Climate Change – How Asia and the Pacific can take the lead in mitigation and adaptation.
Bangkok (UN Information Services) – The Asia-Pacific region needs to take the lead in mitigating and adapting to the global threat posed by climate change, both in international negotiations and in the application of new technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) reports in its latest regional survey.
The Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2008 warns that the impact of climate change on the Asia-Pacific region “could be immense. Rising temperatures could result in sea-level rise, melting of glaciers, water-stress, land erosion, forest fires, and diseases with devastating effects, particularly on the poor.”
The Survey says governments need to better integrate their macroeconomic, social and environmental policies to fully address the impact from climate change.
This includes measures to link economic and fiscal policies with industrial development, pollution control, energy use, urban planning and development together with agricultural and water management, health and sanitation, and forestry and natural resources management.
The Survey calls for the removal of energy subsidies, currently valued at around US$250 billion a year globally, but especially applied in Asia and the Pacific. “Removing energy subsidies could reduce primary energy consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by a significant margin,” the Survey says. Such steps would have medium- to long-term effects by way of promoting growth and stability although they could also have a short-term impact on inflation and growth.
But, the Survey says, the core of “green growth” seeks an improvement in the eco-efficiency of rapid growth, and to be compatible with the limited carrying capacity of the region.
The Survey sets out a range of specific measures promoting green growth. These include taxing older, less efficient vehicles; offering tax incentives to companies that invest in newer and cleaner technologies; lowering the taxes on low-energy consumption lights and introducing more graded user charges on electricity.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the emission pattern of green house gases is similar to that at the global level – apart from the fact that emissions from land use are higher than the global average while those from industry and transport “are somewhat lower.”
In the area of land-use emissions in Asia and the Pacific, the Survey notes that these are largely due to deforestation and account for 17 % of greenhouse gas emissions. In South and South East Asia, 28,000 square kilometres are lost each year due to deforestation. “Reversing deforestation is thus critical,” the Survey notes.
The Survey calls on the Asia-Pacific countries to build on steps taken to reduce green house gas emissions by adopting “carbon neutral” strategies. A movement to buy products and services from companies that purchase carbon offsets, already apparent in the developed countries, needs to be encouraged in Asia and the Pacific.
The focus of this strategy should be the “globally connected and environmentally aware middle class.” This can be achieved through partnerships between governments and civil society organizations, “particularly international environmental organizations, such as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund.”
Such partnerships could encourage developed country producers selling products in Asia “to go carbon neutral and induce demand for clean development mechanism (CDM) projects in the region,” the Survey says.
But the Survey also points to existing successes in the region. An India-based company, Suzalon Energy, is now ranked among the top five wind energy companies in the world after drawing on technology initially developed in Germany.
With a global market share of close to eight per cent, Suzalon exports technology to the United States, China, Europe and Australia. In the region, China and India also dominate the market share of CDM projects. “Fostering these capabilities will go a long way towards mitigating climate change and supporting economic growth and development in the region,” the Survey says.
But the Survey also points to steps that are ‘pro-local communities’ by supporting projects such as those involving the efficient management of waste. “Converting urban solid wastes into compost and organic fertilizer not only reduces methane emissions but increases soil productivity and reduces the use of chemical fertilizers, key for adaptation and mitigation,” the Survey notes.
Methane from landfills and dumpsites can be captured and used to generate electricity, as has been done by the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and the government of Andhra Pradesh, in India. In Andhra Pradesh, the local government now provides 40-50 per cent of the financing for projects that turn urban wastewater, particularly from slaughterhouses, into electricity.
The Survey calls for more effort in adaptation in poorer countries and regions. “The adverse impacts on climate change on agriculture and food security reaffirm the importance of investing in research and development to create drought-resistant and heat resistant seed varieties,” it said.
The impacts from increases water stress, choices in food, transport and recreation will be significant. Early warnings from rising sea levels, public policy reform and adaptation to the challenges of food security and environmental management are all seen as essential.
Policies to meet the needs of refugees to climate change and such steps as food banks and assistance to the poor should all be given priorities.
As the region's most comprehensive annual review of economic and social developments, ESCAP's Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific provides the only independent source of analysis covering all countries in this vast and diverse region, and considers both the social and economic spheres of development. The 2008 Survey, entitled "Sustaining Growth and Sharing Prosperity," looks at the most critical issues, challenges and risks our region faces in the months ahead.
Headquartered in Bangkok, Thailand, ESCAP is the largest of the UN's five Regional Commissions in terms of membership, population served and area covered. The only inter-governmental forum covering the entire Asia-Pacific region, it aims to promote economic and social progress.