Opening Statement on The Economics of Climate Change

Speech | 27 April 2009

Opening statement by Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, ADB Vice President, at the launch event of "The Economics of Climate Change in Southeast Asia: A Regional Review", Bangkok, Thailand

Introduction

Dr. Emil Salim, Mr. Daniel Pruce (Deputy Head of Mission, British Embassy), distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen: Good morning. On behalf of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), it is a great privilege for me to be here and welcome all of you to this launch event of The Economics of Climate Change in Southeast Asia: A Regional Review.

Foremost, we would like to sincerely thank the Government of Thailand for their partnership, and also thank the British Government for their generous assistance in financing this regional study.

As you are aware, ADB will also be launching this Regional Study tomorrow in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Viet Nam. We are undertaking a series of launch events in these countries because our message and the Review's findings are critical - and more importantly, we want to raise the awareness on climate change.

Regional Review of Economics of Climate Change

Ladies and gentlemen: This review is the fruit of a 15-month long technical assistance project by ADB, based on a strong partnership with the Government of the United Kingdom. It examines climate change issues in Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam. When we began, we had three major objectives:

  • contribute to the regional debate on economic costs and benefits of unilateral and regional actions to address climate change, and to support consensus-building among policy-makers;
  • raise awareness of the urgency of climate change challenges and their potential socio-economic impact in the Southeast Asian region and concerned countries; and
  • support the governments and the private sector to mitigate and adapt to climate change - and include other stakeholders (such as civil society, academia, and media).

Today, I am happy to report that we have gone a long way to achieving our objectives through our analysis, discussions with the relevant officials, and holding a number of dissemination events such the one here. Although our Lead Economist, Dr Salim, will provide the detailed analysis, please allow me to highlight the main findings here:

  • Climate change seriously threatens Southeast Asia's families, food supplies and financial prosperity. It is one of the world's most vulnerable regions to climate change impacts. The climate change for the region will have serious consequences - including the decline in rice and other agricultural production.
  • Accordingly, the Southeast Asian nations need to invest now in adaptation measures. Adaptation can be cost-effective. Benefits of many adaptation measures such as investments in coastal zones (sea walls) and in the agriculture sector (drought/heat resistant crops) far exceed their costs.
  • If urgently needed global action on climate change mitigation is delayed, Southeast Asia will suffer more than many other regions. In addition, technical cooperation and information exchange amongst neighboring countries in the region must be stepped up. Transfers of financial resources and technical know-how from developed countries to developing countries are also needed.

These main findings of the Review reconfirm that climate change can no longer be classified as an environmental issue - it represents a major socio-economic challenge for the Asia-Pacific region. As you are all aware, the case for action on climate change is indeed particularly strong in Southeast Asia, as the region is expected to suffer from many of climate change's most detrimental impacts. Coupled with recurring food, oil and financial crises, climate change will have very serious implications for the region's economic potentials and well-being of its people. Climate change also has far reaching adverse impacts on people's health, safety and livelihoods - with the poor being disproportionately affected.

Asia-Pacific and Climate Change: ADB's Actions

ADB believes that we can play an important role in the fight against climate change. Our long-term strategic framework, Strategy-2020, provides a forward-looking platform for us to focus on climate change responses as an integral element for sustainable growth and poverty reduction. It also identifies environmentally sustainable economic growth as one of the three pillars of our work, including helping our Developing Member Countries respond to the challenge of climate change. Overall, we believe a multi-faceted approach is needed to address the challenges:

  • First, we continue to support the global dialogue - including the ongoing efforts by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. I will participate in the upcoming conference of parties to be held in Copenhagen and I understand that the key outcomes of this study will also be presented there.
  • Second, we engage in various multilateral initiatives to enhance financing for climate change and protection of the environment - including the Climate Investment Funds to be administered by the World Bank.
  • Lastly, we provide a series of knowledge products to improve our understanding and advance policy framework. This gathering is an important indication of such knowledge products - which is jointly produced along with our partners from the developing member countries.

However, these efforts will not be as effective without support and partnership from the countries in the Southeast Asian region. I hope all of you will join us to ensure that climate change will remain in the top of the policy agenda.

Conclusions

Ladies and gentlemen: I want to thank you again for coming to this press conference and want to conclude now, with a reminder again that climate change is a critical issue for poverty reduction in the region.

In the context of global and regional collaboration and through strong partnership, ADB will continue its efforts to spur local actions for global solutions to the climate change challenge - within the timeframe necessary to prevent it from reaching the 'point of no return'.

Lastly, I want to congratulate the Review Team for their tireless efforts in finalizing this review. Thank you again, and we look forward to your fruitful discussions. Thank you.