For APEC, economic growth and sustainability are not mutually exclusive, but rather interdependent. Sustainability is increasingly recognized as a critical factor in achieving long-term economic growth.
APEC’s commitment to sustainability dates back to the first APEC Economic Leaders' Statement delivered in November 1993, which affirmed that "our environment is improved as we protect the quality of our air, water and green spaces and manage our energy resources and renewable resources to ensure sustainable growth and provide a more secure future for our people."
Since then, APEC has included addressing the impacts of climate change as a core focus of its work. In 2002, APEC established the APEC Climate Center, which provides climate information and services to member economies to support their efforts to address climate change. In 2007, APEC Leaders agreed to the Sydney Declaration on Climate Change, Energy Security and Clean Development, which recognized the need for urgent action on climate change and committed to working towards a low-carbon future. Further, In 2011, APEC Leaders proposed a regional goal to reduce energy intensity by at least 45 percent by 2035. APEC is currently on track to achieve this goal by 2029.
More recently, in 2020, APEC leaders issued the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040, which identifies ‘strong, balanced, secure, sustainable and inclusive economic growth’ as crucial drivers to economic growth. The vision emphasizes the importance of sustainability, particularly in the areas of energy, food, and water security. In 2021 APEC drafted an implementation plan called the Aotearoa Plan of Action with individual and collective actions to facilitate the achievement of the Putrajaya Vision 2040 as well as to evaluate progress.
APEC serves as an important avenue for exploring and incubating multifaceted and complex policy options and best practices. During Thailand’s host year a post-pandemic growth strategy and a framework for addressing long-term economic issues was introduced called the Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) Economy Model. The BCG Economy Model encourages members to efficiently use resources, maintain and restore ecosystems, and reduce waste to build sustainability focused economies where people, businesses and communities can thrive. APEC Leaders agreed to the Bangkok Goals for the BCG Economy, as a framework to promote the achievement of these objectives in November of the same year.
The United States, as the 2023 APEC host, is looking to build on the Bangkok Goals as a framework to promote green growth and expand economic opportunities for women with a strong commitment to stakeholder engagement.
Senior officials from the 21-member economies met for the first time in 2023 in Palm Springs, California, guided by the United States’ APEC 2023 priorities of ‘Creating a Sustainable Future for All.’ During the meetings, which took place over a three-week period in February, senior officials detailed measures to support building resilience, strengthening environmental sustainability, and advancing inclusive policies.
In March 2023, the APEC Transportation Working Group held its second annual series of virtual thematic meetings with this year’s sessions focusing on sustainability in areas such as on the identification and integration of new and emerging smart and sustainable maritime technologies and services and moving towards a smart, resilient, and low/zero emissions transport in the APEC Region.