Over the past 60 years, temperatures in the region have increased faster than the global mean
Most countries in Asia and the Pacific are inadequately prepared to manage the rising challenges of extreme weather events and natural disasters, according to a new study by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
Countries in the region lack the necessary data as well as means to support adaptation and mitigation efforts, noted the study published by the UN commission on May 8, 2023.
In the absence of decisive action, climate change will remain a leading cause of poverty and inequality across the region, the document warned.
Over the past 60 years, temperatures in the region have increased faster than the global mean. Extreme, unpredictable weather events and natural hazards have become more frequent and intense. Tropical cyclones, heatwaves, floods and droughts have brought immense loss of life and displacement, damaging people’s health and pushing millions into poverty.
Of the 10 countries most affected by these disasters, six are in the region. Food systems here are being disrupted, economies damaged and societies undermined. If left unchecked, climate change will exacerbate the strains of ongoing overlapping crises and imperil Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), it added.
Climate change and climate-induced disasters are increasingly threatening development in Asia and the Pacific — often undermining hard-won development gains.
They have been exacerbating the underlying drivers of poverty and societal inequalities by disproportionately burdening poor and marginalised groups, including women and children, the elderly, persons with disabilities, migrants, indigenous populations and young people in vulnerable situations.
The Asia-Pacific region accounts for more than half of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. It is one of the most rapidly developing regions of the world, with a significant proportion of the global population. The region is also home to most of the world’s low-lying cities and vulnerable small island states.
The costs of climate change are already too high. The annual average losses from natural and biological hazards in Asia and the Pacific are approximately $780 billion, according to estimates by ESCAP.
Under a moderate climate change scenario, these losses are expected to increase to $1.1 trillion and, under the worst-case scenario, to $1.4 trillion.
The current financing on this front is insufficient to meet the region’s requirements for investment in climate action or to contain global warming at 1.5°C, suggests available data.
With only seven years left to 2030, the target year for SDG, scaling up the available finance and increasing climate action ambition is important.
The report enlisted the changes required to close the emissions gap in three key sectors — energy, transport and international trade and investment.
Some 85 per cent of the region’s primary energy supply came from fossil fuels in 2020, according to the International Energy Agency. Steel and cement production here relies heavily on fossil fuels.
The rapid uptake of renewable energy requires restructuring national energy systems, new technical capacities and significant investment in supply and infrastructure. The report stresses on cross-border electricity grids to increase the share of renewable energy.
The future of electricity in India lies in local solutions and power generation where it is needed, including in rural areas, Down to Earth had reported.
Renewable energy is best served locally, as high transmission costs get eliminated. Energy efficiency codes must be aligned with net-zero goals to reduce carbon footprint in the building sector, the report added.
It stressed on climate-proofing energy systems. Hydropower, which holds the largest share of the region’s installed renewable energy capacity, has become increasingly unreliable.
The transport sector, primarily powered by oil, should be shifted to a low-carbon pathway, the document suggested. This can be achieved by reducing transport distance through integrated land use, planning, shifting to sustainable transport modes with low-carbon or net-zero-carbon emissions, as well as improving vehicle and fuel efficiency.
A 2019 report said no country (developed or developing) is on track to achieve sustainability in the transportation sector. Most developed and developing countries were ranked low on policy goals of universal urban access, gender and efficiency.
It is crucial to integrate climate considerations into regional trade agreements, the report added. Trade must be climate-smart — 85 per cent of the regional trade agreements signed since 2005 to which at least one Asia-Pacific economy is party contained climate-related provisions. The private sector must be encouraged to work towards a low-carbon pathway and sustainability should be ingrained into business operations.
The number of companies issuing sustainability reports and accounting for greenhouse gas emissions has increased recently. Some companies have introduced internal carbon pricing as a tool to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, it added.
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