Asia-Pacific Resource Use Trends, Changing Risks and Green Growth Opportunities Call for Decisive Action at Rio+20 Says the United Nations and ADB

Bangkok (UN ESCAP/UNEP) - The world faces resource constraints but the Asia-Pacific region can turn this into an opportunity and emerge as a green economy leader, according to a report released here today by the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The Asia-Pacific region uses three times as much resources to produce one dollar of gross domestic product (GDP), compared to the rest of the world and resource use in the region grew by 50 per cent between 1995 and 2005, according to the report Green Growth, Resources and Resilience: Environmental Sustainability in Asia and the Pacific. At the same time, poverty and the lack of access to basic services persists.

Published by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and ADB ahead of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June this year, the report emphasizes that the challenges of resource constraints are more serious in the Asia-Pacific region than anywhere else.

Rejecting the assumption that technology advances will be able to solve the problems of resource constraints, the report proposes specific strategies for changing economic incentives to promote a green economy which uses resources much more efficiently. This is needed, it says, to “recalibrate the economy” so that it is in closer alignment with sustainable development.

Turning crisis into opportunity

Dr. Young Woo Park, UNEP Regional Director stated that “countries of Asia and the Pacific have been at the forefront of implementing initiatives to green their economic growth and will reap the benefits of such investments economically, socially and environmentally.”

The report proposes action to profit from new market opportunities. “The global market for green goods and services is vast and growing and with the right policies and investments, Asia and the Pacific could lead the world toward a more sustainable future,” said Mr. Nessim Ahmad, Director, Environment and Social Safeguards Division, ADB.

The report stresses that economic incentives to promote investments in resource efficiency and natural resource protection are key, but action on other fronts is also needed – including an integrated policy framework and approaches. Governance must be more adaptive and inclusive – governments must become more adept at harnessing knowledge from different sources and incorporating information from various stakeholders.

For developing countries, the massive investments in infrastructure as well as the unmet needs for energy, water and transportation and housing offer a window of opportunity to change the way that energy and other resources are used.

Need for collective action at Rio+20

The report addresses the two main Rio+20 themes – “green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication” and “the institutional framework for sustainable development”. Rio+20 presents a unique opportunity to address some of the governance shortcomings highlighted regarding the integration of economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

“Business as usual is no longer a feasible option, but many governments and other stakeholders still do not recognize the urgency of the challenge of improving the resource efficiency of economic growth,” said Mr. Rae Kwon Chung, Director, ESCAP Environment and Development Division. The Asia-Pacific region’s resource and pollution-intensive growth trends means the region is at risk of not being able to sustain the growth needed to reduce poverty in the long term.. Optimistic growth projections for the region do not factor in resource constraints sufficiently, he added. Green growth, he underlined, is a strategy to achieve sustainable development, addressing both resource constraints and the climate crisis.

At Rio+20, collective and decisive action will be needed, since the challenges were tremendous and one country cannot succeed alone, he said. He noted the considerable potential for developing economies to grow more efficiently, but emphasized that a more sustainable future would also require developed economies to take action to ensure that all economies are resource-efficient.