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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

29 May 2021

ESCAP

Excellencies,

Distinguished participants,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to speak at the International Finance Forum Spring Meetings 2021.

This session tackles the important issues of how global governance and development must be reshaped in the post-pandemic era.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed multiple impacts across the Asia-Pacific region and the world, starting as a health crisis but also manifesting itself through profound social and economic shocks.

It has set back many of the efforts on the SDGs, including the task of addressing poverty and inequalities.

It has served as a wakeup call on our unsustainable relationship with nature.

Among other things, it made us realise the impacts of our economic growth model on air pollution and climate change and the vulnerabilities posed by income inequality and lack of social protection.

Excellencies,

Last month, at the annual session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, we released a theme study titled “Beyond the pandemic: Building back better from crises in Asia and the Pacific”.

This tackled the region’s challenges by outlining a four point agenda to assist countries in getting their recovery back on track: broadening social protection, investing in a sustained recovery, strengthening connectivity and supply chains; and mending a broken relationship with nature.

As countries in our region mobilize to come back from this unprecedented crisis, it is important to emphasise the interlinkages between COVID-19 recovery, climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals.

COVID-19 and climate change are both crises that require our urgent attention, but with different impacts and time scales.

Climate change poses a threat to all countries of this region that has not diminished in scale or urgency since COIVD-19 has emerged.

We should not neglect the long-term climate emergency because of the immediate nature of the COVID-19 crisis.

The challenge is to respond to both effectively and to tap the synergies that exist by tackling both challenges in parallel.

In the recovery from COVID-19, we can identify many opportunities to create economic stimulus while building the infrastructure needed for a low carbon future.

Excellencies,

ESCAP has been emphasising the growing urgency to address climate change by accelerating the clean energy transition in the context of a COVID-19 recovery plan.

We have been working with our members to accelerate regional progress on SDG7 – affordable and clean energy – through regional follow up and review as well as our research, technical assistance and capacity building efforts.

In view of this, I would like to highlight three priority areas for countries of our region to consider in responding to both COVID-19 and climate change.

The first is to scale-up investment in low carbon technologies such as renewable energy and energy efficiency, which will help us meet targets on reducing emissions and helping achieve the SDGs, while reinvigorating our economies. 

The second is to assist member States in rationalising fossil fuel subsidies.

This is an important step, not only to level the playing field for clean energy, but to create fiscal space for much needed recovery and stimulus spending.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations has emphasized the need to put an end to the trillions of dollars’ worth of subsidies for fossil fuels as a key tool in efforts to address the climate crisis.

The third is to support member States in recovering better in the post-COVID-19 strategies.

The ESCAP Framework for Socio-Economic Response to COVID-19 outlines the key role that clean energy can play in this process.

We have advocated for governments in the Asia-Pacific region to integrate their responses to COVID-19 with their clean energy targets and long-term efforts to combat climate change.

In the global effort to stabilise and reduce our emissions consistent with the Paris Agreement goal, there is no role for new coal fired capacity in any recovery plans.

We are promoting dialogue among countries on how to reduce this growing reliance on coal and undertaking research on alternative energy pathways for the region that allow the phase out of coal.

Excellencies,

The current crisis requires us to rethink global governance and development.

More than ever before, it highlights the need for countries to leverage regional cooperation to tackle transboundary issues that the pandemic has brought into focus and achieve the shared goals.

ESCAP remains committed to working with its member States to confront this crisis, recover better and build a sustainable and low carbon future for the Asia-Pacific region.

I wish you a very successful Forum. 

Thank you for your attention.

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