STATEMENT OF MR RAE KWON CHUNG

October 2, 2010 11:20

STATEMENT OF MR RAE KWON CHUNG DIRECTOR,  ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT DIVISION

H. E. Mr. Nurgali Ashimov, Minister of Environment Protection, Government of Kazakhstan,

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Honoured Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to extend a warm welcome to all of you at the Preparatory Meeting of Senior Officials for the Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific.

First of all, let me take this opportunity to convey my deep appreciation to the Government of Kazakhstan for kindly hosting this meeting and for the excellent arrangements and their gracious hospitality.

As many of you may know, ESCAP, in close cooperation with its partners, has been organizing regional ministerial conferences every five years since 1985. For this Conference, I am grateful for the collaboration extended by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Asian Development Bank. I sincerely hope that we can continue to count on such valuable support in the implementation of its outcomes.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to briefly outline on the some of the development trends in Asia and the Pacific and their implication on the environment of region.  Over the past two decades Asia and the Pacific has undergone enormous economic growth, although that growth has not been even throughout the region.  The aftermath of the global financial crisis cemented Asia-Pacific’s role as the economic engine of the global economy.

While this spectacular economic growth has contributed to the reduction of poverty and social progress in many parts of the region, it has also placed increasingly high pressure on the environment, stretching it beyond the region’s carrying capacity.  Asia and the Pacific has become vulnerable to three types of interlinked crises.  First type of crises is associated with external economic and internal economic shocks linked, among others, to global economic down turns and domestic market bubbles.  The second type of crises is linked to extensive resource use and depletion, symbolized by the oil price volatility and the third type of crises are ecological crises heralded by negative impacts of climate impacts as well as the negative impacts from unsustainable rapid urbanization.

If Asia and the Pacific is to continue its rapid economic growth, it cannot simply focus on quantity of growth, maximizing GDP and production. It has also to focus on improving economic, social and ecological quality of growth.

Increasing economic quality of growth includes policies that would increase resilience towards oil price shocks and external and internal economic crises; mitigate internal limitations, particularly the limited size of the domestic market; increase energy security; enhance employment generating function of growth and improve competitiveness through innovation, etc.

Enhancing social quality of growth would depend on, among others, increasing inclusiveness, particularly in decision making; closing income gap; protecting vulnerable groups and improving quality of life and well-being.

Improving ecological quality of growth, or green growth, would include policies that increase resilience against climate change, invest in vibrant and dynamic ecosystems, improving resource and ecological efficiency, and enhancing water resource management, etc.

Under our current development paradigm, all these qualities are absent from most of our unplanned and rapidly urbanizing human settlements.  Cities and towns produce 80 percent of region’s GDP and are concurrently centres of mass consumption, industrial production as well as poverty. They account for 67 percent of all energy use, and generate 70 per cent of greenhouse gases.  At the same time 35 percent of all urban residents live in slums and squatter settlements.

Asia-Pacific has lifted five hundred millions out of poverty thanks to rapid economic growth. However, poverty reduction, or MDG 1, came at the cost of compromising environmental sustainability, MDG 7. Trade-off between MDG 1 and MDG 7 has to be turned into a win-win synergy. Green growth is one such strategy of achieving MDG 1 and MDG 7 at the same time by improving ecological quality of growth.

In order to improve ecological quality of growth or green growth, the current economic and social system, and production and consumption patterns, have to be fundamentally transformed. The “visible structure” of our economy, such as transport or energy systems, urban design or the built environment, which lock societies into unsustainable patterns of energy and resource consumption and Green House Gas emissions, need to be re-designed and restructured based on the concept of ecological efficiency or eco-efficiency.  The “invisible” structure of our economy, such as price, lifestyles, technology and regulations also need to be re-aligned and transformed in order to re-orient societies towards eco-efficiency.

As many of you know, we at ESCAP, have identified five broad tracks that are necessary for the paradigm shift towards green growth. Firstly, we need to shift from quantity of growth to the quality of growth.  Secondly, we need internalize ecological prices.  Thirdly, we need to invest in sustainable infrastructure.  Fourthly we need to promote green business that turns ecological sustainability into business opportunities and last but not least we need to increase the resilience of our societies to climate change.

