so we can raise climate ambitions, safeguard ecosystem health and mitigate the effects of pollution and waste.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
You may wish to consider further deliberations to address these challenges and to enhance multilateral and regional cooperation to protect the environmental commons.
In this regard, we welcome your guidance on policy options under consideration in this Committee.
Nature-based solutions, together with decarbonization, including protection, conservation and natural restoration, can deliver a wide range of benefits for people and the planet.
Thus, we need to further strengthen regional cooperation in policies and practices for nature-based solutions to help countries raise ambition for effective climate action.
We also need to strengthen policy coherence, synergies and legal frameworks for effective governance.
As our 5th Asia Pacific Day for the Ocean yesterday emphasized, solidarity and cooperation are needed to strengthen global marine governance.
On air pollution, strengthening air quality standards and improving the national capacity of air quality management are essential.
This requires enhancement in air quality management to monitor and share open data, exchange best practices, increase technical capacity building and strengthen multilateral cooperation.
The Regional Action Programme on Air Pollution presented today for adoption provides the framework for clean air in the region.
The sustainability and well-being of people must be integral part of urban planning and development backed by innovative investments and financing. To make cities environmentally friendly, we need more sustainable infrastructure and housing provisions for all.
This will require vertical integration of urban policies from subnational to national governments for mobilizing coordinated actions for the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.
Finally, we must accelerate our regional action to promote principles on environmental rights at the national level, for which the ASEAN countries have started to lead the way.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Moving towards low carbon pathways, managing biodiversity and air quality and making cities more sustainable require providing the public with policies and mechanisms for fully exercising their environmental rights, including the right to information and participation.
With the Committee’s expertise and guidance, we can collectively reach a consensus on a way forward for Asia and the Pacific and adopt the Ministerial Declaration as our foundation for joint commitment.
We are committed to supporting this every step of the way.
I thank you for your attention, and I wish you successful and good deliberations.