Climate Change Threat to South Asia

Feature | 3 December 2012

South Asia must act now to avoid huge economic loss from climate change, ADB and other experts say.

South Asian countries will suffer enormous loss and damage from climate change unless significant steps are taken to promote low-carbon and climate resilient development, delegates heard at the annual global conference on climate change.

The economic cost of climate change will undermine countries' economic growth and seriously impede their efforts to reduce poverty if countries in the region continue business as usual," said Bindu Lohani, Asian Development Bank (ADB) Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, during an ADB-organized roundtable held on 1 December at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's (UNFCC) eighteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 18) in Doha, Qatar.

Government representatives from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, as well as development partners and other stakeholders attended the roundtable. Discussions focused on identifying the technical and financial support required by the South Asian countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to the adverse consequences of climate change.

Leading the discussion on South Asia Climate Action - a support initiative for the six South Asia countries to steer economies toward low-carbon and climate-resilient development, Mahfuz Ahmed, Principal Climate Change Specialist of ADB said, "the economic loss due to climate change will be largest in the agricultural and energy sectors and in coastal areas. The region's 600 million poor people will be hardest hit, as their livelihoods depend on these climate-sensitive sectors."

The energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the region could increase two to six-fold between 2005 and 2030 on a per capita basis to sustain a high economic growth in South Asia.

"Our biggest challenge is to do everything in our power to end this menace of climate change while maintaining a high level of economic growth," said Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation in Bangladesh.

ADB Support

ADB is helping South Asian countries put in place economically viable, low-carbon and climate-resilient technologies and protect infrastructure investment through climate proofing and cost-effective disaster risk management. It also supports regional cooperation and dialogue as a way to promote best practices on climate change action and the transfer of resource- and energy-efficient technologies.

Enhancing government capacity, generating knowledge, and mobilizing and leveraging funding are critical for successful response to climate change. The meeting endorsed the four-pillar Climate Action South Asia agenda and action plan, which include: (i) strengthening climate risk assessment and screening, (ii) strengthening country programming to enhance climate change investments, (iii) establishing a capacity building program to promote low-carbon and climate resilient development, and (iv) enhancing knowledge management and sharing of best practices.