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Speech of United Nations Resident Coordinator, Ms. Pratibha Mehta at the launch of Asia-Pacific Human Development Report at climate change workshop

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Date:         Tuesday, 15 May at 8.30 am
Event:       Launch of Asia-Pacific Human Development Report at climate change workshop
Location: Sofitel Plaza, Ha Noi

Dear Professor Dao Xuan Hoc, Vice Chairman of the National Committee on Climate Change;
Distinguished participants from Government, research organizations, development partners and NGOs;
Colleagues from the UN;
Ladies and gentlemen;

Let me start by warmly welcoming all of you to the launch of this year’s Asia-Pacific Human Development Report ‘One Planet to Share’. I am very pleased to see so many distinguished participants, and look forward to interesting discussions.

 The Asia Pacific Human Development Report argues that the Asia-Pacific region must do what has not been done before: continue to sustain growth, lift people out of poverty, but do so with much reduced greenhouse gas emissions intensity. It makes very clear that: “growing first and cleaning up afterwards is not an option any more”. With more than half of humanity living in Asia-Pacific and with much of global growth projected to come from the region, what happens here makes a global difference.

My colleague Bakhodir Burkhanov will elaborate more on these points, and his presentation will be followed by two Viet Nam-specific presentations. But first I would like to touch on three key issues that are covered in the report and which are crucial for Viet Nam.

The first is the need to continue to build disaster resilience and invest in rural communities.

Viet Nam is highly prone to climate-induced disasters, such as floods and storms. Over the past two decades, an average of 457 people die because of disasters and economic losses are estimated at 1.3 percent of GDP per year on average.

Climate change is increasing the exposure and vulnerability of people and societies to disaster risks. This is particularly the case in rural areas, and more than two-thirds of Vietnamese people live in rural areas.

The Mekong delta alone is home to 17 million people. The mean sea level may rise by as much as one meter by 2100 as a result of climate change, which would put nearly 40 per cent of the Mekong delta at high risk of flooding, affecting especially agriculture and aquaculture. But low-land  cities are also vulnerable to climate change, especially the poorest residents who live in the most exposed areas.

Extreme climatic events can wipe out crops, reduce opportunities for employment, increase food prices, and destroy property. They can also lead to deaths, injuries and diseases — and place additional burdens on poor women and men who lack insurance and safety nets. Repeated climate shocks reinforce inequalities and weaken human development. In order to help the poor to increase their resilience to climate change, much greater investment in infrastructure, institutions and capacities is therefore needed.

The Government has taken a number of important actions to address disasters and climate change and promote rural development. Professor Dao Xuan Hoc will shortly elaborate on this and on other aspects related to climate change adaptation.

The second issue that I want to touch on is the need for cleaner production and energy efficiency.

The Asia-Pacific Human Development Report highlights Viet Nam’s achievement to improve energy access. Between 1986 and 2009 access to electricity grew from about 10 per cent to 97 per cent - with almost all households now connected to the grid.

    Viet Nam now needs to look at promoting energy efficiency and energy conservation. There are good initiatives, such as the National Target Programme and the Law on Energy Efficiency and Conservation, but more can be done.

Viet Nam has also started to explore renewable energy, such as solar and wind energy. It aims to increase the share of this to five per cent of the total commercial primary energy by 2020. This is an encouraging step. Yet current plans also demonstrate that more than half of all electricity will be generated from imported coal by 2030, which as we know is highly polluting whilst global market prices are volatile.

Importantly, the report calls on countries in the Asia-Pacific region to eliminate undesirable subsidies on fossil fuels. Such subsidies have a considerable negative effect on the environment and are incompatible with sustainable development, cleaner production and energy efficiency. Removing them will ensure faster growth, more energy security, and help to create new green jobs. Viet Nam also needs to reform energy prices, combined with measures to protect low-income groups. We will hear more about this from my colleague Koos Neefjes.

My third point refers to the need for Viet Nam to pursue a green growth pathway, green lifestyles and sustainable consumption patterns.

As is the case throughout the region, Viet Nam is faced with the need to reduce poverty levels and sustain economic growth. This will mean using more energy.

In that respect, Viet Nam’s Green Growth Strategy is very timely and I want to commend the Government for the efforts that have gone into developing it. The draft strategy stresses the need for low-carbon development, green production, restoring of natural assets, and green lifestyles. These are essential elements in promoting sustainable development. A successful implementation of the strategy will help mitigate the conflict between development needs and environmental concerns.

So to summarize – Viet Nam needs to continue to build its disaster resilience and invest in communities; should focus on energy efficiency and clean production; and, finally, will need to pursue a green growth pathway.

The Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development will take place next month in Brazil. During the conference Viet Nam and other country leaders, together with civil society and the business sector, will make decisions about the future of our shared planet. The many ongoing initiatives to pursue green lifestyles of citizens and reduce impacts of businesses will also be on display. I hope that this Asia-Pacific Human Development Report will contribute to the discussions in Rio and that Viet Nam will contribute actively to the debate and share its Green Growth Strategy.

I would now like to introduce the panel here with me this morning: Professor Dao Xuan Hoc, Vice Chairman of the National Committee on Climate Change; Setsuko Yamazaki, UNDP Country Director; Yuriko Shoji, FAO Representative; Patrick Jean Gilabert; UNIDO Representative; Bakhodir Burkhanov, UNDP Deputy Country Director; and Koos Neefjes, UNDP Policy Advisor on climate change.

I will close here, as I know the panel will have more to say about the specific challenges we face. We look forward to your comments as well and I wish you all a fruitful workshop.

Thank you.