Opening Remarks by Ms. Elaine Conkievich

Resident Representative, UNDP Mongolia

4 February 2021

 

Good afternoon, Dr. Oyun, honored guests, and ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to be here today to kick off this important and timely dialogue.

2 months ago, we launched HazeGazer platform pilot together with UNICEF and People in Need as a public eye on air pollution to assess the socio-economic impacts of air pollution through public engagement and crowdsourcing of citizen generated data.

So far, we have received over 2,000 responses on how poor air quality not only hurts the wellbeing of the city’s residents but also causes significant socio-economic cost due to a variety of illnesses and loss of laboring capacity.

On average, respondents lost at least 3 days of work during the last 2 months due to air pollution induced sickness while others expressed concerns such as not being able to open their windows to let fresh air in.

Though progress has been made in recent years to improve the air quality in Ulaanbaatar, the road ahead for fully restored healthy air remains long. In fact, we are still experiencing highly polluted days in Ulaanbaatar this winter where the smoke is so thick that it lowers the surrounding visibility. No one should be breathing through that air day in and out.

As the whole world, including Mongolia, continues to be challenged by Covid-19 pandemic, vulnerable individuals and communities are suffering the most. Residents in Ulaanbaatar’s ger districts, thereby, are facing not only the challenges of the pandemic but also the poor air quality induced challenges in their daily lives. This clearly demands a concentrated and immediate actions to support the most vulnerable in the country.

UNDP is rolling out our next project funded by the European Union to support the Government of Mongolia to address pollution as a key environmental factor of noncommunicable diseases. The project will be implemented in the next 3 years. We are confident that the project will identify potential return on investment in selected cost effective and nationally prioritized interventions to support government decision on prioritized actions to mitigate air pollution not only in urban areas but also in provincial centers. This is a part of our broader support on addressing environmental degradation and climate change resilience.

Over 70% of Mongolia’s pasture is degraded and with the increased impact from climate change through dzuds, rural residents, mainly herders, are being pushed to migrate to the city to make a living. This inbound migration is contributing significantly to overpopulation of UB and size of the ger district, the main source of the air pollution in UB. As part of the initiative to reduce internal migration to the city, UNDP CO is implementing its country strategies to support rural economy and community development. With the funding from Green Climate Fund, UNDP will be implementing our new flagship project in the next 7 years to strengthen the resilience of resource-dependent herder communities vulnerable to climate change. The project will bring together climate-informed livestock practices – building on traditional cooperative approaches among herders, innovative technologies, such as blockchain for traceability of sustainably sourced and climate-resilient livestock products, and with links to a responsible private sector investment fund to ensure long term, market-driven sustainability. I believe that the proposed incentive mechanism needs to consider a wide range of factors including equity investment fund to support sustainable rural economy development, lending requirements for projects, and promotion of private sector investment in green businesses and infrastructure in urban area.

On behalf of UNDP Mongolia and UNICEF Mongolia, I would like to thank all of our partners, experts and especially the People In Need team for successfully developing the pilot HazeGazer platform and continuing the dialogue.

With everyone’s strong commitment, I am confident that we can all support Mongolia to build forward better to a healthier, more inclusive, and sustainable future.

I am pleased that today we will discuss how we can reduce air pollution in Mongolia through green financing, an integral component to accelerate towards 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.

Thank you and I am looking forward to hearing your valuable discussion today.

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