Environment ministers from the six member countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) endorsed a five-year environmental agenda that includes more than US$540 million (16.9 billion baht) worth of priority projects to spur green investments and increase environmental cooperation to help the region achieve sustainable growth.
GMS countries include Cambodia, China (specifically Yunnan province and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region), Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
The ministers approved the Core Environment Program (CEP) strategic framework and action plan 2018-2022 during the Fifth GMS Environment Ministers' meeting from Jan 30 to Feb 1 in Chiang Mai.
The programme, which was launched in 2006 and administered by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), is embarking on its third phase.
The scheme has already helped lift over 30,000 people out of poverty in rural areas of the region.
"CEP has been instrumental in building trust and understanding between GMS countries for environmental efforts, and we will work further to strengthen the region's cooperation in addressing environmental challenges together," said Gen Surasak Karnjanarat, Thailand's environment and natural resources minister.
"The meeting provided us an opportunity to take stock of our progress and achievements, share knowledge, and discuss trends, directions, and emerging issues in the environment sector."
Apart from the $540 million worth of investments focused on land-use management, waste management, pollution control, and climate-proofing of rural infrastructure, the five-year strategy will also pave the way for a new project preparation facility, which will help GMS countries fill investment gaps for green growth, mainly through project preparation and financing.
A green technology platform will also be established to act as a market place to connect technology providers with adopters, focusing on technology for waste management, renewable energy, fuel efficiency, climate resilience, and disaster risk management, among others.
The CEP has raised over $100 million in additional financing, including $98 million for biodiversity and conservation, created 2.6 million hectares of biodiversity corridors in seven transboundary landscapes, and trained more than 19,000 stakeholders in over 500 training and knowledge events.
"Since 2006, CEP has strengthened its position as the foremost environment initiative in the GMS," said Ramesh Subramaniam, director-general of ADB's Southeast Asia Department.
"We will carry forward the key actions determined throughout this meeting to help achieve inclusive and sustainable development in the GMS."
The event included a two-day forum on green growth, titled Inclusive Green Growth: Investing for a Sustainable Future, which focused on policy dialogues and events on green technologies, green energy, sustainable infrastructure, climate resilience, and natural resources investments.
ADB, based in Manila, was established in 1966. It is owned by 67 members, including 48 from the region.