Green recovery policies to raise climate ambitions

Diplomatic Correspondent

11 December, 2020 12:00 AM printer

While much of the attention this year has been focused on protecting populations as well as the socio-economic impacts and recovery needed, high-level officials from across the Asia-Pacific this week called upon countries to address the environmental roots of the Covid-19 pandemic to further protect the health of people and the planet.

Held on December 9-10, the sixth session of the Committee on Environment and Development was convened by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). The session shone the spotlight on the region’s environmental challenges in the context of the pandemic.

“As we recover better together, the future of our region is fundamentally tied to the success or failure in stewardship of the environmental system and response to the climate change challenge,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana in her opening remarks.

“ESCAP analysis shows that business as usual is likely to drive significant tensions between and within countries, climate mitigation, inequality, and hardship,” she said, according to a message received from ESCAP office in Bangkok on Thursday.

“The destruction of the living world not only undermines our only support system; it makes pandemics more likely. And yet, as nations seek ways to recover from the pandemic, I see a once in a lifetime opportunity to transform our economies and societies at the scale and speed we need,” shared Ms. Joyce Msuya, Deputy Executive Director, UN Environment Programme.

“We must keep this attention on the environment and continue to support countries as we move forward, including to ensure that recoveries from the pandemic place high priority on the environment and lead us to a green, resilient and inclusive future,” said outgoing Chair Sonam P. Wangdi, Secretary, Bhutan National Environment Commission.

In light of the unique circumstances of the pandemic and the hybrid format of this Committee’s session, Suchitra Durai, Ambassador of India to Thailand and elected chair of the sixth session said, “The COVID 19 outbreak has challenged all of us to do business differently as evident from this year’s organization of the Committee.”

The Asia-Pacific region is experiencing enormous transformations, characterized by rapidly increasing resource consumption, energy use and CO2 emissions. These changes are negatively affecting biodiversity and the environment. While recent commitments being made by countries across the region to significantly reduce emissions and achieve carbon neutrality are encouraging, they are still not enough.

The Committee highlighted four entry points critical to the region: Raising climate ambition, Safeguarding ecosystem health, Clean air for all, and Cities for a sustainable future. Delegates shared that innovative solutions can be harnessed to address the climate crisis.