Green growth is not a fixed model.  It is an evolving, flexible strategy that each country needs to articulate and determine for itself, given its own development level and circumstances.

Pursuing green growth requires a mutually supportive and virtuous cycle of partnership between the Government, the private sector and civil society. Private sector needs to seize the business opportunities provided by greening economic growth. Civil society needs to promote lifestyle changes and mobilize political support for such societal changes. Governments need to take the clear leadership and politically commit to providing an inclusive policy framework to turn green growth into a business opportunity and maximize benefits and minimize costs for people and business.

Green growth offers a unique opportunity for developing countries and emerging economies to leapfrog from the conventional and costly “pollute first and clean up later” paradigm to ecologically efficient, inclusive and sustainable growth paradigm.

However, green growth will not happen automatically. It needs government intervention. Government has to close two gaps in order to jump-start green growth.  Firstly, it has to close the price gap between market and ecological price.  Secondly, it has to close the time gap between short-term cost and long-term benefit.

Fundamental transformation of “visible” as well as “invisible” structure of economy and society requires a strong political leadership and commitment with vision and conviction.  Many governments have shown such leadership and political commitment, including our host the Government of Kazakhstan.  The very fact that the government of Kazakhstan is hosting the Ministerial Conference for Asia and the Pacific this year and will host the Ministerial Conference for Europe next year shows its commitment to promoting Green Growth and Sustainable Development not only within each region but also inter-regionally.

Many other governments have made sincere efforts to improve environmental performance.  This has resulted in improvements in urban air quality in many cities, slowed rates of forest loss, increased forest planting rates and preserved coastal mangrove forests and eco-systems.

Still to many others green growth still remains a vision and an approach. In order to mobilize political leadership, policy makers have to be supplied with convincing concrete and practical policy options that could enable green growth to happen. At ESCAP we see this as our mission.  We remain committed to support member states by assisting them in developing regional and their own national roadmaps and strategies based on multi-disciplinary analytical and action research.

Regional cooperation among countries in Asia and the Pacific is essential in enhancing the region’s quality of growth and shifting from quantity of growth to quality of growth. Such structural transformation cannot be led by a single country alone since short-term cost and burden would negatively impact its competitiveness.

This paradigm shift would be effective only if it is embraced and pursued collectively by the region as a whole.  ESCAP, as the regional commission, is ideally placed to facilitate regional cooperation and coordination in the process of shifting economies of Asia and the Pacific towards enhancing the quality of growth to achieve MDGs in the context of sustainable development of the region.

I would like to re-iterate once again that Green Growth is not at all to replace MDG or Sustainable Development rather an implementing strategy to support MDG and Sustainable Development.  The question before us is not too ask whether Green Growth is feasible or not.  Green Growth is the vision we have to work together collectively to make it happen since if we fail, we are the one who will suffer most.  Therefore, the right question before us is “how we could work together to make Green Growth a reality”.  Some countries in the region are already taking a pioneering leadership in promoting the vision of Green Growth.  Secretariat of ESCAP is ready to assist Member States by providing a list of policy options necessary for Green Growth.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you are aware, we are all gathered here to review the progress achieved in promoting sustainable development in our diverse and dynamic region and to look for common solutions to our common problems.  In the course of your deliberations, you will review and finalize the draft regional implementation plan, along with the draft ministerial declaration for consideration and adoption by the Ministers.  Another important document before you is the “Astana Green Bridge Initiative: Europe-Asia-Pacific Partnership for the Implementation of Green Growth”, which has been tabled by the Government of Kazakhstan and which identifies specific priority actions and implementation mechanisms for immediate follow-up of the Conference in partnership with countries of Europe.  By adopting this initiative you will be giving a clear signal for the need of inter-regional collaboration between Asia-Pacific and Europe in promoting green growth and sustainable development.

As you have a busy schedule ahead of you, with much to accomplish, let me conclude my statement by wishing you every success in your deliberations leading to fruitful outcomes of the Conference.

Thank you for your attention.