A senior United Nations' official in Asia says the financial crisis hitting regional economies is an opportunity to boost investment in "green" technologies to impact climate change. The comments by U.N. Undersecretary General Noeleen Heyzer, head of the U.N. regional economic and social commission, comes amid fears Asia is failing to present a strong profile in climate-change talks and faces outcomes dictated by richer Western nations.

The executive secretary of the United Nation's economic commission for Asia and the Pacific, Noeleen Heyzer, says investment in new climate change technologies in Asia and the Pacific needs to be stepped up, despite the economic slowdown.

In an interview with VOA, Heyzer says the issue of climate change needs to be addressed, given the consequences from the impact of climate change on economies struggling to recover from the global slowdown.

"The climate-change agenda is real.  We are already experiencing it in terms of more severe weather patterns, in terms of cyclones, in terms of extreme heat in many areas, in terms of drought, in terms of flooding," she said.  "And, all this, in fact, will affect our economy.  So you cannot, in a sense, de-link the climate change agenda from the economic growth and sustainability agenda."

Recent reports have raised fears climate change is threatening or could reverse decades of social and economic progress across Southeast Asia.

The Singapore-based Economy and Environment Program for South East Asia says the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Sumatra and Indonesia are all countries at risk to the impact of severe climate changes.

Heyzer says that, as countries put in place economic stimulus packages to revitalize economies, they also needed to generate what he calls "economies of the future". She says Asia and the Pacific needed to promote more private-sector investment in climate-change technologies.

"We need to upscale it [investment] and its financing.  It needs innovative financing to move this forward," said Heyzer. "The state will have to be brought in, in order to provide the policy framework that allows the transfers of these technologies and to open up new markets, in terms of the new carbon trading."

Heyzer says the crisis should be viewed as an opportunity to promote economies where growth is more sustainable, in the longer term.
"Every crisis provides an opportunity.  It is time to rethink the foundations of the economic strategy that we have built on and shift it to the economy of the future that is more sustainable and that can generate growth but at the same time value the gifts that earth has given us in terms of the many of the ecological resources which we have, from water to  climate," she added.  "These are all global goods."
The call comes amid growing pressure on Asia to take a higher profile in U.N. climate change talks under the Kyoto protocol.  A new deal on climate change is expected to be agreed to in Copenhagen in December.

Analysts says Asia needs to ensure the outcome from the international climate talks is as broad based as possible, rather than determined by positions taken by wealthier nations.

Japan, India and China are seen as being among the world's top five emitters of greenhouse gases, with China having surpassed the United States as the world's major carbon polluter.