Helen Clark's Speech NDRC's Side Event on South-South Cooperation and Climate Change COP18, Doha

04 Dec 2012

Helen Clark’s Speech
NDRC’s Side Event on South-South Cooperation and Climate Change 
COP18, Doha
4 December 2012

Key Messages:

  • Urgency of climate change globally and to China
  • Importance of S-S cooperation to meet climate change challenges and China’s role in it
  • UNDP is a perfect partner for China’s Climate Change South-South Cooperation work

It’s a great pleasure and honour for me to address this distinguished audience of ministers, senators, and other distinguished guests on the important issue of South-South cooperation to address climate change.

Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation.  The science is clear that there is an urgent need to act forcefully now to mitigate and adapt to its effects.  There is also an urgent need to integrate climate change mitigation and adaption into poverty reduction and green and inclusive growth strategies. 

There are many indications that climate change is now taking place faster than was previously predicted.  In many parts of the world, families and communities are witnessing their crops wiped out by prolonged drought, or homes destroyed by floods and storms.  In Kiribati, villages had to relocate due to severe coastal erosion and salt water intrusion and two islands have been submerged by the sea.

And devastating impacts are not only limited to developing countries anymore.  Last month, Super Storm Sandy affected vast area in eastern United States.  The storm cut power to about 7 million homes, and inflicted worse-than-expected damages in the New York Metro area.  Recovery cost is expected to reach $50 billion dollars.

Similar to many other developing countries, China is also identified as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change impacts, and has experienced more severe and frequent natural disasters recently.  Droughts in 2010 affected 51 million people in south-west China, and floods in 2011 affected over 36 million people in southern China. 

Compared with nine other large cities located in deltaic regions, including Manila and Dhaka, Shanghai was identified recently with the highest vulnerability to climate change impact such as flooding from rising sea levels and cyclones.

To avoid irreversible and possibly catastrophic changes in the Earth’s life support systems, we must put our common interest first – we must protect our planet and foster inclusive and green development.

Although developed countries are mostly responsible for the stock of greenhouse gases since post-industrialization, the brunt of its effects in the form of climate change impacts is borne by the poorest and most vulnerable people in developing countries.

In the Copenhagen Accord, developed countries committed $100 billion dollars annum of additional finance by 2020, with 50% for adaptation. 

However, according to many estimates, much more funds are needed to meet the enormous challenges of climate change impacts.  Therefore, public finance alone is not going to be sufficient to meet adaptation needs.  Most of the investment in adaptation is therefore going to have to come from businesses and households.

Developing countries cannot depend on public finance alone to help meet their enormous climate change challenges.  They need to join hands and take actions, both collectively and on their own.

Excellencies, Ladies, and Gentlemen,

We are moving to a more multi-polar era.  Emerging countries such as China are showing leadership in sustainable development in their countries -- developing approaches and technologies, models that can be of great benefit to other developing countries.

China has many sustainable development experiences to share with other developing countries. 

Although China’s total energy consumption is currently projected to expand until beyond 2030, China has set 40% to 45% carbon intensity reduction targets by 2020, and in recent years has been developing and adopting affordable, low-carbon technologies and solutions.

Also, China has been assuming a leadership role in South-South cooperation for sustainable development and other areas.  During Rio+20 this June, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said that “China is a great developing country which is willing to take global responsibility”, and among other commitments, China committed RMB 200 million (~USD $31.7 million) to help small island states, least developed countries, and African countries to tackle climate change.

UNDP has been working in China for more than 30 years and is very honored to have partnered with China right from the very start of its sustainable development work.  UNDP just finished writing the history of its support to China in climate change.  Copies of the report are available in the back of the room.

In November 2010, UNDP and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for strengthening South-South cooperation.  In fact, UNDP had already been working with China on South-South cooperation since the 1980s.  However, the recent MOU has served to expand and deepen this important area of work.

In addition, UNDP supports regional and cross-regional cooperation involving China, on issues such as cooperation in north-east Asia, the Yellow Sea, and regional environmental standards.  We share experience with Chinese companies on corporate social responsibility in their work in other developing countries; and we convene numerous forums bringing Chinese and other developing country experts together  to share China’s development experience, for example on green technologies for sustainable development.  

UNDP is also supporting a China-India Low Carbon Study, jointly led by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China and the Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) of India.                 

Globally, UNDP has helped countries implemented 499 national and 44 regional and global climate change projects with $1.27 billion dollars in climate funding and an additional $4.5 billion dollars in co-financing.  UNDP works closely with countries to identify priorities, barriers, and risks to climate change impacts; and helps countries to integrate climate change mitigation and adaptation into their developing planning, as climate change impacts multiple sectors of our economy. 

UNDP’s strength lies in our in-depth knowledge of specific development needs in the countries we work in.  We are politically and ideologically neutral, and our only objective is to help developing countries meet their own development goals and their international commitments in a sustainable manner.  This puts UNDP in an unique position to act as trusted partner, facilitator, bridge, and programme deliverer, for governments who seeks to deepen their South-South cooperation.

I am delighted that we have with us today Ministers of Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Grenada, and Maldives.  UNDP has a long track record in these and all the other 177 countries that we support. [The Administrator may wish to refer to some aspects of UNDP partnership with the countries participating in the seminar – RBAP please complete]

UNDP is very excited to have the opportunity to partner with China in its South-South climate change work, and looks forward to continued work with Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, Grenada, Maldives, and others to overcome the enormous challenges of climate change.

Thank you.