Opening remarks by Masatsugu Asakawa, President, Asian Development Bank, at the ADB Heat Action Day, 29 May 2024, ADB headquarters, Manila, Philippines

Introduction

Colleagues, dear friends, I am so pleased that you could join us today. As you know, ADB has been answering the call to confront the urgent development challenges facing our region. First and foremost is the threat of climate change.

As the Climate Bank for Asia and the Pacific, we have evolved so that we can take actions that are innovative, coordinated, and at the scale needed to meet the crisis.

We meet today to focus on one of the most severe and personal impacts of climate change. ADB joins the Global Day of Action on Extreme Heat on June 2.

I. The urgent need for action on extreme heat

The need to address the issue of heat is clear. 2023 was the hottest year on record. In a few weeks, I will visit Thailand, which already experienced more deaths from heatstroke during the recent heatwaves than all of last year. Next, I will visit Azerbaijan, one of our many developing member countries at risk because of melting glaciers—Asia’s Water Towers—which are especially sensitive to the warming climate.

And so, heat is causing a tremendous strain throughout our region, from cities, to coastal communities, to mountain nations and the river basins fed by their waters. Food security, infrastructure, water resources, health, and economic productivity are all at risk.

Most alarming is the disproportionate impact of heat stress on women; on vulnerable groups, including poor and elderly populations; and on workers exposed to heat.

Imagine the lives of people, across Asia and the Pacific, affected by heat.

Imagine children unable to study in their schools because the classrooms are too hot, and unable to sleep at home because of heat. The setbacks to their education will hurt all of our societies.

Imagine the lives of women facing heat stress. Due to social norms, they may be unable to find shade or wear lighter clothing. When their families become ill from heat, the burden of care falls on them. If a woman is pregnant, the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth will increase. Women will also be at greater risk from gender-based violence.

Imagine construction workers, toiling for long hours in the hot sun, sacrificing their health to build needed infrastructure in our developing member countries. Or informal workers, who cannot afford access to cooling, earning less due to the heat which reduces their productivity.

All of these examples should remind us of the need to elevate heat action to the top of the development agenda.

II. ADB’s support for building resilience to heat

My friends, as the world turns its attention to the impacts of heat, it cannot lose sight of those who face the heaviest burdens. Addressing this will require careful investment in building resilience to heat stress.

Let me note that this is an important issue for ADB.

Last year, at COP28, I launched an initiative to strengthen women’s resilience to heat stress. I announced this alongside Hillary Clinton, the Arsht-Rock Global Ambassador for Heat, Health, and Gender. Dr. Myrivili, I appreciate your work with Arsht-Rock and Ambassador Clinton.

Our initiative marks ADB’s investment in knowledge about the gendered impacts of heat stress on economies, productivity, health, food security, and violence. We will support our developing member countries on heat action planning that is gender-responsive, and identify solutions that governments can invest in.

This knowledge has the potential to inform billions of dollars of investment in building resilience against heat, across many sectors. It will help to preserve productivity and protect women, who are vital members of society and key drivers of economies.

Closing

My friends, the challenges related to heat cannot be ignored, and our response cannot be delayed.

I am grateful to my colleagues in this room for their commitment to this issue, and for the shared concern and collaboration of our distinguished guests. Mayor Belmonte, Dr. Myrivili, thank you for joining us.

I wish you a productive discussion today and swift success in our work together to tackle the challenge of extreme heat, as we strive for a more prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific.

Thank you.

Speaker