Asia and the Pacific must spearhead a climate resilient future

Comment: As one of the world’s most climate vulnerable regions and a growing emitter of greenhouse gases in its own right, regional governments must take the initiative

Low-lying coral atolls like the Solomon Islands are vulnerable to climate change and reliant on a shipping industry, which refuses to control its emissions (Photo: UN Photos)


This summer has seen Asia and the Pacific rocked by intense and unstable weather, bringing into even greater focus the need to build resilience against climate change and extreme weather.

Temperatures in the western Indian state of Rajasthan reached record levels in May, peaking at a scorching 51 C.

In vast parts of the Pacific, South, and Southeast Asia, rainfall came late, or not at all, and rivers ran dry, wells dried up, and lakes turned into dusty plains.

Then suddenly, this drought turned to floods, affecting large areas of Bangladesh, Bhutan, the People’s Republic of China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan.

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As one of the world’s most climate vulnerable regions and a growing emitter of greenhouse gases in its own right, accounting for about 40% of the total, Asia and the Pacific has a leading role to play in tackling the climate issue.

But to achieve this Asia and the Pacific must fulfill three essential considerations.

First, countries must now deliver on the promises agreed on at last year’s Paris climate conference.

Their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) must be turned into solid climate investment plans that promote innovative technologies to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency, and sustainable urban development.

But INDCs go beyond promoting low-carbon growth. Many countries have articulated their adaptation needs including more resilient infrastructure and climate-smart agriculture. They will need support from development partners to build resilience to future climate impacts.

Second, countries must firmly couple climate action with policy and structural reforms.

A good example of such reforms can be seen in the People’s Republic of China, which is undergoing structural transformation, shifting from energy-intensive manufacturing to services.

The reforms are helping PRC to tackle excess industrial and manufacturing capacity and will help the country to peak its carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 at the latest.

Meanwhile, India has launched its own ambitious solar energy initiative, including plans to build up 100 GW in solar power generation capacity by 2022. Reforms such as these will help countries build the economic foundations for low-carbon growth.

Third, countries need robust financing streams.

Toward this end, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will double its climate financing to $6 billion by 2020.

Since public finance will be able to supply only a fraction of the funds needed by countries, it is important that patterns of investment—principally in the private sector—shift and scale up accordingly.

ADB recently raised $1.3 billion using green bonds to help finance climate change mitigation and adaptation projects. ADB also earlier this year backed the first certified climate bond in Asia, which was issued by a private company for a geothermal project in the Philippines.

The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) is helping countries to mobilize the resources needed to implement green growth policies and deliver climate-friendly results.

In 2015, GGGI’s in-country work in Colombia, Ethiopia, India and Indonesia helped to mobilize investments worth $131 million.

Adapt or die: UN urges countries to build climate resilience

But international support should not end with finance. Countries will also need help implementing INDCs so that these financial resources can be used effectively and transparently.

Building up capacity to identify and budget for climate investments and to roll out climate-smart regulatory policies will be just as crucial as the finance itself.

In this respect, climate change actions must be viewed as integral to the wider pursuit of poverty reduction and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The challenges are formidable, but the urgency of climate change requires strong political will and even more concerted international cooperation.

With broad participation by governments, the private sector, development partners such as ADB and GGGI, civil society, and other stakeholders, Asia and the Pacific could spearhead a new low-carbon and climate resilient future for the global good.

Takehiko Nakao is the President of the Asian Development Bank and Yvo de Boer is the Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute

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