Helen Clark: NDRC’s Side Event on South-South Co-operation and Climate Change

Dec 4, 2012

Remarks by Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
NDRC’s Side Event on South-South Co-operation and Climate Change
COP18, Doha, 4 December 2012

It is a pleasure to participate in this session on how South-South co-operation can help tackle climate change challenges. I thank the National Development and Reform Commission of China for hosting this event.

UNDP has been working in China for more than three decades, and is pleased to have partnered with China from the very beginning of its sustainable development work. We have just finished writing a history of our work with China on climate change. Copies of the report are available at the back of the room. China has extensive experience to share in adaptation and mitigation.

At UNDP we see climate change as a major challenge to development. It threatens to undermine hard won human development and other gains – indeed the impact of severe drought and flooding around the world suggests that it already has.

China itself is experiencing more frequent and severe natural disasters, for example droughts in 2010, which affected around 51 million people in south-west China, and flooding in 2011 affecting more than 36 million people in southern China.

To head off catastrophic and irreversible climate change, and to support developing countries with both adaptation and mitigation, we need a new global climate agreement, and we need enhanced international co-operation.

We do not need, however, to wait for a new climate change agreement to take action. There is lot we can do now: a lot that makes economic sense, and at the same time can lead to poverty reduction and achievement of the MDGs, and contribute to long term sustainability.  Such work is exactly what many countries, like China, and many organisations, like UNDP, are focusing on right now.

Undoubtedly South-South co-operation will play an even bigger role in tackling climate change, just as it is across the board in development. The innovation and solutions coming from countries in the South are often the most appropriate for others in the South to adapt to their circumstances.

This was apparent at the Global South-South Development Expo held in Vienna last month. Under the theme of “Investing in Energy and Climate Change: Inclusive Partnerships for Sustainable Development”, hundreds of South-South initiatives were showcased from around the world, including those developed through triangular and public-private partnership arrangements.

It is also important that South-South co-operation is recognised in the emerging international climate change architecture – for example in the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The Green Climate Fund has the potential to foster South-South innovation, to be catalytic in nature, and to generate momentum for climate change action.  Indeed, the designers of the Fund are faced with the choice of either developing a fund which is traditional in both scope and mode of operation, or an innovative fund which can support countries in transforming their economies and societies towards long term sustainability.

The latter option, strongly advocated by UNDP, requires a new approach, innovation, and new modes of delivering development assistance. Building solutions by the South for the South would be a key element of it. It therefore bodes well for the Green Climate Fund that Korea – a source of considerable innovation in sustainable development itself – was selected to host the fund.

China is playing a very important role in South-South co-operation for tackling climate change, and for sustainable development generally. At Rio+20 in June, Premier Wen Jiabao himself said that “China is a great developing country which is willing to take global responsibility”.

Among the commitments it made at Rio, China pledged RMB 200 million (USD $31.7 million) to help small island states, least developed countries, and African countries to tackle climate change. In Durban last year, Vice-Chairman Xie of the NDRC announced China’s intention to support countries on adaptation, mitigation, technology transfer, and capacity building.

Many more countries in the South are also demonstrating leadership on climate and broader sustainability issues. Brazil, for example, has been playing an important role, both as host of two major UN summits on sustainable development and on South-South co-operation.

At Rio+20 in June this year, Brazil and UNDP announced the creation of the World Centre for Sustainable Development (Rio+ Centre), to facilitate research and knowledge exchange, promote international debate about sustainable development, and build broad partnerships – including through South-South co-operation. The Centre is being backed by a broad international consortium of partners, including Brazilian government agencies, United Nations agencies, local government, NGOs, academic and research institutions, and private sector organisations.

Sharing experiences across the South is central to UNDP’s work on adaptation and mitigation. We are supporting countries to implement hundreds of climate change projects using over one billion dollars in climate funding and over an additional four billion dollars in co-financing.

We have what we call a “Boots on the Ground” initiative in 26 low-income and Least Developed Countries globally. Lessons learned on a range of areas relevant to adaptation and mitigation are shared between these countries, for example by helping to improve adaptation efforts in the Pacific and supporting the process which led to Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) Strategy. The participating Least Developed Countries have been able to learn from each other’s experiences, and to apply the lessons learned to their own development.

I am delighted that we have with us today Ministers from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Grenada, and Maldives, three of which are partners in our “Boots on the Ground” initiative.

UNDP’s strength lies in our in-depth knowledge of specific development needs in the countries we work in. We are politically and ideologically neutral, and our objective is to help developing countries meet their own development goals and their international commitments in a sustainable manner. This puts UNDP in a unique position to act as trusted partner, facilitator, bridge, and programme deliverer, for governments who seek to deepen their South-South co-operation.

While the challenges of tackling climate change are considerable, proven solutions and strategies do exist, along with significant climate finance.

Many of those solutions and strategies are coming from the countries of the South. That is why at UNDP we have no doubt that South-South co-operation is set to play a significant role in finding solutions to the climate change challenge.

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