Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) officials, private sector representatives, environmental experts, representatives from international organizations and members of the youth are exploring business practices and financing as pathways to sustainable economic growth in the region.
The stakes are high for APEC to push for concrete actions to achieve more sustainable economic growth, Thailand’s Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs Thani Thongphakdi said, in a dialogue exploring ways to enhance partnerships towards sustainable economic growth, held in Chiang Mai on August 27.
The APEC region suffers from more than 70 percent of global natural disasters, and disaster-related losses amount to US$100 billion annually, as noted in a release issued by the SOM Steering Committee on Economic and Technical Cooperation and received here on Sunday.
The economic risk of climate change in APEC is significant. Even in the best-case scenario, when average temperatures are kept at or are below 2 degrees Celsius, or relative to pre-industrial levels, APEC can expect gross domestic product (GDP) losses of 0.6 to 11.3 percent by 2050 relative to a no-climate change scenario, according to the APEC Policy Support Unit.
In the dialogue exploring ways to enhance partnerships towards sustainable economic growth, Thani Thongphakdi highlighted the bio-circular-green (BCG) economy model as a post-pandemic growth strategy.
It combines science, innovation and technology to promote the efficient use of resources, maintain and restore ecosystems and reduce waste in a bid to build a system where economy and business can thrive.
At the heart of this BCG approach is an understanding of the complex interactions between the environment, society and the economy.
Economic policies, traditionally, have often ignored the impacts of economic activities on the environment and failed to take into account the costs of these activities on the economy and society.
In response, Thailand as the host of APEC 2022 introduced the BCG economy model, which aims to comprehensively address environmental challenges, including climate change, extreme weather and natural disasters.
"In our journey towards recovery, it is crucial to prioritize investment in building sustainability and resiliency against future disruptions," said Thani, who is also the chair of the 2022 APEC Senior Officials.
"We need to foster public-private-people partnerships in this area to ensure that our policy encourages sustainable business practices and promote(s) investment and financing," he added.
Addressing how investments in the health of both people and the planet are required for recovery efforts, the United Nations Development Programme’s Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Christophe Bahuet highlighted how health and the environment are tightly interconnected for an effective coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response.
"Economies must scale up investments in building resilient and sustainable systems for health to support the immediate Covid-19 response and help to prevent future health crises," Bahuet said.
He said achieving the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 would require intensive investment.
"With the pandemic, socioeconomic and geopolitical challenges, and mounting climate and environmental risks, such additional investment needs will be larger," he added.
At the dialogue, policymakers heard from private sector representatives what drives businesses to pivot into more sustainable practice, as well as the challenges they face during this crucial transition.
The discussion tackled the fault lines laid bare by Covid-19 and the resulting economic impacts in the APEC region.
The pandemic has impeded years of economic and development gains and has added more pressure to vulnerable and small businesses.
Speakers and delegates acknowledged that a balanced, resilient and sustainable economy is needed to ensure that economic advancement benefits all.
Delegates also deliberated over policy levers to further expand access to sustainable financing and investment given their crucial role to encourage and empower small businesses.
They also shared the challenges they faced over the gaps in putting sustainability into practice and what opportunities exist to bridge those fissures and ensure policies benefit all people.
"In order for us to achieve our ambitious target of a greener and more inclusive future, we need to continue cooperation between member economies in APEC," said Matt Murray, the Chair of APEC SOM Steering Committee on Economic and Technical Cooperation.
"Expanding our network of partnerships with diverse stakeholders from the private sector, civil society and the youth will help us formulate better policies and attract more interest in sustainable practices and strengthen the resilience of our economies," he added.