Remarks delivered by Ambassador Muhamad Noor, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat, at the APEC Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Environment in Khabarovsk, Russia.   

Mr. Sergey Donskoy, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation; Mr. Vyacheslav Shport, Governor of Khabarovsk territory; APEC Ministers Responsible for Environment; international agency representatives—thank you for the opportunity to offer a few remarks on the environment and APEC’s related initiatives.

We meet as global demands on our environment and natural resources continue to increase. Worldwide, we are confronted with rising pollution levels; water supply shortages; deteriorating ocean and freshwater fish stocks; and reduced biodiversity and agriculture yields.

Human activities, including those associated with global economic development, have been identified as a primary agent of environmental distress, requiring urgent policy reassessment.  

"If current trends continue, if current patterns of production and consumption of natural resources prevail and cannot be reversed and 'decoupled,' then governments will preside over unprecedented levels of damage and degradation,” said UN Under-Secretary General and UN Environment Program Executive Director Achim Steiner last month.

The APEC Policy Support Unit forecast for the region to outperform the rest of the world with 4.3 per cent economic growth in 2012 and 4.7 per cent economic growth in 2013. This suggests that environmental issues are likely to remain very much in the fore for APEC members.

According to that same UNEP assessment released last month on the eve of the Rio+20 Sustainable Development Conference, a status quo scenario suggests that the APEC region will contribute around 45 per cent of global energy-related CO2 emissions by 2030.

Sustainable growth focus

At the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in 2009 in Singapore and later reflected in APEC’s Growth Strategy, adopted in Yokohama in 2010, member economies agreed that we cannot continue with “growth as usual” and that “the quality of growth” must be improved to be more balanced, inclusive, innovative, secure and indeed sustainable.

We meet here today guided by a collective recognition of the need to protect our environment and natural resources, and that cooperation and partnership are essential to address environmental challenges that extend beyond any single economy or APEC economies as a whole.

Our goal is the promotion of sustainable development. In other words, growth that is compatible with global efforts for protection of the environment and transition to green economies while uplifting the lives of our people.

This is more than a moral imperative related to the safeguarding of the APEC region’s beauty and rich biodiversity alone. It is also crucial to ensuring issues like food and energy security to human health, productivity and the ability of the regional and global economy to function effectively.

The fact that the APEC region expands more than half the globe and is home to over three billion people underscores the significance of APEC member economies’ work in this regard and the implications it has for the regional economy. 

Constructive cooperation

APEC’s environmental protection and broader sustainable development initiatives are being advanced with these issues in mind and in the context of APEC’s 2012 priorities which are to strengthen trade and investment, regional economic integration, food security, supply chain connectivity and innovative growth.

The sustainable use of natural resources is also important in this context. This includes forests and forest resources in the APEC region which account for more than 50 per cent of global forest areas, 60 per cent of global wood products and 80 per cent of the global forest product trade valued at over USD150 billion in 2010.

APEC continues to actively work toward meeting the target put forward in the 2007 Sydney Declaration by APEC Leaders to increase forest area in the region by at least 20 million hectares by 2020.

The newly created APEC Experts Group on Illegal Logging and Associated Trade is, for example, helping to enhance the efforts of member economies and stakeholders to take concrete steps to combat illegal logging and associated trade, promote trade in legally harvested forest products and support capacity building activities.

APEC is meanwhile also actively addressing challenges to water bodies that transcend international boundaries such as oceans, lakes and rivers and sustainable water management. Attention is, for example, being directed to efforts that promote the sustainable development and protection of the marine environment.

Helping to spearhead this work is the APEC Oceans and Fisheries Working Group which among other things is contributing to the implementation of a number of measures for fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and associated trade.

The actions being taken are especially critical to APEC members given that they account for over 80 per cent of global aquaculture production, more than 65 per cent of the world’s capture fisheries and consume 65 per cent more fishery products than the rest of the world.

APEC is furthermore supporting efforts to boost research and understanding of ways to combat marine pollution, which is part of APEC’s broader work to address trans-boundary pollution. APEC is also prioritizing assessment of the impact of climate change on the world’s oceans.

In keeping with the need to mitigate and adapt to climate change, APEC members are concurrently working through the APEC Energy Working Group to consider pathways for increasing energy efficiency in the region.

Member economies continue to take significant steps to help speed the transition toward a global low-carbon economy in a way that enhance energy security and creates new sources of economic growth and employment.

This includes moving forward with the APEC Green Transport Action Plan which takes into account fuel-efficient vehicles’ potential for reducing carbon emissions.

And it is addressing the call put forward by APEC Leaders in Honolulu in 2011 and reaffirmed by Energy Ministers last month in St Petersburg to promote a lower-carbon economy that helps to achieve the aspirational goal to reduce aggregate energy intensity of APEC economies by 45 per cent from 2005 levels by 2035.

Just two months ago in Kazan, APEC Trade Ministers stated that they were resolved and dedicating all available resources by the APEC Ministerial Meeting 2012 in Vladivostok to fulfill Leaders’ instructions to work to develop in 2012 an APEC list of environmental goods that directly and positively contribute to our green growth and sustainable development objectives.

Taken together, APEC environmental protection and sustainable development initiatives are helping to promote the conservation of the region's biological diversity and objects of natural heritage.

By taking concrete actions, APEC aims to help improve the region's businesses and people's access to important, innovative environmental technologies at lower cost, facilitate their use and further contribute to APEC's sustainable development.

Thank you very much for your attention and I look forward to a productive meeting.