Climate change adaptation an opportunity to promote inclusive and sustainable Asia-Pacific growth, says ESCAP

Climate change mitigation and adaptation must go hand in hand with efforts to make development more inclusive and sustainable in Asia-Pacific countries, the top United Nations official in the region said here today.

As the world’s most natural disaster-prone region and with climate change adding to its vulnerability, Asia and the Pacific must make disaster risk reduction and climate preparedness a key component of its economic and social development agenda, said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Dr. Noeleen Heyzer.

“The fight against extreme poverty cannot be won without also addressing the climate vulnerabilities of our most at-risk communities,” Dr. Heyzer said in her opening remarks at the Asia-Pacific launch of the United Nations climate change panel’s Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Climate Change Adaptation (SREX).

Among those present at the launch were Thailand’s Science and Technology Minister, H.E. Dr. Plodprasop Suraswadi and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Chairman, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri.

Noting that Asia-Pacific countries accounted for 70 per cent of global losses from natural disasters in 2011, estimated at more than $366 billion, Dr. Heyzer said the poor and marginalized suffer the most from disasters related to climate change such as floods and droughts.

Hazards linked to increasingly variable climate conditions, “become disasters in the absence of development, where inequalities are greatest and with inadequate investment in risk reduction.”

“The Report is clear – that exposure and vulnerability to the impacts of climate extremes vary greatly ‘based on inequalities expressed through levels of wealth and education, disability, and health status, as well as gender, age, class and other social and cultural characteristics’,” Dr. Heyzer pointed out.

“The combination of disasters and development failures push the near-poor into poverty, and ensure even greater vulnerability to future disasters. It is a vicious cycle that must be broken.”

According to the ESCAP Executive Secretary, climate change presents the greatest global challenge of the twenty first century, but also the biggest opportunity to make growth more inclusive and sustainable. “Early warning systems, more sustainable land use planning, micro-insurance, better local ecosystem management, improvements to health, water supply, sanitation and irrigation – these are all important development challenges with co-benefits for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.”

In closing, she highlighted the opportunity Asia-Pacific countries have to harness climate action as a new driver of economic growth. In line with this, ESCAP will unveil a Roadmap for Low Carbon Green Growth later this month.