MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Countries in the region must take immediate action to help prevent catastrophic climate change, delegates at the 45th Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank's Board of Governors (ADB) heard today.
"Asia is at a crossroads. The region's rapid economic growth has often come with concerns over environmental degradation. We are increasingly using resources at the cost of environment," ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda said in opening remarks at the Climate Change and Green Asia seminar. "Unless we change, the hard-won gains in reducing poverty and improving the quality of life for Asian people could be reversed."
According to an ADB and Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) study, which was presented at the seminar, regional governments must create a carbon market, phase out pervasive fossil fuel subsidies, and establish an Asian free-trade zone for high-impact, low-carbon technologies and services to promote green growth in Asia. The study notes that actions taken by Asia so far have been impressive, replicable, and could be up-scaled.
Low-carbon growth is not just about climate change mitigation, the study says. It also makes economic sense as green infrastructure development opens vast new business opportunities, while steering nations away from dependence on the highly volatile fossil fuel market. It is estimated that Asia and the Pacific will need more than $6 trillion worth of investments in new energy infrastructure by 2030.
"The low-carbon development agenda needs to expand beyond energy to cover all sectors," said ADBI Dean Masahiro Kawai. "Innovation at the economy-wide level holds the key for developing Asia to decouple future economic growth from high carbon emissions and a high rate of resource use."
The countries of Asia and the Pacific have been the world's largest resource users since the mid-1990s, and if current trends continue, their CO2 emissions are likely to more than triple by 2050, putting an unbearable strain on the earth's ecosystems. The problem is urgent; there is a risk that infrastructure built in the next few years will commit Asia to a long-term future of high greenhouse gas emissions, if it follows past development patterns.
Leveraging and catalyzing low-carbon financing also requires special attention, seminar participants heard. Developing countries need to create an appropriate policy and legal environment to attract more private sector participation, while international development institutions should promote the use of risk-mitigating products such as political risk and credit risk guarantees to encourage private sector investment in low-carbon infrastructure.
Speakers at the seminar included Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; Professor Jeffery Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute, Columbia University; Emil Salim, former Minister of Environment of Indonesia; and Bindu N. Lohani, ADB Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development.