Parliamentarians: Europe and Asia are the two pillars to take world forward

10th Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting (ASEP 10), in Brussels, 27 September 2018. [European Parliament Multimedia Centre]

Multilateralism is the most effective mechanism to deal with climate change, said, participants of the 10th Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting held in Brussels on 27-28 September.

Environmental challenges facing Asia and Europe were the central theme of the meeting, which brought together MEPs and MPs from EU member states, 18 Asian countries and Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland.

Those challenges include sustainable development and the circular economy, urban areas management, cooperation on water resources, waste treatment and plastic reduction, food security and clean technologies.

The meeting at parliamentarian level is also seen as a preparation for the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit to be held in Brussels on 18-19 October. MPs and MEPs, as well as the leaders of 30 European and 21 Asian countries, meet bi-annually.

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MEP Heidi Hautala (Greens, Finland), who chaired the meeting, spoke about the impact of climate change on many walks of life.

“Even in my country, we had a very exceptional summer,” she said.

Wildfires have raged this year in the Arctic Circle, and drought has punished food producers in Nordic areas, which usually abound in water and rain.

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Hautala said that MEPs and MPs had a lot to achieve in the framework of the Paris agreement and that the onus was now on “ambition and implementation”.

She warned that in all climate change action, parliamentarians needed to make sure that human rights, the rights of indigenous people and their land rights are respected.

The Finnish MEP also stressed that some Asian partners are at the forefront of the fight against climate change while the EU sometimes lags behind. China and India are leaders in transforming their traffic systems to electric vehicles, she said.

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“It’s not good enough to adopt every two years a joint declaration. Our role should be more ambitious. We represent many millions and citizens expect us to be more ambitious in shaping the future and addressing common challenges we are addressing in Europe, Asia and beyond, to promote sustainable development”, Hautala said.

Yondonperenlei Baatarbileg, chairman of the committee of public policy, culture and science of the Mongolian parliament, reminded that his country had successfully organised the 9th ASEP in 2016, with the theme “partnership for future of connectivity”.

Without mentioning the USA under Donald Trump, he said the balance of power in the world was shifting and the multilateral mechanisms were therefore of utmost importance. This idea was further repeated by almost all speakers.

Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, the speaker of the Bangladeshi parliament, said multilateralism was the most effective mechanism for dealing with climate change, and also poverty eradication, food security, inequality, conflict resolution, migration and refugee issues.

She didn’t mention the tragedy of the Rohingya, but was obviously referring to the exodus of the Rohingya people, who are fleeing to Bangladesh to escape the violence in Myanmar.

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Chaudhury stressed that ASEP could be instrumental in shaping global parliamentary diplomacy, in persuading all players to take action. She also warned that international financing mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund and the Least Developed Countries’ Fund were severely under-resourced.

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Zhang Zhijun, vice-chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the National Peoples’ Congress of China compared the 10th Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting to “a prelude to a symphony” ahead of the upcoming ASEM summit.

He also stressed that last summer, the whole northern hemisphere was engulfed in heatwaves, bringing drought and wildfires and proving that climate change was not a problem for future generations but for today.

The Chinese parliamentarian said that if politicians had “an outdated mentality”, this would harm their own country and others. He argued that what was needed was a global climate governance system that is fair and equitable and based on win-win cooperation.

MEP Jo Leinen (S&D, Germany), who is the Parliament’s rapporteur on climate change and the chair of the Delegation for relations with China, said that “unfortunately in this moment when we need multilateralism” the concept was “attacked by some people” who want to go their own way, “and that’s a challenge for all of us”.

Leinen said he was happy that although the US government had walked out on the Paris Agreement, all other countries had confirmed they would continue to implement it.

The German MEP said Europe and Asia had a different history, with industrialisation that started in Europe in the nineteenth century, while Asia has the biggest population and the fastest growth, and a chance to modernise as they grow.

He voiced hope that Europe and Asia were “the two pillars to bring the world ahead”.

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