Asia-Pacific countries must act fast on climate change

By Nessim J. Ahmad and Kaveh Zahedi
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 10, 2014
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Then there is the healthcare cost. Eleven of the world's most polluted cities are in Asia -- something that will not come as a surprise to the residents of Beijing, New Delhi and Tehran. This year the World Health Organization revealed there are over 5 million premature deaths in Asia Pacific due to indoor and outdoor air pollution, caused for example by dirty stoves, inefficient diesel cars and trucks -- all too commonplace in our villages and cities -- and the burning of forests and peat lands. Premature deaths and health problems from air pollution in China alone cost as much as 300 billion U.S. dollars, according to the Development Research Center of the State Council.

Climate change and environmental degradation are emerging as the pre-eminent development issues in the region. Simply put, countries will not be able to address their development and poverty reduction priorities unless they reduce pollution, increase resilience to disasters, promote cleaner energy, better manage forests and natural capital, create liveable cities and increase food security. Overall, climate change could seriously hinder the region's efforts to reduce poverty, which is the core of the debate on the world's new development goal posts, the Sustainable Development Goals -- an issue at the center of debate during the first ever United Nations Environment Assembly of UNEP in June this year. Then in September, the UN Secretary General is hosting a high-level Summit on Climate Change to look for solutions.

"Climate action is feasible, affordable and beneficial," Ban Ki-moon said at the recent meeting in Abu Dhabi to discuss climate change. "Change is in the air. Solutions exist. The race is on," he said.

Governments in the Asia Pacific region need to run faster in this race to avert the consequences of climate change. Action will pay dividends both now and in the future and will be less costly.

Investment in renewables like hydropower, wind and solar energy production is crucial. Equally important is cutting back on the energy we use: making buildings more energy efficient can pay back quickly and deliver returns for decades.

Meanwhile, greater investment in public transport can swiftly cut vehicle emissions and make cities more liveable, which is why the Asian Development Bank has committed to providing 30 billion U.S. dollars of investment between 2012 and 2021. The private sector needs to play a role in this too. The massive energy market in Asia provides opportunity and room to introduce and develop new energy technologies. The region can move away from the industries of yesterday and resource-inefficient growth, and bring sustainable growth and wealth for its people.

In short, now is the time for Asia-Pacific countries to lead the charge by turning the region's fast-paced economic growth to boosting clean and green economies. Business as usual is just too risky.

Nessim J. Ahmad is the Practice Leader on Environment and Director of the Environment and Safeguard Division at the Asian Development Bank.

Kaveh Zahedi is the Regional Director & Representative for Asia and the Pacific, United Nations Environment Programme Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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