Rebeca Grynspan: Remarks at the East Asia Low Carbon Growth Partnership Dialogue

Apr 15, 2012

Remarks by Rebeca Grynspan,
UN Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Associate Administrator
At the East Asia Low Carbon Growth Partnership Dialogue
Countries’ actions and strategies toward low-carbon growth
Tokyo, Japan, 15 April, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My thanks go to the organizers – Japan and Indonesia - for making this important event possible, and for being valuable and committed partners on facing this global challenge.

It is fitting for this dialogue to take place here in Japan, as Japan is a true leader in low-carbon innovation and energy efficiency, both at home and abroad.

East Asia is also a critical region to our common efforts to promote low-carbon growth and fight climate change, precisely for the reasons already stated in Japan’s Strategic document: because of its high rate of growth; because it is responsible for an important percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions, and because it includes some of the most vulnerable people and communities of the world.

Today’s dialogue also takes place at an important time. In about two months, global leaders, including many of you, will take decisions at the Rio+20 conference in Brazil that may significantly influence the trajectory of human progress.  In our approach to Rio+20 we need to reenergize the political commitment for a paradigm shift: as it has been said by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Mr. Koichiro Gemba, and by the President’s Special Envoy for Climate Change of Indonesia, Mr. Rachmat Witoelar, we need to disconnect growth from high emissions but we also need to connect sustainability to equity and inclusiveness, and I will add, we need to start measuring progress differently and beyond GDP.  As the Human development report of 2011 clearly says, to advance human development, we need green growth to work for the poor people and the poor countries of the world and we need to finally integrate the social, environmental, and economic strands of sustainable development.

Pursuing and promoting low-carbon growth can offer such ‘triple wins’: reducing poverty, stimulating the economy, and protecting the environment. But we know that this is not easy to do, although it is feasible, possible and materially achievable it won’t happen without a strong political will and commitment, and an intentional policy design. We need a visible hand and the champions of change to defeat the Business as usual temptation.

There are 1.3 billion people in the world that have no access to electricity and about 2.7 billion people that rely on solid fuels (traditional biomass and coal) to meet their basic needs. More than 95% of these people are either in sub-Saharan Africa or developing Asia and 84% of them are in rural areas.  The UN Secretary General’s Energy for All initiative tries to answer to this challenge, is an important contribution to the low carbon growth strategies and has the potential to accelerate triple win solutions around the world. Access to modern energy services can be transformational from powering our economies to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  

UNDP, with other partners of the UN System, is supporting the Energy for all initiative on the ground with a special focus on expanding energy access for the poor and promoting sustainable energy solutions.  As of today we have the largest sustainable energy project portfolio within the UN system. With the support of the GEF (of which Japan has been an important partner) we have activities in more than 100 countries, supported over 2500 of grid energy projects and provided about 10 million rural people with access to modern energy.  

Let me give you some additional examples to the great ones presented by Malaysia, China and Cambodia, that put together as His Excellency the Foreign Minister of Japan said: technology, markets and finance:

  • Nepal’s rural energy development programme made modern energy services available to some one million people living in isolated rural and mountainous areas, largely by expanding small hydro, solar heating, and other renewable energy technologies. In so doing, the programme has released free income for household spending, helped create new businesses, and girls, who were previously expected to spend their time collecting firewood and doing other domestic chores are getting to school.
  • In Indonesia, for example, the Government is removing barriers to progress – be they regulatory, technical, financial or institutional – to implement nationwide, sustainable micro-hydro projects. By the end of 2010, nearly 900,000 households had gained access to electricity as a result.
  • In Thailand the Government has also focused on removing barriers to biomass power generation. The adoption of an electricity tariff system which rewards clean power production (“adder tariffs) has been a big step forward.  This system is widely seen as the primary driver for the growth of the renewable energy sector in Thailand.  Since the revised tariffs were introduced an estimated US$ 1.2 billion have been invested in renewable energy plants.  In addition, at least ten local banks now provide finance for renewable energy projects in Thailand. This change has been possible thanks also to the use and availability of Japanese technology.
  • In India, hundreds of small tea processing units in the South adopted more energy efficient and conservation reforms through awareness creation, energy audits, and investment in energy efficient equipment with the associated positive benefits to competitiveness, profitability, and employment.

Other examples relate to Carbon finance and other market-based instruments that also hold much promise to engage the private sector in low carbon growth.

UNDP, through its MDG Carbon programme, is actively working around the world on Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects, assisting developing countries to access carbon finance. Increasingly we are also helping to design and pilot the next generation of carbon finance market mechanisms working at scale. These new mechanisms provide sector-wide incentives thereby creating large, transformative market opportunities for low-carbon investment.

What we know now, and have the evidence to support is that pursuing pro-poor and green growth policies can be mutually supportive. Not only is it good for people and the planet, but also for the bottom line.

With the right regulatory environment and business models, cost effective solutions exist to transform fossil-based and inefficient energy systems towards clean and more efficient alternatives.

To this point, we’ve learnt that creating an enabling environment that is conducive for private sector investment – either through reducing risks, or increasing rewards (or modifying relative prices) - is essential to our efforts to encourage low-carbon growth.

And we know, that assisting developing countries to strengthen such a favorable environment, through capacity building, technology and knowledge sharing, south- south and triangular cooperation, policy and institutional frameworks consistent with low-emission and climate-resilient development, is good value for money.

In bringing my comments to a close, let me take the opportunity to stress that we should avoid the temptation to focus only on “short term fixes” – particularly now in times of multiple crises and change. Instead, what is needed are long-term plans, which also include short term wins.  

UNDP’s experience, in collaboration with our partners, shows that this is possible, and the seeds for this transformation can already be seen in many countries, particularly in the East Asia region. 

However, low carbon development is not automatically a fix for social progress. Low carbon investments will need to be intentionally designed with the aim of fostering greater economic inclusiveness to achieve these multiple wins. Effective governance and courageous leadership will be a prerequisite for driving this complex and sensitive process.

Thank you again for allowing me to be with you today and I look forward to productive discussions over the coming days.



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