APEC forum seeks to hear diverse voices

2023-11-13 08:17:47China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Speakers highlight need for community participation to meet climate challenges

Vulnerable communities around the world often suffer the first and worst blow of industrial pollution and climate change, and thus need better representation in climate policy discussions and decision-making processes, experts and officials said.

They made the remarks at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum on Friday, which kicked off the 2023 APEC Economic Leaders' Week in San Francisco in the United States.

The APEC Multistakeholder Forum marks the first time a diverse, multistakeholder dialogue is being organized during the APEC week. As a groundbreaking initiative, the forum addresses the local impacts of climate change and just transition on the region's diverse communities.

The forum has brought together more than 150 representatives of sustainable businesses, private organizations including charities and indigenous groups, and young peoples' and women's groups from APEC economies.

Key topics being discussed at the forum, which runs in San Francisco through Monday, include community-level actions, transition experiences of indigenous people, voices of youth, public-private partnerships and innovative low-carbon solutions that are inclusive.

Organized with the support of the U.S. Department of State and the APEC Secretariat, the multistakeholder forum has an agenda that aims to highlight community-level interventions that take into account the needs of vulnerable communities during the global shift toward net-zero economies.

Enabling a transition to low-carbon economies throughout the region, which grapples with the aforementioned issues, is a key U.S. APEC priority, according to the organizers.

Rebecca Sta Maria, executive director of the APEC Secretariat, said, "Having dialogues like this provides a platform for stakeholders to discuss inclusion, specifically for the underrepresented groups or groups made vulnerable by the energy crisis and technological and climate change readiness."

The APEC has some policy options — spanning from support for access to decent work to comprehensive structural reforms — to ensure that "we have policies that promote sustainable practices and social safety nets", Maria said.

According to the speakers at the forum, the APEC economies are wrestling with the broad and complex structural reform challenge of decarbonizing the world's supply chains, energy supplies and transportation systems.

So it is imperative to address the local impact of this transition on the region's diverse communities from a grassroots perspective, they emphasized.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said there are vulnerable communities around the world that are overburdened, do not have enough resources and are hurt first and worst. "They live at the intersection of poverty and pollution, and are deserving of commitments and investments, support, and us seeing and valuing those communities," he said.

"What we truly need if we want to be successful is to ensure our transition toward a greener future is the topic of our conversation — a just one, a just transition and an equitable transition that includes all communities and includes our workers," Bonta said.

"Fighting against climate change requires a strong commitment to addressing the inequities that have caused vulnerable communities to be hurt first and worst by its impacts," he said.

Ambassador Matt Murray, U.S.' senior official for APEC, said, "Although the impact of climate change affects everyone, it does not affect all communities equally."

Some in the APEC region — often those who have not historically had the opportunities to participate in making decisions to address the climate crisis — experience greater suffering, Murray said.

"We have a responsibility to actively engage with diverse voices and perspectives in climate discussions.... By bringing all groups' unique experiences and knowledge to the table, we can find the most effective solutions for climate adaptation and mitigation for all," he added.

Gloria Duffy, co-president and CEO of the Commonwealth Club of California, said the Pacific basin is "our common home", which "ties us together through trade, identity, the movement of people, our security, our common environment", and especially the way the challenges of climate change are met. "It necessitates that we work together throughout this region for a zero-carbon future," she underscored.

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