The Asia Pacific region is exposed to a risk landscape of natural disasters and environmental change, income inequality, gender-based and other socio-cultural discrimination, and economic and political pressures that are aggravated by climate change and COVID-19.
Ecosystem health, and the health of the region’s people, are increasingly entwined. In this setting Asian and Pacific economies have become among the most resource-intensive and waste-producing in the world. Biodiversity loss here is the most rapid and serious among all regions, amid Earth’s sixth mass species extinction.
Futures thinking and participatory foresight methods help explore worldviews and myths that underlie present and alternative futures. Workshops in 2020 brought together more than 100 government officials, civil society representatives, academics, development partners and ESCAP colleagues. The results of those workshops were synthesized and deepened to define alternative scenarios and a possible path forward.
Five drivers of systemic change were examined in this process and discussed in this report: (1) growing environmental consciousness, (2) evolving food systems, (3) increasing demand for natural resources and shifts in ownership and control, (4) rural–urban dynamics, and (5) environmental governance. Insights into each helped inform the scenarios and promote understanding of the changes needed for reaching a desired future.
This report provides brief insights on the current challenges, and considerations for the future in four environmental domains: climate action; clean air; healthy ecosystems; and sustainable urbanization, presented in the “Insights” special section. These four domains feature heavily in the four scenarios described in this report.
Four alternative scenarios provide clarity on the scale of ambition needed, and are presented to support social and institutional dialogue and decision-making.
- A Green Anthropocene - an “ideal” scenario.
- The Rivers Run Dry - a “disowned” scenario.
- Great Collapse - an “outlier” scenario in four parts.
- The Yangtze River Dolphin Returns -an “integrated” scenario.
The final chapter targets the 2040 scenario “the Yangtze River Dolphin returns” with a roadmap that opens opportunities for alternative futures. Possible milestones on the path to 2040 are defined in four phases:
- 2021 to 2024 — Building infrastructure for change.
- 2025 to 2029 — Confidence raises ambition.
- 2030 to 2034 — Consolidating the gains.
- 2035 to 2040 — Rising to new levels.
The milestones on the roadmap to 2040 focus on environment and development interventions. In keeping with the times, or perhaps as a reaction to the times, they are aimed at strengthening solidarity, cooperation and transparency, as a basis for reinvigorating multilateralism and forging new partnerships for an alternative, preferred Asia and the Pacific in 2040.