U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman opened the YSEALI Academy at Fulbright University Vietnam’s first seminar on Energy Economics and Policy, welcoming the 35 participants and reaffirming U.S. commitment to young people across Southeast Asia.
I am delighted to welcome you, the inaugural cohort of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Academy at Fulbright University Vietnam, and to offer my hearty congratulations. All of you were chosen to participate in this elite YSEALI program because of your leadership skills, your policy expertise and your deep commitment to solving the challenges facing Southeast Asia and the world.
Chief among those challenges, of course, is the climate crisis. Countries in Southeast Asia are already suffering because of the effects of climate change. Last year alone, more than half a million people were displaced due to natural disasters. And if we don’t cut greenhouse gas emissions, then by the middle of the century, rising seas will swamp areas across the region, where 48 million people live today.
But as you know, addressing the climate crisis isn’t just about staving off catastrophe. It’s also about creating opportunity. By transitioning to clean energy, we can prevent about half a million premature deaths a year in Southeast Asia alone. And if we prioritize clean energy, as we build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic, we can create 30 million jobs across the region.
The United States is partnering with ASEAN nations to help build more clean energy and fight climate change. In Vietnam, the State Department helped create the Renewable Energy Control Center, which is integrating clean energy into the electric grid, and providing valuable training to engineers, and we’re going to do more. Earlier this year, President Biden announced that the United States would double our financial contributions to global climate finance by 2024. That commitment will help finance clean energy, clean transportation and climate change resilience across Southeast Asia and around the world.
Just a few weeks ago, I took my first trip overseas as Deputy Secretary of State, which included stops in Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia. While I was in Indonesia, I had the opportunity to meet with several YSEALI alumni who are working to drive action on climate change. Everywhere I go in the world, I make a point to meet with young people like you. You’re not waiting to be asked to do something to tackle the climate crisis, or get more clean energy on the grid, or create jobs for other young people. You’ve taken it into your own hands to build NGOs, launch new businesses and become advocates, pushing your governments to do more.
That’s why the United States launched YSEALI in the first place. And it’s why we are so proud to partner with Fulbright University Vietnam on this new academy. We want to help young people from across the ASEAN region make connections, learn new skills and build cross-border networks, including with the United States, to help solve big challenges. 60% of the people across the 10 ASEAN nations are under 35 years old. You are the leaders who are going to determine what the future looks like for your countries, for the ASEAN region and for the world.
Over the next few days, you’re going to learn from energy policy experts, practitioners, and from each other. You’re going to grow your leadership skills even more, and forge connections with each other that will last for the rest of your lives. And you’re going to join the impressive international group of YSEALI leaders who are changing things for the better.
Again, congratulations on your selection for the YSEALI Academy at Fulbright University Vietnam. I can’t wait to see what you do next. Thank you and have a great time.