Halting the global temperature rise requires all countries to adopt low carbon development paths, but it is an absolute imperative for those States contributing high greenhouse gas emissions and facing future economic and demographic pressures. China features prominently in this regard with its leading position in population size, economic activity, energy consumption, trade and finance – and hence, rising emissions.
Nowhere is the urgency for a comprehensive deal on COP21 and its action more relevant than in the low-lying small island economies. Pacific small island developing States (SIDS) are the front line states exposed to climate vulnerabilities and face an existential threat from many climate-related disasters, such as tropical cyclones, storm surges, droughts and coastal zone flooding. Regardless of progress at COP21, coastal areas in the Pacific will continue to attract more settlement, putting additional people at risk from coastal hazards.
Cities are home to 66 per cent of the world’s people, generate 80 per cent of global GDP and are responsible for some 70 per cent of energy consumption and energy-related emissions. Correspondingly, cities are critical for the transformation of the world to a low carbon system. Many Asia-Pacific cities are located in low-lying coastal areas, and are highly vulnerable to sea level rise, storm surges and other climate vagaries. Altering the development course of cities, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, will be critical in tackling global emission trends.
Finance and technology are the keys to addressing climate change. The low carbon transformation required of us will be capital intensive and often focused on more climate-friendly infrastructure, requiring a large scaling up of existing climate finance flows. Climate adaptation also needs finance to support greater resilience, particularly in climate smart business practices and infrastructure, as well as in the pooling and transfer of climate risks through insurance.
Tripartite dialogue between the three major Asian economies - China, Japan and the Republic of Korea – all members of ESCAP – has the potential to develop common diagnostics, shared understanding and a harmonized perspective on approaches for addressing climate change. Working together on several mega-trends, such as urbanization, the rising middle class, ageing populations and natural disasters, will help to shape the future of the subregion.
By starting to reconcile the tensions between economic growth and environmental protection, green growth models serve to foster growth, while aiming to preserve natural capital. Moving forward from a two pillared approach to address unsustainable development, green growth frameworks need to adapt to the new development priorities following the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and indeed post-COP21.
Green growth is an approach to fostering economic growth and development using natural resources in a sustainable manner. Termed as a “derivative of sustainable development” and anchored in the sustainable development concept, green growth is a policy choice and option which provides a pragmatic, practical and flexible approach as well as a model and tools for greening the growth dynamics of an economy while reining in the environmental and social consequences of development.
Turning around desertification and land degradation generates multiple benefits, in particular for the economy and people, ensuring long-term resilience and adaptive capacity of vulnerable communities. Currently, about 1.5 billion people worldwide are affected by degraded land, which is more than simply an environmental threat.
The 2030 Agenda acknowledges that the “achievement of sustainable development is not possible if one half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities”. Critical to realizing these rights is ending the violence that so many women and girls face every day.
Protection and effective harnessing of ocean resources is central to the emergence of the blue economy. Oceans and seas are critical natural resources which define the new contours and frontiers of development, the potential of several economies and the identities of peoples across our region. How our oceans are managed, and how transboundary dynamics are shaped to govern and manage these shared resources, will be critical to building a more sustainable regional future.