Opening Remarks by Mr James George at the Study Tour of "Belt and Road" Innovation and Development

June 6, 2024

UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in China, James George, delivered opening remarks at the Study Tour of "Belt and Road" Innovation and Development in Jiangsu, China.

Dear guests, ladies, and gentlemen, 
On behalf of UNDP, I am delighted to be here in the beautiful city of Changzhou, Jiangsu Province with an audience committed to move the agenda of clean and renewable energy. Changzhou with its vibrant economy and advancements is a perfect location to have this important discussion. 
My message this morning is both of concern and hope.  
As we gather here today, our world faces a climate catastrophe.  
In 2015, the global community came together at the United Nations to adopt an ambitious global blueprint – for people and planet: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.  
Since then, so much has taken place.  
For today, let me focus on how the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution continues to wreak havoc on our natural environment and impose profound economic and social costs.  
It is very clear that without transformative action and surpassing the critical 1.5°C threshold, we are endangering over 3 billion lives.  
2023 was the warmest year on record, with the temperature already at about 1.45 °C above the pre-industrial average.
We have felt this in China and seen its devastating impact across our region and pushing decades of development gains.  
With less than 6 years remaining to achieve the 2030 Agenda targets, the global community is severely off track. 
In the Asia Pacific region, it is estimated that it will take an extra 32 years to meet the targets set for 2030.  
In our region, progress on energy-related SDGs has been slow, and even worse, for some targets, progress has been negative.  
For Goal 7: affordable and clean energy, only access to electricity is showing significant progress.  
The renewable energy share target has recorded a regression, as has Goal 13, which focuses on Climate Action. 
Targeted financing and investments aligned to the SDGs are critical.  
That is not to say that progress has not been made.  
Chinese investment in clean energy rose to approximately 890 billion dollars, accounting for about half of the global total spending.  
Over 800 major Chinese companies have set ambitious targets to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.
This is a good start and I welcome the increased participation of state-owned enterprises to be the market leaders and set the pace and standards of the transition to renewable energy.  
However, much more needs to be done and many opportunities, remain untapped.  
As all of us in this room are all aware - sustainable development is not an aspirational goal but it also makes business sense.  
We need to be able to communicate this message to a wider audience.   
Aligning investments with the 17 SDGs could unlock an estimated 2.3 trillion US dollars of business opportunities in China alone.
To transform these opportunities into reality and accelerate the transition towards an inclusive and low-carbon development path, we need all stakeholders – from the public and private sectors to international organizations – to join hands and collaboratively accelerate and advocate actions towards inclusive, resilient and sustainable development.  

"One of the strongest steps the global community can move forward to achieve the SDGs is to come together with a common purpose and with a strong resolve to transition to an inclusive, resilient and sustainable future."

Permit me to share a few thoughts for your kind consideration. 
For policymakers, it is important that we continue to refine and align targeted policies and guidelines to foster an environment conducive to sustainable development, notably at the sub-national levels – and with the sufficient financing and investments required to achieve the scale of the ambitions and work ahead.  
This involves crafting clear, actionable policies that not only promote but mandate sustainable practices across all sectors, while fully taking into account the interlinkages and also the trade-offs and synergies we need to consider.  
For UNDP, we appreciate the strong cooperation between the Chinese policymakers since we began our operations in China in 1979.  
We believe this has provided a solid foundation for evidence-based decision-making, and exchanges around international best practices and standards that can further support the development of policies focused on supporting China towards a sustainable, low-carbon and inclusive future. 
We have seen innovative policies and strong commitments to move into this agenda and we encourage for these lessons, insights, trends and recommendations to be more widely disseminated and exchanged for robust discussions on the alternative pathways that we can undertake.  
I am glad to note on the active participation of the private sector this morning as they play a very critical and game-changing role in this transition.  
Companies must identify and leverage opportunities that yield triple benefits: social, environmental, and economic.  
At UNDP, we are committed to helping unlock the potential of the private sector by providing various tools and mechanisms, including SDG taxonomies, SDG investor maps, and the SDG Impact Standards.  
These resources are designed to help companies align their governance and core operations with the SDGs, embedding sustainability into their business strategies in a way that generates both SDG impact and financial returns. 
These resources are available on our website and I would encourage you to review and consider some of these tools and approaches in your internal deliberations and strategic reviews.  
Last but not least, let me underscore that one of the strongest steps the global community can move forward to achieve the SDGs is to come together with a common purpose and with a strong resolve to transition to an inclusive, resilient and sustainable future.  

Today’s event of bringing together domestic policymakers from both national and local levels, international experts, and private sector representatives to exchange experiences and best practices is commended. 
Finally, I would like to extend my appreciation to the China Development Bank and the National Development and Reform Commission for their collaborative efforts in organizing this event. 
My appreciation to them for creating this platform for us to engage on critical issues such as formulating effective policies, promoting green and low-carbon development, and enhancing international cooperation on advancing the sustainable development agenda. 
I would also like to thank the Jiangsu Provincial Development and Reform Commission and the Changzhou Municipal Government for their warm hospitality in hosting us in this beautiful city. 
As we begin considering the key development priorities of the next five-year development plans, our next corporate strategy; financial investment strategy, or an academic thesis or media report, let us also reaffirm our commitment to turning the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals into a reality for everyone, everywhere and leaving no one behind. 
I wish the event a great success and look forward to a productive and enlightening discussion.  
Thank you!