Home / Environment / Opinions Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read | Comment
Climate change demands change in fighting strategy
Adjust font size:

By Haruhiko Kuroda

The latest round of negotiations on a new global climate change agreement that concluded in Bonn recently showed a promising sign: governments across the world have realized the urgency of joint action to meet the challenge.

It is critical that developed countries commit to significant cuts in their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and developing countries - especially those that can influence global emissions - take appropriate steps to put their economic development on the low-carbon path.

Only six months are left for the Copenhagen climate change conference, where the international community has to agree to a global deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

The conference also has to find how best to finance the measures of the developing countries and what steps have to be taken to minimize the impact of climate change.

The extraordinary economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region over the past two decades has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. But the development pattern has not been environmentally sustainable - either locally or globally.

Developing Asia accounts for about one-third of global GHG emissions.

And unless urgent steps are taken to change the region's development path its share would increase to 40 percent or more by 2030. That will make Asia the main driver of global warming because industrialized nations are expected to cut their emissions on a large scale.

The consequences of climate change are already apparent in the region. Worse can be expected in the forms of increased coastal flooding because of rising sea levels, fall in agricultural production because of greater variation in rainfall, and higher health risk from heat waves such as the spread of vector-borne diseases.

A recent Asian Development Bank (ADB) report warned that global warming is threatening the livelihoods of millions of people in the region.

According to A Regional Review of the Economics of Climate Change in Southeast Asia, the cost of these ill-effects will continue to rise, drawing away 6-7 percent of Southeast Asia's annual income by the end of the century unless urgent steps are taken to counter the trend. Other areas in the region would have to pay similar costs.

Given the feared level of economic damage, Asian countries have a strong incentive to fight climate change. The common threat has brought the international community closer in their quest for a solution to the problem.

A high-level dialogue on climate change in Manila last week sent out a clear message: Industrial countries have to cut their current emission levels, and Asia's growth must be decoupled from any increase in GHG emissions.

The meeting was organized by ADB and the Energy and Resources Institute, led by Rajendra Pachauri, who also chairs the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and attended by leaders from climate change, environment and development fields, as well as more than 500 others from across the world.

By introducing new technologies and policy incentives, countries in the Asia-Pacific region can produce and use energy more efficiently and lessen their reliance on conventional fuels.

The region can switch to more efficient modes of transport, too, and find ways to change the carbon footprint of rural development, especially by preventing deforestation.

Just like in Europe and North America, new clean energy programs in Asia Pacific can help generate "green jobs" as a byproduct of economic transformation.

Investing in low-carbon, climate-resilient economic growth need not sacrifice competitiveness.

Instead, it should represent an investment in long-term economic efficiency, generate local and global environmental gains, and contribute to better energy security.

Countries in the region and beyond are trying to turn the global economic crisis into an opportunity to restructure their development models and make them eco-friendly.

ADB is supporting this transition, and has set a minimum investment target of $1 billion a year for clean energy projects.

It crossed that target last year because of strong demand from its client countries. That has prompted ADB to increase its annual clean-energy investment target to $2 billion from 2013.

It has adopted a new policy, too, which will help countries in the region get adequate energy supply while cutting their GHG emission levels.

ADB is now supporting a wide range of programs to improve energy efficiency such as the one to phase out the use of inefficient light bulbs across the Philippines.

It supports the expansion of mass transit transport systems to reduce commuters' reliance on cars, and has been exploring ways to use new carbon market options to protect Asia's forests.

To adapt to the impacts of climate change, we must quickly improve our understanding of the risk they pose to development and find cost-effective measures for countries to cope with them.

Building climate-resilient economies will mean building such concerns into economic development planning, based on the still evolving understanding of climate change science.

To help understand these vulnerabilities, ADB is analyzing the impact of global warming on agriculture in Asia, as well as the prospect of climate-induced migration.

Though many countries in the Asia-Pacific region are already committed to taking action within their boundaries to fight climate change, a comprehensive agreement in Copenhagen will provide the structure for global cooperation in order to avoid the most damaging consequences.

None of this will be easy, but the impetus for concerted action against climate change lies in the knowledge that any further delay will only increase the chances of devastation in Asia Pacific and the world beyond.

The author is president of Asian Development Bank.

(China Daily June 23, 2009)

Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read Bookmark and Share
Pet Name

China Archives
Related >>
- UN advisory group risks being accused of greenwashing
- Climate change undermines China's fight against poverty
- UN warns of more disasters caused by climate change
- China urges developed nations to fulfill obligations in fighting climate change
- China to enhance cooperation with US on climate change
NGO Events Calendar Tips
- The Eco Design Fair 2009
- Environmental English Training (EET) class
- Hand in hand to protect endangered animals and plants
- Changchun, Mini-marathon Aimed at Protecting Siberian Tiger
- Water Walk by Nature University
World Fights A/H1N1 flu
The pandemic fear grips the world as the virus spreads from Mexico to the US, Europe and as far as China.
Panda Facts
A record 28 panda cubs born via artificial insemination have survived in 2006.
South China Karst
Rich and unique karst landforms located in south China display exceptional natural beauty.
Saving the Tibetan Antelopes
The rare animals survive in the harsh natural environment of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
Laws & Regulations
- Forestry Law of the People's Republic of China
- Meteorology Law of the People's Republic of China
- Fire Control Law of the People's Republic of China
- Law on Protecting Against and Mitigating Earthquake Disasters
- Law of the People's Republic of China on Conserving Energy
State Environmental Protection Administration
Ministry of Water Resources
Ministry of Land and Resources
China Environmental Industry Network
Chengdu Giant Panda Research Base