Brunei Darussalam, 22 April 2010
His Excellency Pehin Dato’ Haji Abdullah Bakar, Minister of Development of Brunei Darussalam,
His Excellency Mr. Hirose Noriki, Ambassador of Japan to Brunei Darussalam,
Excellency Ambassadors/High Commissioners from ASEAN Plus Three Countries,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to express my sincere appreciation to the Government of Brunei Darussalam for organizing the ASEAN Plus Three Youth Environment Forum 2010. Let me also convey the best wishes and heartfelt congratulations of His Excellency Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN. Dr. Surin sincerely regrets that he is not able to participate at this event due to his prior commitments. As a strong advocate of peoples’ participation in ASEAN activities with a firm conviction that ASEAN should benefit and make a difference in the life of its 580 million people, he is very much looking forward to the outcomes of this Forum.
ASEAN acknowledges with gratitude the strong commitment shown by the Government of Brunei Darussalam in championing environmental education and awareness initiatives to implement the ASEAN Environmental Education Action Plan 2008-2012. Brunei organized the first ever ASEAN Environment Youth Forum in 2007. This 2010 Youth Forum has brought together a larger number of ASEAN youth participants, and in addition youths from the Plus Three Countries. The theme “Creating a Climate for Change” is very timely as we are witnessing with increasing frequency the damage brought about by climate change in particular, such as floods, droughts, earthquakes, typhoons, sea level rise, and heat waves. The Forum has brought together promising youth leaders and advocates who will have the unenviable tasks of ensuring the world remains a better place to live in. During the next four days, the Forum will provide a consultative platform where youth participants can interact with their peers from other countries in the region to share experiences, interact with policy makers and experts to gain knowledge and ideas, and to learn the value of collaboration and cooperation for collective action that environment protection very much deserves.
Earth Day Celebration
This 2010 Youth Forum has also a special meaning as it is being launched in conjunction with the 40th Earth Day celebration today. The Earth Day started as an initiative to put environment on the political agenda and into the everyday lives of people. Now, forty years on environment is high on the agenda of governments and world leaders. Unfortunately we are also at a crisis situation as far as environmental degradation and its impact on the earth’s life sustaining systems are concerned. The issue now is not just environmental awareness, but the need to act with greater urgency and a sense of collective purpose and actions by all stakeholders, not only by governments but by each and every one of us.
ASEAN and Climate Change
As we are fully aware, climate change has become a defining and most challenging sustainable development issue of the 21st century. It is defining in the sense that it threatens geographic vulnerabilities across regions, while dictating the pace and survival of future generations if left unchecked. It certainly adds to the sense of urgency for continued efforts to address this challenging issue at all levels of communities in the world.
Climate change is not just an environmental issue that can be fixed by technology or finite human and capital resources. It is more urgent in the sense that we are talking in terms of years or at most a few decades to address climate change before the earth reaches a turning point at which stage the devastating impacts becomes irreversible.
Our region, though well endowed with natural resources, is facing much greater threats to the sustainability of these resources which is significantly affecting the region’s economic growth, its poverty reduction programs and long-term prosperity. ASEAN has been working on several fronts to address this issue, namely mitigation of forest fires, sustainable forest management and conservation of biological diversity, establishing regional networks of protected areas, integrated water resources management, promoting environmentally sustainable cities, protection of fresh water resources and the coastal and marine environment, and promoting sustainable consumption and production practices.
Even though ASEAN Member States are not responsible for the historical accumulation of greenhouse gases, and despite our low per capita emissions, ASEAN Leaders have expressed their commitment for ASEAN to play a proactive role in addressing the climate change issue. Several ASEAN Member States have announced voluntary mitigation targets, including Indonesia (emission reduction of 26% from business-as-usual (BAU) by 2020, and can be increased to 41% with enhanced international assistance), Malaysia (reduction of 40% in terms of energy intensity of GDP by 2020 compared to 2005 levels), Philippines (deviate by 20% from BAU of their emission growth path), and Singapore (emission reduction of 16% below BAU by 2020).
ASEAN is now on its ASEAN Community building efforts by the year 2015. The Road Map for the ASEAN Community 2009-2015 has outlined strategies and actions in the three pillars of the ASEAN Political-Security Community, ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community and ASEAN Economic Community. The three community pillars represent the three Ps – Peace, People and Prosperity – respectively. An ASEAN Community with a focus on environmental sustainability can make a huge contribution to a peaceful, prosperous and people-orientated community. That is why ASEAN has chosen to celebrate the 2009 ASEAN Day with the theme “Green ASEAN” as we embarked on our journey in 2009 to build the ASEAN Community.
The Role of the Youths
The youths of today need to be more proactive on protecting the environment as compared to the youths of earlier generations. They have the knowledge, technology, resources, and the capacity to network and work together in this highly connected world. As the same time, modern lifestyles have led to the current highly consumption based wasteful practices. Youths can therefore be a solution to the environmental crisis we are facing now, or choose to continue to accelerate and compound the damage being caused.
Climate change can be a good entry point of youth activism and collective action on environment. For example, youths can a) set clear directions on what should be done through sustained actions; b) raise awareness as well as communicate simple ways to respond climate change issues through advocacy campaigns; c) establish and populate contacts with other stakeholders in the region to exchange ideas, lessons and best practices through effective networking; and d) discover youth-led climate change activities in other countries in the region, and establish collaboration through bench marking.
As we celebrate Earth Day today, ASEAN together with the world will work to gather stories to tell, collaborate, cooperate, and complement our efforts as we exercise our roles in safeguarding the diversity of life in our planet.
I am confident this Forum will provide that opportunity to challenge each of you, share your experiences, think of new ways to collabor
ate, network and innovate, create relationships to sustain and motivate other youths, reach out and spread the environmental message to all other stakeholders.
As much as the youths here are looking forward to this rewarding experience in the next few days, we too await with anticipation the lessons we adults could learn from your perspectives and experiences.
Let me once again thank the Government of Brunei Darussalam for successfully hosting this Forum. My appreciation also goes, in particular, to the Government of Japan which has sponsored additional youth participants to this Forum.
Happy Earth Day 2010 to all of you.