ESCAP-APCAEM well placed as a Subregional Arm for promoting sustainable and inclusive development in North-East Asia

The successful completion of the 64th session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), titled “Energy security and sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific” shows that ESCAP-APCAEM is well-placed and able to substantively address such critical issues that dominate regional news. Energy and access to affordable and reliable energy supplies are essential to continued economic growth, subsistence requirements and poverty alleviation in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Asia-Pacific is lagging behind in providing access to energy services.  Some 1.7 billion people in the region are using traditional biomass fuels and 1 billion people still lack access to electricity.  Also, the burning of biomass fuels in the Asia-Pacific has the largest number of victims from indoor air pollution. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message to the sixty-fourth session of ESCAP stated that “the Asia-Pacific region must promote sustainable and efficient energy use” as per capita energy consumption in the region more than doubled in the past 15 years. He also noted that the result of such energy consumption has drastically increased carbon dioxide emissions posing a serious challenge to our efforts to address climate change. The Secretary-General called on the region “to look at innovative ways to promote the efficient use of energy, better energy management, cleaner production and consumption, changes in lifestyle and the wider use of renewable energy.” 

At the Ministerial round-table on energy security and sustainable development during the Commission session, countries such as China announced plans to increase their use of renewable energy. The Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, Mr. Liu Jieyi stated that “international energy, resources and grain prices run high, exerting upward pressure on inflation, and that non-traditional security issues like terrorism, climate change, natural disasters, environmental pollution and communicable diseases remain salient.” He stressed “that these interplaying and intertwining challenges have adversely affected the development in the Asia-Pacific.”  Of his concluding remarks, Mr. Liu Jieyi pointed out that China has taken action in a number of multilateral energy mechanisms and would closely work in harmony with all countries for clean and sustainable development in the ESCAP region.

ESCAP-APCAEM for its part in the run-up to this year’s 64th Commission session,  organized a regional forum this past January (23 -25 January 2008) on bioenergy sector development, concentrating on challenges, opportunities and the way forward, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and the Department of Agriculture of Thailand. The Forum held in Bangkok was participated by representatives and key stakeholders from 15 countries in Asia and the Pacific along with FAO, UNDP, UNEP, UNIDO and bilateral development organizations and the private sector.

The outcome of the ESCAP-APCAEM forum serves to guide the formulation of capacity-building programmes for policymakers, development practitioners and CDM projects on bioenergy. The forum also provided a platform for exchange of best practices and innovative solutions on how to foster public/private partnerships that would promote bioenergy development and bioenergy trade and investment in the region. In addition, the forum recommended the establishment of an Asia-Pacific bioenergy network to facilitate and promote bioenergy information sharing with experienced countries and through regional South-South cooperation.

The Draft Report of the 64th Commission session produced positive comment and a pledge for ESCAP-APCAEM, with the Centre being given recognition during the Commission session. The Ambassadors of Pakistan and Turkey met with Mr. Joong-Wan Cho, Head of ESCAP-APCAEM, providing substantive observations as well as making further inquiries about ESCAP-APCAEM and its activities. The representative of Pakistan specifically noted that the human resources base and operational management of ESCAP-APCAEM had been strengthened and enhanced, with information and public relations activities having been improved as a result of the improved design of its website, the issuance of research publications and partnership building activities with the United Nations country team in China, key counterpart institutions in the host country, stakeholders, and ESCAP-APCAEM’s focal point institutions in the region.

Some delegations during the Commission session recognized the important work carried out by ESCAP-APCAEM particularly in the agricultural sphere as food security moves up the agenda for many countries in the region. Pakistan stressed the daunting challenges of the post-green revolution that have serious consequences on a country’s food security, including declining soil fertility and declining suitable top-soil, desertification, land degradation, declining and polluted water resources related to pesticide and fertilizer use, access to water resources, pests and diseases. 

This year’s Commission session took on a greater urgency than past sessions as countries in the ESCAP region reassess their growth patterns in the face of rising energy costs and the treat of global climate change. The United Nations at this juncture stands ready to be of service and work with all member States to ensure sustainable and inclusive development in the region. Regional institutions such as ESCAP-APCAEM are the result of the United Nations tailoring itself to meet the diverse needs of its members. Underscoring the above, the Executive Secretary of ESCAP is committed to strengthening ESCAP-APCAEM and other regional institutions as “centres of excellence for delivering more effective services to member States”.