The Asia-Pacific region is very biologically diverse and hosts a high number of unique ecosystems, with 17 of the 36 global biodiversity hotspots and 7 of the 17 megadiverse countries in the region –it is home to the highest marine biodiversity in the world, with the longest and most diverse coral reef systems in the world, more than half of the world’s remaining mangrove areas, and the highest seagrass diversity. However, the region’s rapid economic growth, increasing population and the associated increases in consumption and pollution, high rates of urbanization, agricultural expansion, pollution are resulting in extensive biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, that are exacerbated by the effects of climate change. In the region, the Sustainable Development Goals related to ecosystems, in particular SDG 6 on Clean Water and Sanitation, SDG 12 on Responsible Consumption and Consumption, SDG 14 on Life Below Water and SDG 15 on Life on Land are not on track to be achieved in 2030.
The Environment and Development Division promotes environmental sustainability, with a focus on safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystems’ health. This includes promoting policies that address the interconnected aspects of ecosystem health and the drivers of its degradation, including the socioeconomic drivers of human societies, as well as capitalize on co-benefits between different sectors. The current COVID-19 pandemic has underscored, among others, the need to safeguard ecosystems’ health to ensure human health. In this context, EDD promotes the concept of planetary health as a useful framework for the development, implementation, and assessment of ambitious policies that address the linkages between the health of the natural world and human health within the limits of what nature can provide, in alignment with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to better prevent and mitigate zoonoses such as COVID-19.
Further, EDD support a transition to agro-ecology in Asia and the Pacific, as an example of low carbon, risk-informed, resilient, regenerative and sustainable agricultural practices, which apply ecological principles to food systems. A regional push to support the transition towards agro-ecology in Asia and the Pacific would support environmental progress in the region, in line with the principles of planetary health.
Knowledge products and learning tools
EDD develops knowledge products and tools that support policy makers in Asia and the Pacific address critical environmental issues in an integrated manner.
For example, EDD develops knowledge products and provides capacity building to support governments in addressing water issues in an upstream to downstream approach, taking into action the effects of land-based activities and the impacts on the ocean, developing policies that address the nexus between water, energy and food, and the connection between the water and the climate systems. This includes policy briefs, eLearning courses and contributions to global knowledge products such as regional contributions to the World Water Development Reports (WWDR 2019 on Leaving no one behind, WWDR 2020 on Water and Climate Change, WWDR 2021 on Valuing Water).
Intergovernmental processes and regional dialogues
EDD also plays a particular role coordinating biodiversity and water management issues in Asia and the Pacific and providing regional platforms to share best practices and lessons learnt on critical issues related to ecosystems’ health.
For example, EDD also supports regional platforms on water issues through the coordination of the UN-Water Expert Group on Regional Coordination in support of the implementation of the UN Decade on Water for Sustainable Development, as well as through its membership in the Asia Pacific Water Forum.
In addition, EDD support the preparations of the post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, currently under development, under the auspices of the Convention on Biological Diversity. EDD supports its preparations as part of the United Nations Environment Management Group Consultative Process on Biodiversity.
It also supports, in collaboration with partners, the promotion of key scientific assessments such as the Regional Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for Asia and the Pacific of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
Technical support and capacity building
EDD provides technical support on the development of integrated environmental policies, from design to stakeholder engagement, to linkages with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and systemic approaches.
This includes, for example, support to Asia Pacific Member States on addressing water pollution from industries, or advising the Bhutanese government on the revision of their national environmental policy.
ESCAP EDD supported the Government of Bhutan to update their National Environmental Strategy, named the Middle Path, that was launched June 2020.
ESCAP EDD also developed free elearning courses on safeguarding ecosystems health, including in the context of COVID-19, available from the SDG HelpDesk :