Helen Clark Remarks at Pacific Leaders Event, Copenhagen

Dec 14, 2009

Remarks by Helen Clark, Administrator
of the United Nations Development Programme
on the occasion of the High Level Meeting with Pacific Leaders

Monday 14 December 2009, Copenhagen


Thank you for inviting me to be with you all this evening, and for giving me this opportunity to address you.
The Pacific region is one I am very familiar with, and I know many of you from my days as Prime Minister of New Zealand.

In my new capacity at UNDP, an organization which is active in 166 countries around the world, I bring to my work insights on development gained from my Pacific experiences.
UNDP has a strong presence in the Pacific region. We have three country offices – one in Papua New Guinea, and multi-country offices in Samoa and Fiji – in addition to the Suva-based Pacific Centre providing regional programme and policy support. 

Our work there seeks to help Pacific nations address development challenges ranging from improving livelihoods, supporting crisis prevention and recovery, and helping tackle climate change which has such potentially devastating consequences for low-lying island states in the region.

It is climate change which brings us all to Copenhagen, and which I would now like to address.
While climate change affects all of us, it hits the poorest and most vulnerable first and hardest.

For the Pacific island countries, climate change is not merely an environmental or economic issue.  Half of the eight million people in the Pacific live within 1.5 kilometers of the shoreline, which is at risk of coastal depletion from sea level rise.  The low lying atolls could be submerged altogether.

The science is clear that there is an urgent need to act forcefully now to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. It is a global problem like none other, and it requires a global solution.

Copenhagen offers the chance to put in place agreements which will address climate change, drive sustainable economic growth, and advance progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

For this to happen, the agreement reached in Copenhagen needs to lead to reductions in emissions, and the development of less carbon-intensive production and consumption processes and technologies.  And it needs to help developing countries adapt to those climate impacts which are already inevitable, reduce deforestation, increase access to energy, and pursue low-emissions growth. 

In short, a climate deal will need to be a good deal for development too.
For developing countries, especially small island developing states, the level of funding flowing from a climate deal will be vital.

Low carbon alternatives to development exist, but require significant new resources and technology transfer. Developing countries cannot meet these full costs on their own.

The poorest and most vulnerable countries, including small island developing states, have done the least to contribute to climate change in the first place. They need considerable financial support which goes above and beyond existing Official Development Assistance to meet the adaptation costs they face.
If such support is not forthcoming, the odds of reaching the MDGs are seriously diminished.
Generating inclusive growth and green development which helps nations reduce poverty, achieve the MDGs, and protect our climate and ecosystems are objectives which can, and must, go hand-in-hand .  These are not “either/ors”. They are all “must achieves”.

There will be no sustainable development if the way we live and grow destroys the ecosystems which dictate the terms and conditions on which we all dwell on this planet. There is no back up to Planet Earth.

As the UN’s largest development agency, with a specific mandate to work on the environment, energy and sustainable development, UNDP stands to ready to work with you, and all other developing countries, to enhance our efforts to ensure that climate change considerations are brought front and centre into development thinking and strategies, with proper attention paid to the needs of vulnerable groups, including women and indigenous peoples.

Specifically, UNDP can and does assist developing countries to develop strategies to adapt to climate change, increase access to energy, reduce deforestation, and undertake low carbon growth– and to integrate them into their national development plans.
We can and do help countries develop the capacity to execute these strategies – and to access carbon finance now and in the future.

And we can and do increase the support we give to the least developed countries and to small island developing states in particular on climate risk management and disaster risk reduction. 

This is especially important in the Pacific. Alas, the impact of the recent tsunami that affected Samoa and Tonga has demonstrated this once again.  According to a UN report, nearly seventy per cent of all lives lost worldwide because of natural disasters are lost within the Asia-Pacific region.

In this era of multiple challenges, as nations grapple under the weight of the economic recession and the food and fuel crises, advancing a sustainable agenda is no easy task.

With unwavering political commitment, new and significant resources, and strong partnerships with all stakeholders in development, I believe we can tackle climate change and achieve the MDGs.

I look forward to working with all of you to make that happen, and to ensure that the deal reached here in Copenhagen is as fair, ambitious and comprehensive as possible.


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