Countries from Asia and the Pacific, Europe and the Middle-East, met on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, to explore opportunities for scaling up climate action to meet the ambitious targets set out in the Paris Agreement. The high-level participants recognized the need to boost climate action across the region if the aim of staying within a 2⁰C of temperature increase is to be attained. If we maintain business-as-usual, rising seas could affect 1.4 Billion people by 2060.
Asia and the Pacific accounts for more than 50 per cent of global emissions, and while many countries in the region have ambitious climate plans, collective efforts under Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), are not nearly enough to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. It has been estimated that humanity is left with a ‘carbon credit’ of between 150 and 1,050 GtCO2 to meet the Paris target. However, at the current emission rate of 41 GtC02 per year, the lower limit of this range would be crossed in 4 years, and the midpoint of 600 GtCO2 would be passed in 15 years.
In his keynote speech, Mr. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Founder and Director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said:
“In the Asia-Pacific region – population growth, environmental degradation and climate change could be a major challenge for the countries in the area. This is the negative future scenario. We have detailed these substantial risks in a major report for the Asian Development Bank just recently. But there’s a positive scenario too. Asia-Pacific could be at the forefront of human ingenuity to achieve change. This could really make the region a worldwide innovation leader.”
At the event organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in partnership with the other four UN regional commissions, United Nations Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, stressed vulnerable countries have a critical stake in ensuring that global emissions trajectories are corrected downward. Many countries in the region are showing leadership in putting into place policies and measures to mitigate emissions and to strengthen resilience. Carbon markets and their increased linkages across national boundaries can play a critical role to achieve these climate ambitions at least-cost.
“NDCs show countries are willing to raise their ambition, but need more financial, technological and capacity-building support. Regional commissions are committed to supporting this effort by convening all the relevant actors to deliver more ambitious policies to mitigate climate change, strengthen regional partnerships, and promote South-South co-operation,” said Dr. Akhtar.
“ESCAP will continue to support the development of the energy policy framework in the region to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 7. We can strengthen regional co-operation in carbon pricing to further exploit cost savings. And we will step up our efforts with the financial sector to ease countries’ barriers to access to finance and risk-transfer measures.”
Mr. Sun Zhen, Deputy Director General on Climate Change Affairs, National Development and Reform Commission, China provided his perspective:
“China is strongly committed to cope with climate change and to meet our greenhouse gas control commitments. Our experience shows that if we make the right political decisions and trust the potential of low carbon development, our policies should not limit economic growth. Rather they will create opportunities for sustainable, climate friendly and green growth.”
Participants also highlighted the key role of the UN regional commissions in supporting implementation of the NDCs, especially through their regional convening platforms where they bring together all stakeholders including governments, private and public sector and other international organizations, to leverage regional cooperation and promote learning.