Remarks by Woochong Um, ADB Managing Director General, at the Asia Pacific Forum for Sustainable Development, 27 March 2023
On behalf of the Asian Development Bank, I would like to express my appreciation to our partners, ESCAP and UNDP, on the launch of this year’s SDG Partnership Report. This marks another milestone in the long history of partnership between ESCAP, ADB and UNDP to advance the Sustainable Development Goals. Our partnership – the Asia-Pacific SDGs Partnership – provides a vital platform for us to address the challenges facing our region, engage diverse stakeholders, and disseminate knowledge.
This year's report addresses the confluence of crises involving finance, food and energy sectors. This has created a ‘perfect storm’, on the back of the pandemic, which has unleashed economic turmoil and disrupted livelihoods across Asia and the Pacific. This has set us further back on progress towards the SDGs. This year's ambitious report serves as a call to action, to better understand the interconnectedness of energy, food and finance systems, and to create opportunities for innovative solutions for a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient future.
Building more inclusive and sustainable energy and food systems
At the crux of this debate is the relationship between food systems and climate change. Food production is one of the largest drivers of climate change; meanwhile climate change is one of the key threats to food security. Countries in Asia-Pacific have adopted smart and sustainable farming practices, to shift away from intensive use of energy, and chemical fertilizers and pesticides that contribute to environmental degradation. Among others, we have seen innovations that have unlocked the promise of data science and artificial intelligence to optimize the use of agricultural inputs such as water and fertilizers.
Similar innovations are also found in the energy sector, to optimize resources by maximizing efficiency and minimizing waste. Creative examples include turning industrial waste into bio-charcoals, and turning waste and residual raw materials from the agricultural sector into biodiesel for use by the aviation industry.
As I mentioned in the SDGs Summit plenary session earlier, the attainment of the SDGs will hinge upon the level of investments for the Goals. According to OECD, the financing gap for the SDGs in developing countries worldwide is estimated to be about $4.9 trillion per year from 2020-2025. Mobilizing private finance to support efforts to transform food and energy systems is crucial.
Considering the pressure that government budgets are under, the report states the need for recalibrating public finance to augment fiscal space and public investments in food and energy systems reform. One solution is to align public financial management practices with SDGs, through tools such as the climate change budget integration index. For example, the Climate Fiscal Framework of Bangladesh includes climate public finance tracking as a key component. Countries have also started exploring new approaches to domestic resource mobilization, such as carbon pricing.
Regarding private financing, products such as SDG bonds, SDG sukuk and blended finance have been utilized to accelerate the uptake of renewable energy and sustainable agricultural practices. To spur greater innovation in the financial sector and to support the attainment of the SDGs for hunger and energy, a conducive regulatory environment is crucial. It is thus important to develop the capacity of financial market regulators, to manage risks from climate change and facilitate the low-carbon transition.
Regional cooperation and integration
The report also emphasizes the importance of regional cooperation and integration to tackle the fragility of food and energy systems. Reducing trade barriers is one crucial solution. In the energy sector, this is exemplified by the multi-country cooperation to facilitate regional electricity trade in the Greater Mekong Subregion led by the Regional Power Trade Coordination Committee. In the context of food security, regional bodies such as the APEC Policy Partnership on Food Security are helping regional countries weather the crisis.
The diverse solutions showcased in this year's report—at regional subregional, national and subnational levels—show that the region is full of innovations to deal with the challenges emanating from the current crises. As with many other crises we have faced before, we can turn this into an opportunity to transform existing approaches to food and energy systems.
Thank you, and congratulations again on the launch of the report.