BANGKOK, THAILAND - Asia and the Pacific has the potential to be a world leader in low carbon growth, but only if it adopts a new development strategy, says a joint study released today by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and UN agencies.
"The global market for green goods and services is vast and growing and with the right policies and investments, Asia and the Pacific could lead the world towards a more sustainable future," said Nessim Ahmad, ADB's Director for Environment and Safeguards.
The report, Green Growth, Resources and Resilience―Environmental Sustainability in Asia and the Pacific, was prepared by ADB, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, and the United Nations Environment Programme. It provides timely support to policymakers as they prepare for the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20), which will be held in Rio de Janeiro in June.
Asia and the Pacific has been the world's largest resource user since the mid 1990s. If current trends continue, its CO2 emissions are likely to more than triple by 2050, putting an unbearable strain on the earth's ecosystems. Reversing this trend will require a new development model characterized by systems innovation, efficient use of resources, and a greatly reduced reliance on hydrocarbons.
The region is already leading the world in commitments to green investment, including funding for low carbon power generation and energy efficiency improvements. The report notes that about two-thirds of the $8 trillion needed for infrastructure in the region between now and 2020 will be in the form of new investment, opening up huge opportunities for businesses who can design, finance, build and manage green buildings, transport systems and other sustainable infrastructure.
The high upfront costs of providing green goods and services, such as renewable energy facilities, has hampered development on a large scale, but the report notes that with the right policies and incentives, 'greening' the economy can be made viable and profitable in the long-term. Policymakers need to consider measures such as ecological tax reforms that penalize polluters while rewarding those who invest in low carbon, resource-friendly activities. Creative financing arrangements that ease the initial cost burden and risks for green developers will also help stimulate investment.
Good governance to help the poor and other disadvantaged groups fully benefit from green growth is also essential for its success, while policymakers must step up skills training to meet rising demand for green labor and to retrain workers in sectors which will be negatively affected.
Environmentally sustainable growth is at the heart of ADB's long-term development framework, Strategy 2020, and ADB has been stepping up assistance in numerous areas including renewable energy, climate change resilience, and sustainable transport systems. In 2011 alone it allocated $2.1 billion for clean energy investments, sharply outstripping its target of $1 billion.