Asia and the Pacific has been the world’s largest resource user since the mid-1990s and if current trends continue, its CO2 emissions are likely to more than triple by 2050, putting an unbearable strain on the earth’s ecosystems.
Energy: According to IEA projections, global energy demand is set to increase by one-third from 2010 to 2035, with the People’s Republic of China, India, and other developing Asian countries accounting for over 60% of the global total. Without greater use of renewable energy and improved energy efficiency, developing Asia’s share in global energy-related CO2 emissions could increase from the current 35% to about 45% by 2030.
Transport: Emissions from transport are the fastest growing source of CO2 emissions, with the vast majority of projected increases expected to come from developing Asia. By 2030, Asia will account for 31% of total worldwide transport-sector related CO2 emissions. Private vehicle ownership is doubling every 5 years in many Asian countries, with growth in urban areas often doubling every 2 to 3 years.
Land Use Change and Forests: Around 17% of total annual global greenhouse gas emissions come from land use change and forests, with about one-third from Asia and the Pacific. In Indonesia and some South East Asian countries, the land use and forest sector is responsible for up to 75% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Vulnerability: According to UNU, 7 of the world’s 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change and disasters caused by natural hazards are in Asia and the Pacific. Vanuatu tops this list, followed by Tonga (2nd), Philippines (3rd), Solomon Islands (4th), Bangladesh (6th), Timor-Leste (7th) and Cambodia (9th). More than 60% of the region’s population works in agriculture, fisheries, and forestry—the sectors most at risk from climate change. Climate change will cut agricultural crop yields and hike food prices – every 10% rise will push another 64 million Asians into poverty.
Disasters: Natural disasters affected an annual average of more than 200 million people in the Asia and Pacific region between 2001 and 2010 (90% of world total), with more than 70,000 fatalities (65% of world total). Extreme weather events displaced more than 42 million people in the Asia and the Pacific during 2010 and 2011.
Sea level rise: ADB estimates that Asian urban dwellers at risk of coastal flooding will increase from more than 300 million to 410 million by 2025. In inland areas, the number of people at risk will rise from 245 million to 341 million by 2025. Twenty million Bangladeshis would be displaced by a 1 meter rise in sea level by 2050.
The annual economic cost of disasters averages $53.8 billion in Asia and the Pacific. Yet less than 5% of disaster losses in developing Asia are insured, compared to 40% in developed countries.
Investing in disaster risk reduction pays – it has been estimated that the economic impact of disaster will be reduced by $7 for every $1 spent.
An estimated $600 billion to 1.5 trillion dollars will be needed annually to help developing countries transition to low-carbon and climate-resilient economies, with $40 billion annually needed for adaptation in Asia and the Pacific alone.
ADB invested about $7 billion in clean energy-related projects since 2008, with $2.1 billion in 2011 alone. Since 1987, ADB has carried out disaster-related projects worth more than $12 billion and its aggregate urban lending is more than $11 billion.
Through mechanisms such as the Climate Investment Funds, multilateral development banks have mobilized $6.5 billion for climate action in developing countries, with $2.5 billion earmarked for Asia and the Pacific. The Green Climate Fund, currently under development, aims to mobilize an additional $100 billion per year for climate change mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.
The People’s Republic of China leads the world in renewable energy investment, accounting for half of all global output of solar modules and wind turbines.
Among other measures, Asian governments should consider creating a regional carbon market, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, and establishing a free-trade zone within Asia for high-impact, low-carbon technologies and services.