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Asia-Pacific can set pace on climate: UN

By Yang Wanli in Bangkok | China Daily | Updated: 2023-05-18 09:02

Regional cooperation key to achieving sustainable development, meeting told

Urgent action is needed to combat climate change and prevent 7.5 million people from falling into poverty by 2030, according to the 79th session of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, or ESCAP.

The potential environmental impacts in Asia-Pacific are alarming, but most countries are ill-prepared for multiple overlapping crises, ESCAP warned in a report.

Global warming poses major challenges to all strands of sustainable development in Asia-Pacific, a region with 13 of the 30 countries most vulnerable to climate change, it said.

"Asia and the Pacific can set the pace of climate action in the decades to come," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at the session held in Bangkok, Thailand, on Monday. "Most countries in the region have already pledged carbon neutrality goals toward midcentury. But we need to accelerate action, with steep reductions in emissions within the next few years."

The costs of climate change are high. ESCAP estimates that annual average losses resulting from natural and biological hazards in Asia and the Pacific are around $780 billion.

As Asia-Pacific countries rebuild after the pandemic, subregions are facing extreme weather events that threaten resilient and sustainable development, it said.

For the Pacific, home to many small island developing states, climate change remains the single greatest threat to livelihoods, sovereignty and existence, the report said.

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCAP, said the integrated nature of climate change calls for holistic, multisectoral solutions and targeted support.

"Each one of us and every aspect of our world is being affected," she said. "Those who are most exposed and have the fewest resources to respond to climate change, however, are the most vulnerable."

China, Japan, Russia and South Korea have set national goals to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 or 2060 and have been developing specific policies and road maps.

"Considering the various situation of the nations, although we share some issues in common, we have different responsibilities for the implementation of the Paris Treaty and achieving net-zero," Zhang Ming, secretary-general of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, said in his keynote address on Tuesday.

"The melting ice and other challenges we've encountered result from climate change. Countries need to tackle those negative impacts with joined hands, pursuing sustainable development, protecting biodiversity and preserving water resources."

A solid legislative framework has been built with the support of SCO members, Zhang said, emphasizing that each state should be respected in having its own agenda in implementing its commitment to the Paris climate accord.

At the session's opening ceremony, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said actions and regional cooperation need to be scaled up to strengthen capacities in responding and adapting to climate change.

"ESCAP's work should be in synergy with and complement other regional and subregional cooperation frameworks. In addition, technology and innovation should be leveraged in climate actions," Prayut said, noting that health risk management and public health preparedness would help minimize the impact of climate change.

Fostering action

Under the theme "Accelerating climate action in Asia and the Pacific for sustainable development", the session served as a platform for leaders to share solutions to both reduce the risks and effects of climate change and foster ambitious climate action toward net-zero pathways and limit the global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 C.

China in the past decade has listed ecological development as a major task in its overall plan and has proposed building a "beautiful China" as a grand goal for ecological progress. In 2012, Eco-civilization was included in the Constitution of the Communist Party of China as a principle for development.

More than 880 participants from 61 member states, associate members and permanent observers joined representatives from academia, international organizations, youth groups, and business and civil societies in attending the session.

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