Speech of UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton at the National Forum 'Assessment of Local Action for Coping with Climate Change'

06 Dec 2013

Dear Minister Ademi
Deputy Minister Sajkoski
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen

It’s a real pleasure to be here today to open this forum together with such good partners.

As the world is buffeted by one unprecedented natural disaster after another – last month in the Philippines, in the last few days along the north Atlantic coast – climate change is at last being understood as a real and immediate danger with the potential to ruin lives on every continent.

Confronted with this frightening first-hand evidence, more and more people are coming to agree with our UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who calls climate change “the defining issue of our time.”

Unfortunately, this country that faces particularly high risks from climate change. According to the World Bank, it is among the five most vulnerable countries in Europe.

The country’s landscape and its top crops – the grapes, tomatoes, apples and other fruits and vegetables for which the country is justly famous – are highly susceptible to changing weather patterns that are delivering an ominous combination of extreme precipitation in spring followed by extreme drought in summer.

Over the coming 40 years, experts see the potential for temperature increases here in summer of as much as 4 to 5 degrees, with a resulting decline in apple production of 45 percent and in grapes of 32 percent.

These threats explain why, in line with the UN’s global commitment to fight climate change, UNDP has been working since 2000 to help our partners here to prepare to address the challenges.

At the central policy level, the Government’s resolve has been clear in its decision 16 years ago to ratify the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and its submission since then of two national progress reports, in 2003 and 2009, with a third currently awaiting formal endorsement by the Government.

The aim of our event today is to encourage local authorities to join in this battle.

Local authorities are key actors in the fight against climate change because they are closest to the people and understand best the specific risks that face local communities, particularly in poorer rural areas.

The news is not all bad. As you will hear in today’s presentations, there is a lot that can be done at the local level: local authorities can adopt measures both to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change and to prepare local communities in a timely fashion for the likely impacts of climate change.

To cite just a few examples, spatial and urban planning requirements can be adapted to take into account the risk of increased flooding. Public awareness can be raised about the damage caused by uncontrolled burning of waste, and systems for the efficient capturing of methane from waste created. Local farmers can be helped to shift to what is being called “climate-smart agriculture.”

Local authorities no doubt face a daunting task, but we are confident they can rise to the challenge.

In this effort, please know that UNDP is here to help – both at the central policy level and in direct partnership with local communities – to ensure that together we do all we can to protect lives and livelihoods.

Thank you for your attention and for joining us today!