Helen Clark Remarks: China Side Event Copenhagen, Denmark

15 Dec 2009

Remarks by Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme on the occasion of the
High Level Event on China’s Pathway to a Low Carbon Economy and Society

Tuesday, 15 December 2009, Copenhagen

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It is a great pleasure and honour for me to welcome you to this event hosted by the United Nations Development Programme’s country office in China, in collaboration with our partners from Beijing Renmin University.

I am pleased that we have been able to attract such a distinguished panel, for this “High Level Event on China’s Pathway to a Low Carbon Economy and Society”.

China’s role in the global efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and tackle climate change is vital.
The dynamism of China, its ongoing transformation, and the many development gains it has made in recent years are well known. The UN estimates that 475 million people were lifted from extreme poverty in China between 1990 and 2005, and that China will very likely meet all the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

In recent years, China has also been developing and adopting affordable, low-carbon technologies and solutions. 
In late November, China announced its targets for reducing the carbon intensity of its economic growth by 2020.  China is consciously seeking a better balance between its economic growth and th
e protection of its environment.
China’s rural communities are among those most vulnerable to climate change.
In recent times, China has battled unprecedented rains, floods, and cold weather affecting millions of people. Unchecked climate change would without doubt undermine China’s development potential.

 Going forward there is an urgent need to integrate efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change with those to reduce poverty and promote inclusive growth. The way we live and grow must be consistent with keeping our ecosystems in balance. After all, there is no back up to Planet Earth.

This gets to the heart of UNDP’s efforts to achieve sustainable development. Mitigating and adapting to climate change and achieving the MDGs are both essential, and mutually supportive, objectives.

As well as supporting China’s ongoing efforts to reduce poverty, UNDP is also supporting China’s efforts to be more energy efficient, to use more renewable energy, and to adapt to those impacts of climate change which are already inevitable.  As China takes steps towards becoming a lower carbon economy, UNDP will walk with it on that journey.

The 2009/2010 China Human Development Report commissioned by UNDP is entitled “Towards a Low Carbon Economy and Sustainable Society”.

When it is finalized, it is our sincere hope that the report will contribute to China’s ongoing debate about and efforts to shift towards a low carbon economy and society.

The key findings of the work on the report to date suggest that some of the more economically advanced provinces in China are the least carbon intensive, while those which have a lower income and lower human development indicators tend to have higher carbon emissions patterns.

This indicates that achieving higher human development does not need to be accompanied by increases in greenhouse gas emissions. A more sustainable and low carbon development path, and one which is compatible with advancing human development goals, is indeed possible.

China acknowledges that its past progress has come at a cost to the environment.  Its future planning suggests that a better balance will be achieved, and that economic progress and environmental protection will be dual objectives.
One of many areas where this approach can be put into practice will be in China’s rapid urbanization.

By 2030, it is estimated that 350 million more people will live in Chinese cities as compared to 2005. The need for energy will further increase due to this massive shift to urban lifestyles.

Accommodating such a large number of people in cities is a huge challenge, but it also presents the chance to develop green, urban, and sustainable communities from the outset. Energy efficient buildings can be built and low carbon transportation infrastructure can be developed.  Whole new cities can be designed for sustainability.

China has the capacity to demonstrate that economic growth is fully compatible with protecting our planet in the 21st century.

It has so many experiences and useful technologies available to assist other developing countries meet their development challenges, including those related to adapting to and mitigating climate change.

An important part of our role at UNDP is to support and facilitate the exchange of development experience and knowledge across the South to where they can be most useful. Scaling up our joint work on South-South co-operation is a particular priority for me, and was the subject of many of my discussions in China in late November.

Working together, and with all our partners, we can help reduce poverty and promote sustainable development, both in China and beyond.

I hope that this side event, with its focus on China, can help demonstrate that advancing growth and protecting our planet can, and must, go hand in hand.

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