6 April 2020, 12:00 - 13:30 (JST) Virtual Discussion Series on Accelerating Transformation in Asia and the Pacific
Good morning and afternoon. My name is Kazuhiko Takeuchi, and I am the President of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), an environmental policy research institute based in Japan.
Let me begin by stating my colleagues at IGES and I are saddened by the losses we see in Asia and other parts of the world from COVID-19. To some extent, COVID-19’s heavy toll demonstrates the high costs of an increasingly globalised world. At the same time, our responses to the crisis also show that the forces of globalization can be harnessed for the good of the people and the planet. These positive signs even include communicating with you virtually--at a safe social distance. My remarks today will outline how we can strengthen cooperation not only between countries and individuals but across multiple global challenges. Cooperation across levels and issues is essential to protecting the global environmental commons.
- The area where such cooperation is arguably most needed is the climate crisis. Though calls for climate ambition and 1.5°C targets are often made globally, achieving these objectives will require innovative solutions at the national, local and even individual life-style levels. Importantly, these solutions are likely to move faster and spread further when linked to other development priorities at all levels.
- Fortunately, there is growing research showing the benefits of integration between climate action and local air pollution control, sustainable transport, waste management, food-water-energy nexus and biodiversity conservation. Capturing these benefits will be aided by easy-to use decision making tools on interlinkages and multi-level governance arrangements that nest integrated solutions within each other. Both the tools and transition to more nested governance arrangements could also promote greater integration between the voluntary national reviews (VNRs) and nationally determined contributions (NDCs) as well as Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) and local climate policies.
- Next, let me turn to the VNR process. These reviews are optional by definition; however, to achieve critical environmental goals, including the 1.5°C target, a mechanism for incentivizing increased ambition is needed. Since countries impact each other across many policy domains, this could potentially be achieved with greater accountability in the VNR process. Introducing a regional mechanism that enables a more consultative review of the VNRs would allow for perspectives on the SDGs to be expressed openly, while encouraging countries to critically reflect on the transboundary impacts of their policies. In this connection, we are particularly glad to see the consideration of VNR twinning on the agenda for APFSD. Such twinning may also have potential at the local level.
- Now I would like to discuss a policy area where greater integration could pay dividends for the climate and other environmental issues: biodiversity. The unprecedented rate of biodiversity loss is limiting future technological and medical solutions. To halt these trends, governments need to establish national inventories of species under threat, and species with potential in terms of technological and medical innovation. Policymakers should also consider mainstreaming biodiversity considerations across public and private sectors; and prioritise biodiversity as a key criterion for area-based conservation. These national reforms could feed into global efforts to raise the ambition of targets in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Raising this ambition would again be facilitated by integration with other issues covered under the SDGs.There is also scope to leverage synergies between the Convention on Biodiversity and other regional and international agreements.
- Lastly, let me discuss plastics. This issue is very salient in Asia because the region manufactures half of the world’s plastics. I firmly believe that resolutions to the plastic problem will require recognizing connections between terrestrial and marine ecosystems. To date, however, many plastic policies have a decidedly downstream rather than a more circular economy focus. Instead, solutions to marine plastics pollution require coordinated policy interventions at all stages of the plastics lifecycle. In addition to working across the lifecycle, the transboundary nature of marine plastic pollution also requires enhanced regional collaboration. This could be achieved by i) establishing technical standards for plastics, recycled plastics and plastic products; ii) setting guidelines on circularity in plastics use; and iii) phasing out harmful additives. A regional network for research and innovation on plastics and regional framework agreement on plastic pollution are also desirable.
To conclude, I would like to emphasise that the crises we face -- be it COVID-19, climate change, biodiversity loss, or plastic pollution -- know no borders. The Asia-Pacific region still faces enormous challenges from globalization; however, as we have seen with the current public health emergency, cross-cutting and collaborative policies and initiatives backed by measurable indicators and accountability mechanisms can transform globalization into a positive force for change. Fora such as the APFSD play a critical role in this transformative process. Please visit our website for the full set of IGES’ recommendations and key messages, which we hope will provide additional thoughts on how we can accelerate progress on the SDGs in Asia-Pacific and beyond.
Thank you, and wishing you all good health.