On behalf of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), I’m delighted to join you for the launch of the UNDP Demonstration Project for Sustainable Development and Innovation in Suzhou. I am very pleased to be her as this is my first visit to this beautiful and historical city that I have read much about and which is described in many Chinese poems.
The most famous is perhaps: 姑蘇城外寒山寺，夜半鐘聲到客船. (Gusucheng wai hanshansi, yeban zhongsheng dao kechuan).
But let me move from poetry to today’s event and the project itself which come at a critical juncture in China’s and the planet’s development. COVID-19 has laid bare the fragility of our world, with the worst recession since the great depression and 114 million people losing their jobs in 2020. 
To recover from the pandemic and build resilience to future shocks, we must face the challenges posed by this economic crisis, along with a climate crisis and biodiversity crisis. This calls for developing our economies, societies and cities in ways that include everyone, while respecting the Earth’s limits. Returning to our old normal is not an option. And momentum is building towards a more inclusive, green path.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 SDGs - to end poverty, reduce inequality and ensure that our planet can sustain future generations - provide a roadmap and effective benchmarks for this ambitious change. So do the Paris Agreement and China’s recent pledge to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2060. All this calls for cities in China to adopt inclusive, sustainable and green strategies.
With their high population densities and key role in commerce, cities will decide whether we achieve the SDGs. Suzhou can play a special role among Chinese cities in implementing the SDGs, as well as realising carbon peaking and neutrality in China. With its strong industry base and long-term growth prospects, Suzhou is pivotal for Yangtze River Delta integration. Its human development is also high among Chinese cities, ranking second according to UNDP’s 2019 National Human Development Report. Suzhou New District with its investments in innovation, is positioned to become a hub for green tech transfers and green finance development across the Delta.
Despite Suzhou New District’s successes, roadblocks still exist on its path to sustainable development. As one of the most economically advanced cities in China, Suzhou will be at the frontier of major industrial transformation. Supply of key production factors, especially labour and land, face significant shortages. Energy policy and carbon emission schemes, like cap-and-trade, call for strategic and innovative approaches. To support these, fresh efforts are needed to establish effective institutions and platforms that strengthen innovation capacity, promote green technology and finance, and facilitate global partnerships for sustainable solutions.
UNDP stands ready to work closely with Suzhou to support its shift to low-carbon, high-quality sustainable development. In partnering with Suzhou Municipal government and Suzhou New District, we look forward to building platforms that bring together all stakeholders – from government, to businesses and society – in support of long-term, green growth. Through this demonstration project, UNDP will focus on the following strategic priorities, to help Suzhou accelerate this transformation:
· Firstly, create a hub for green technology for sustainable development. By leveraging technical support from partners like the Green Technology Bank, UNDP will build an SDGs Innovation Lab, focusing on technological innovation, transfers and application in Suzhou, to encourage the green transformation Suzhou’s traditional industries.
· Secondly, strengthen sustainable urban planning and governance. UNDP will facilitate the development of SDG-led urban planning standards and green technology application. This aims to support Suzhou in accelerating its transition to a green, carbon-neutral centre that sets an example for other cities in China and around the world.
· Thirdly, engage Suzhou in international exchanges and sustainable development partnerships. This will help Suzhou strengthen its international cooperation on green technologies and innovation, as well as connect it to UNDP’s global knowledge network, to share and absorb best practices and lessons.
· Finally, accelerate coordinated sustainable development in Suzhou via new technologies. This will support Suzhou in developing an integrated service platform, widening AI applications in green technologies, as well as advancing green and intelligent manufacturing, along with smart city management. Through a range of technical innovations, Suzhou can strive for integrated, coordinated development that sustains the environment and leaves no one behind.
In closing, I would like to thank and congratulate the Suzhou Municipal Government, CICETE, Green Technology Bank and Suzhou New District for launching this project. Today’s event opens a new chapter in our partnership with Suzhou. Through our continued cooperation, I am confident the road ahead for Suzhou and other cities in future can be sustainable and include all who call them home.
 According to ILO, retrieved from: https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@dgreports/@dcomm/documents/briefingnote/wcms_767028.pdf
 UNDP, National Human Development Report Special Edition, P286. Dec 2019.