Environmental sustainability is a prerequisite for economic growth and poverty reduction in Asia and the Pacific. ADB's long-term strategic framework for 2008-2020 (or Strategy 2020) identifies environmentally sustainable growth as a key strategic development agenda, and environment as a core area for support.

While economies in Asia and the Pacific continue to grow, the natural environment is under increasing pressure. Major ecosystems are under threat. Loss of biodiversity is massive as life support systems on land and in the oceans are being degraded. The region is the fastest growing source of new greenhouse gas emissions in the world; several countries are among the most vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters. Cities in Asia are growing at an unprecedented pace, with 44 million added to city populations every year. The resulting congestion, waste, pollution, and associated health impacts remain key challenges in sustaining urban development.

Critical thresholds or “tipping points” may be approaching, beyond which the environment could enter a new state where significant changes would become accelerated, unpredictable, and irreversible. In addition, the gap between the demand for natural resources and the environment’s ability to replenish those resources, or its biocapacity, is widening. In Asia and the Pacific, this gap has important economic and social implications as environmental damage has started to threaten prospects for continued economic growth and poverty reduction. Maintaining natural capital must therefore be a crucial goal for countries.

Given these concerns, the concept of green growth or environmentally sustainable growth has gained increasing attention. Green growth has great potential to provide a clear and focused policy agenda to pursue sustainable economic growth, while improving resilience to climate change and other shocks, and preventing environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, and unsustainable natural resource use.

ADB's Work in the Environment Sector

In the context of Strategy 2020 and in the follow-up to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), ADB prepared the Environment Operational Directions, 2013–2020, to provide a coherent overview of ADB environment operations and to articulate how it will step up efforts to help the region achieve a transition to environmentally sustainable growth or green growth.

To promote the transition to green growth, and address the causes and consequences of climate change, four mutually supportive environment operational directions have been identified:

  • Promoting a shift to sustainable infrastructure. Help developing member countries build infrastructure that contributes to environmentally sustainable and low-carbon development, as well as to increased resilience to climate change and other threats;
  • Investing in natural capital. Help reverse the ongoing decline of natural capital to ensure that environmental goods and services can sustain future economic growth and wellbeing, build climate resilience, and contribute to carbon sequestration;
  • Strengthening environmental governance and management capacity. Build sound environmental governance and management capacity for improved environmental and natural resource management including the strengthening of country systems and capacities for environmental safeguards;
  • Responding to the climate change imperative. Promote climate change response actions—both adaptation and mitigation—that will cut across the other three directions and be fully integrated within each.

Environmental Safeguards 

ADB's environmental safeguards aim to ensure the environmental soundness and sustainability of projects, and to support the integration of environmental considerations into the project decision-making process. Learn more about ADB's environmental and social safeguards