“It is my pleasure to address this august gathering of leaders from several cities, practitioners, policy makers and researchers from Asia and other parts of the globe.
I extend a hearty warm welcome to you all to India –a country which has traditionally looked upon every creature as a friend. As the ancient Indian text, Rigveda, had said,
“Mitrasyaham Chakshusha Sarvani Bhutani Sameekshe Mitrasya Chakshusha Smeeksha Mahe”
“Look at every entity of Nature with the eyes of a friend. May we look upon one another with the eye of a friend”.
I understand that we are gathered here today to deliberate on the most important challenge confronting all of us. That is the challenge of climate change.
I hope your discussions will lead to a better understanding of this challenge and illuminate the alternative pathways for collective action.
The impact of climate change is especially relevant to our cities and towns in Asia. Floods, cyclones, wild fires and hurricanes continue to disrupt life on an almost regular basis.
Temperatures are rising and a drought like situation is gripping cities in the summer with water scarcity being a regular challenge. Our cities are battling the consequences of climate change on a daily basis.
India, I must proudly say, is now one of the global leaders in addressing this challenge head-on. As recently announced at the 24th Conference of Parties on Climate Change, in Katowice, Poland, our country is well on its way to achieve our stated Nationally Determined Contributions.
Economic growth should take environmental protection into consideration. The dependence on fossil fuel must be reduced.
India has defined an ambitious target of deploying 175GW of renewable power by 2022. This target is now further raised to 227 GW of renewable energy capacity, considering that we are well on our way to exceeding the previously set target.
Dear sisters and brothers, it should be noted that climate vulnerability and likely impacts should be factored in all development strategies.
Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate. Globally, if we continue with our current development trajectory, we are certain to breach the 1.5 o c target in the coming 30 years.
This increase in global temperature is likely to result in an increase in mean temperature over most land and ocean regions, hot extremes in most inhabited regions, heavy precipitation in several regions and the probability of drought and precipitation deficits in some regions. Future climate-related risks can be reduced by up-scaling climate mitigation measures.
Dear sisters and brothers, more than 60% of the world’s population resides in Asia. Nearly half of this population resides in cities and towns. It is the region that is most affected by natural disasters. In the light of these realities, the governments in Asia should build climate resilient communities
According to the United Nations, “hundreds of millions of people will be vulnerable to coastal flooding and related natural disasters as global warming increases. Moreover, it will be the poorest countries and people who will be most vulnerable to this threat and who will suffer the earliest and the most”. Poor adaptive capacities will disrupt energy supply, mobility, economy, health and our lives in general.
It is extremely crucial to link every aspect of urbanization with sustainability. Cities account for two-thirds of global energy demand and 70% of carbon emissions. With urbanization expected to reach 67% globally by 2050, cities will be the centers of economic growth and likely to contribute 80% of global GDP. As such, cities need to take the lead for transition to a low-carbon economy, particularly in emerging economies in Asia.
We need to change our development paradigm and aim for climate resilient development, moving away from traditional metrics of measuring development. The new urban infrastructure should be low-carbon, green and climate resilient.
We are running out of time and we need innovative solutions that will help the cities to achieve the hitherto elusive trio of development, sustainability and climate resilience.
I call upon all the city, province and country representatives present here to adopt various multi-dimensional and innovative approaches, as a part of their endeavour to achieve the United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development, to ensure low emissions oriented development. The need of the hour is to encourage green infrastructure, enable a circular economy and promote resource efficiency to achieve climate resilient urban development.
The cities must enhance access to basic services and adequate housing and focus on redesigning cities to reduce air pollution, congestion, traffic accidents and better management of waste, investment in smart infrastructure for public transport, clean energy as well as on creating green and blue public spaces.
Asian cities must emphasize biodiversity and healthy, functioning ecosystems. With pollution reaching hazardous levels in cities, utmost priority needs to be accorded to promote clean and green technologies. The city administrations should focus on protecting local water bodies and take steps for conserving scarce water resources.
Accent should be on incentivizing e-Mobility and public transportation.
Dear sisters and brothers,
I am aware that cities face a major constraint in terms of accessing finance considering the current scale of urbanization and future trends. Enabling public private partnerships, involving local banking institutions, blended finance models, municipal bonds and green bonds are all effective means towards enhancing access to finance.
The challenge before us huge. It is a challenge that will get only more formidable with each passing day. Time is of the essence. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) summary to policymakers released in October 2018 indicates that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have to be reduced by 45% before 2030.
It is a challenging mission but not an impossible one. A recent report estimates that implementing circular economy globally makes the Paris Agreement target achievable.
Circular economy strategies, like increasing the share of renewables in a country’s energy mix, improving energy efficiency are required.
Dear sisters and brothers, we all have an onerous responsibility in making sustainable development our core agenda and transforming the planet so that the future of our posterity is not jeopardized in any manner.
To ensure a brighter future for all our citizens, especially those living in urban centres, we must also focus on reducing the rural-urban divide and involve all people as agents of change.
At the same time, we should recognize the perils of unsustainable patterns of production and consumption.
As Mahatma Gandhi had said many years ago: “The earth has enough resources for our need, but not for our greed." We should promote a lifestyle that takes sustainability and environmental integrity as key factors.
We must draw inspiration from our cultural roots, especially the civilizational values that revered and urged us to protect natural resources. As the ancient Indian sages had said in the Rig Veda: "Do Not Harm The Environment; Do Not Harm The Water And The Flora; Earth Is My Mother, I Am Her Son; May The Waters Remain Fresh, Do Not Harm The Waters”.
It cannot be business as usual as far as development is concerned. We must strive to adopt green solutions, provide good governance and build urban resilience. We must collectively get together by forging meaningful public-private partnerships for advancing on our agenda.
I hope the forum generates new ideas for catalyzing progress in the Asia Pacific region. I look forward to learning about some of the takeaways from this conference.