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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

29 June 2021

ESCAP

Honourable Mayors,

Distinguished Guests,

I am pleased to be with you at the ASEAN Mayors Forum.

We all know that Southeast Asia is among the regions most susceptible to the effects of climate change, and that cities across the region regularly bear the brunt of climate-induced disasters such as typhoons and flooding. 

Millions among ASEAN’s urban populations are especially vulnerable, including those living in coastal communities and along canals and rivers, and even megacities such as Jakarta and Bangkok are threatened by sea level rise.

Realizing the aspirations of the Paris Climate Agreement requires actions across all levels of government, including energy efficiency, transitions to renewables, coal phase-outs, as well as resilient infrastructure, efficient transport, better solid waste management, and nature-based solutions.

As local communities and national governments develop COVID-19 recovery strategies, now is the time to accelerate these actions and transition toward more equitable, resilient and green development, and cities can lead these initiatives. 

But no government— at the national or local level – should act alone, and vertical integration of policies is critical. 

As countries update their Nationally Determined Contributions, the role of cities must be well-defined so that ambitions can be raised and realized.

As cities plan to meet the needs from increasing populations and rapid urbanization occurring in Southeast Asia, they must align local actions with climate strategies, and mainstream innovative, smart, low-carbon solutions.

We know that the impacts of climate change fall hardest on the poor and vulnerable populations, and that shocks and stresses – whether they be climate-induced disasters, economic shocks or a pandemic, widen the inequalities that exist in our cities. 

ESCAP’s recent Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2021: Towards post-COVID 19 resilient economies, indicates that a K-shaped recovery is likely, with the poor and most vulnerable further marginalized.

A commitment to tackle climate change cannot ignore these warnings.

To ensure we do not regress on poverty reduction, recovery policies and actions— including those at the local level— must be inclusive, so that we build back better together. 

In 2019, ESCAP released The Future of Asian & Pacific Cities report at the 7th Asia Pacific Urban Forum, held in Penang, Malaysia. 

Let me share with you the four policy pathways recommended in the report to guide communities towards urban resilience:

First, scale up the use of nature-based solutions and resilient infrastructure in integrated urban and climate change planning. 

Second, understand the informal economy and support urban poor groups to be change agents for implementing city resilience actions.  All groups, especially vulnerable populations are stakeholders and must be part of solutions.

Third, create and strengthen partnerships to bring more attention and resources to long-term urban resilience strategies that break siloes between national, state and local actors.  A strong enabling environment must align strategies and eliminate policy gaps through multilevel governance.

Fourth, utilize big data sources to connect communities, cities and regions and to improve local government technological literacy.  Technologies and data should be leveraged to build smart, inclusive and resilient cities. 

Honourable Mayors,

Building climate resilience requires your commitment and leadership.

I hope that this Forum helps develop a clear vision of what can be achieved and support you in promoting innovative solutions in your cities.

I wish you a successful forum. 

Thank you very much.

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