Hon’ble Prime Minister’s address at the conference on climate change and energy cooperation in South Asia , 22nd April in Paro”

Statement of Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley at the SAARC CCI conference on Climate change and energy cooperation in south Asia (Paro, Sunday 22nd April, 2012)

HE Mr. Patali Champika Ranawaka, Minister for power and Energy of Sri Lanka, Mr. Vikramjit
Singh Sahney, President, SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Hon’ble ministers, etc,

Hon’ble Prime Minister receiving an official crest from the President of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industries

I am very honoured to be invited to this important event.
I find it particularly significant that a discourse on the mounting threats of climate change and the
compulsions for cooperation in the field of energy is being hosted by the SAARC Chamber of
commerce and Industry as opposed to these important subjects being left to governments as matters
of public and foreign policy.

 Even though there will be those who feel that such efforts are too little and too late in respect of

climate change, I believe it is never wrong to take the right action. Despite the accelerating rate of
global warming and the many irreversible damages that have been inflicted by man on nature, there
still are considerable opportunities for a vast range of actions that can slow down or halt the causes,
in particular, the emission of green house gases.

It has correctly been argued that anything less than global action will not be enough. But global
agreements are difficult to reach whereas, it is at the local levels that global action must begin. And
here, we must acknowledge that both at the national and regional levels, we would not be among
trail blazers if and when south Asians and Asia were to act more responsibly and in consonance.
Moving away from our excessive dependence on the fast depleting carbon energy forms to fuel our
economy is not only possible but necessary and there are many who have paved the way to more
efficient, cleaner and sustainable ways to produce and distribute goods and services and improve
human wellbeing.

I also see this initiative by the leaders of our business and industry as being timely in that there is
now appreciable public awareness and concern in these two related subjects. There is also a wealth
of knowledge and technology that are now easily accessible. That it will be the poorest who are
already being hit the hardest by the adverse impacts of climate change is causing great worry.
Likewise, our citizens are becoming impatient and frustrated with the general failure of government
and business to take innovative, bold and effective steps to find solutions to the looming energy
crisis. While governments are at risk of being discredited and falling as a direct consequence, it is
absolutely clear that the mostly encouraging economic growth and therefore, profit in the private
sector at present, will come to a grinding halt or peter out if energy supply cannot keep up with the
exploding demand.

I wonder whether one might dare to perceive this conference as a refreshing admission by the
private sector of its major role, directly or indirectly, in causing climate change. While as yet, the
extent of south Asia’s share of emissions may be far lesser than that of industrialized countries, we
know that as emerging and as growing economies, it will not be long before our share of guilt will
be no less. I believe that this conference is about the search for means to avoid this certainty if we
persist along the same fossil burning path. I like to think that it is a demonstration of its interest to
find an alternative path – one that is not only more responsible and sustainable but beneficial to all
life forms and indeed, more profitable.

South Asia today has the dubious and triple distinction for allowing unbridled population growth,
hosting the largest number of destitute and enjoying, at the same time, impressive economic
expansion. These paradoxes present enormous challenges as well as opportunities. As to whether
we are overwhelmed by adversities or propelled forward by opportunities will be the result of the
choices we make and the will with which we act as individual nations and as a region.

I have no doubt that the many experts who are gathered here will speak of the various ways in
which our wellbeing is being altered and threatened by the changing weather patterns, rising
temperature and the resultant impact on the natural life support systems. I am also certain that the
experts will be sharing their knowledge of the ways in which the combination of population growth,
unprecedented industrial expansion driven by spiraling consumerism, will further complicate
and deepen the prevailing energy problem and how this can be mitigated. I am informed by the
conference agenda that you will also have the opportunity to hear of the national policies and
endeavours of the member states. I pray that you will be encouraged by each other and that you will
find the resolve to strive together.

It will no doubt become evident that, together, we have the ability to ward off the devastation that
climate change can and is bringing. Likewise, it is my hope that both in order to halt climate change
and to find long term solutions to energy insecurity, you will agree on the need for us to embark on
a far more serious commitment to develop our vast potential for renewable or clean energy.

With high levels of solar insolation, vast coastal regions, cascading rivers in our expansive
mountain ranges and extensive farms and forests, our prospects for solar, wind, hydro and bio
energies are geater than we will ever need. All we need is the will, born of the conviction that,
sooner than later, we will have no choice but to convert to these sources and more efficient
technologies. Without doing so, we will not be able to sustain life as we are used to living – from
firing our stoves to driving the engines of production.

What has halted us from changing track thus far has been the fear of uncertainty that we associate
with change. And of course, our mind has been conditioned by those economies and industries,
which feel threatened by a transition away from dependence on fossil fuel. Fear is paralyzing and
paralysis is what our business and industry cannot afford if our region is to rise out of poverty and
prosper. As new and emerging economies whose industry can and must grow and develop on a non-
carbon diet, the cost of clean and sustainable energy will not be doubled by the cost of conversion
or the perceived loss of advantage. It is what is necessary and sensible. We need to “embrace
renewables, efficiency, innovation, carbon markets and new technologies,” for these are where real
growth and profit will be found. These are what will be favoured by growing (world wide) public
choice, legislation and sheer economic sensibility. These indeed are where investments must be
made to deliver high and long term returns.

I am convinced that the future will belong to those entrepreneurs and companies that will take the
lead in this direction. Those who hesitate and adopt a wait and see attitude will find themselves
inevitably edged out of the new economic culture and market. India’s commitment of some $19
billion dollars for generation of solar energy to meet its energy needs is a step in the right direction.

For the south Asian commerce and industry, there is great profit to be made in the renewable
energy, carbon market, non fossil fueled technology and efficiency drives. I can’t see why south
Asia with its enormous regional and the boundless global markets in the making, has shown no
inclination to become the biggest producer of solar panels, solar water heaters, wind turbines and so
on. I can’t see why we cannot become the biggest technology source and infrastructure builders for
renewables. I fail to understand why we cannot pool our knowledge, resources and energies so that
not only we can help solve each other’s problems but lead the world in creating the conditions that

will enable humanity not only to survive but pursue happiness.

I express the hope that you will, in your deliberations, find the reasons for south Asia not to remain
content with where it is today.

Thank you, TASHI DELEK.

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