The Government of Myanmar yesterday announced its vision for the country’s environmental protection and climate action, launching two new policies that will guide Myanmar’s environmental management and climate change strategy, according to a UN Environment statement.
Myanmar is widely considered one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the impacts of climate change, and its renowned biodiversity and natural resources are under increasing pressure as the country develops. More intense and more frequent floods, cyclones and droughts have caused immense loss of life and damage to infrastructure and the economy.
President U Win Myint announced the two new policies – the National Environmental Policy and the Myanmar Climate Change Policy – at an event marking World Environment Day in the capital. More than 400 attended the announcement, including senior government officials from Union ministries, states and regions and representatives from civil society, academic institutions, businesses and the international community, including the acting UN Resident Coordinator and EU Ambassador.
Speaking at the launch, the President said, “I am greatly honoured to launch these policies in this auspicious ceremony. I have no doubt that we have confidence to achieve sustainable and harmonious development which balances economic, social and environmental pillars. I would like to urge Myanmar citizens to participate for the current and future sustainable development of our country by changing your daily lifestyles in order to support environmental conservation. And, I also would like to urge you again to beat air pollution as an important part of Myanmar’s sustainable development to benefit our society as a whole.”
The new policies explicitly recognize the increasing threat of extreme weather and other climate change impacts to the country’s economic and social development and set out an ambition to transform Myanmar into a climate-resilient, low-carbon society that is sustainable, prosperous and inclusive.
They are a culmination of five years of work spearheaded by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MoNREC) with support from UNDP and the Myanmar Climate Change Alliance, an effort funded by the European Union with technical support from UN Environment and UN-Habitat.
Kristian Schmidt, Ambassador of the European Union to Myanmar, said “We Europeans have made a lot of mistakes in the past. We now see what we must change, and we are developing the policies and the technologies to do so. Today, we are no longer the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, we do not deny the science or the reality, and we are seeking binding international cooperation to address the urgency. I therefore hope our Myanmar partner will continue to see us as ambitious and reliable partners as humanity seeks to address what is probably the greatest risk ever posed to our survival and way of life."
Among the principles in the policies that will serve to guide government decisions on environmental management are goals to realize healthy and functioning ecosystems and sustainable economic and social development. The two new policies will allow the Government to integrate the environment across all its development planning, particularly in harmony with the recently adopted Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan 2018-2030.
Dechen Tsering, UN Environment’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, said, “With these new policies, Myanmar is now better equipped to pursue sustainable development and mobilize resources to address climate change. Myanmar enjoys natural abundance and realizing the country’s potential will mean protecting and managing its environment well. UN Environment will continue to support Myanmar in these efforts every step of the way.”
Peter Batchelor, Resident Representative of the UN Development Programme, said, “The future of Myanmar looks bright when we look at the vision for its environment and people that are provided by these important new policies. UNDP congratulates the Government of Myanmar for its continued commitment to a sustainable development agenda and is proud to have supported the development of the new National Environmental Policy. We will continue to help implement these new policies in partnership with the Government and other development partners.”
UN-Habitat Country Programme Manager, Bijay Karmacharya said, “With the climate change policy, strategy and sectoral master plans in place, it is now time for implementation. Myanmar is now ready for concerted actions to combat the challenges of climate change. To do this, climate action shall be mainstreamed in annual planning and budgeting of line ministries.”
The announcement was made on the occasion of World Environment Day, the annual global celebration of our planet. Myanmar’s new policies support this year’s theme of #BeatAirPollution, which aims to spur action to reduce the airborne pollutants, many of which directly contribute to climate change, and which claim up to 7 million lives a year. Myanmar has not avoided this scourge. 62 per cent of child deaths from acute lower respiratory infections can be attributed to indoor air pollution. The National Environment Policy and Climate Change Policy will play an important role in helping to address this severe problem, as they mandate actions to reduce emissions of air pollutants including those that can impact the climate and are co-emitted with greenhouse gases.