Environment in Asia and the Pacific: Your Questions Answered
Qingfeng Zhang, Chief of ADB’s Environment Thematic Group, discusses environment challenges in developing Asia and how ADB is helping through financing and knowledge sharing.
What’s the link between caring for the environment and development?
Human development is dependent on access to well-functioning ecosystems, including natural resources, along with clean air and water. Human health, which is necessary for sustainable development, is also dependent on these things. Therefore, “caring for the environment” is required to care for people and their development. Enhancing environmental sustainability, along with tackling climate change and building climate and disaster resilience, is one of the seven operational priorities under ADB’s Strategy 2030.
Which ADB projects can you point to that have been particularly successful in improving air quality in Asian cities?
ADB has invested $2.5 billion in better air quality in the Beijing–Tianjin–Hebei region in the northeast of the People’s Republic of China. ADB is currently investing over $200 million in improving air quality in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The project has helped mainstream less polluting fuels, leading to the phase-out of coal for domestic heating in the capital. Phase 2, the implementation of relevant regulations and policies will be facilitated. The objective is to reduce annual average ambient PM2.5 concentrations in the city by 30%.
How do you approach ADB projects that clearly boost economic growth but come at some environmental cost?
All ADB-financed projects that have environmental and social risks are required to comply with the bank’s Safeguard Policy Statement. This requires an impact assessment, planning, and mitigation to address the adverse effects of projects throughout the project cycle.
ADB safeguard policies require that all possible impacts are identified and assessed early. Plans to avoid, minimize, mitigate, or compensate for the potential adverse impacts need to be developed and implemented. In addition, the policies require that affected people are informed and consulted during project preparation and implementation.
What role can green, blue, and other thematic bonds play in infrastructure financing that is good for the environment?
To address the growing funding gap required to improve environmental sustainability, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and adapt to the consequences of climate change, global markets need to change. Green and blue bonds encourage that shift by increasing the amount of capital that can be invested in low carbon and climate resilient growth, along with oceans and waterways, to finance solutions at scale.
Nature-positive investments are cost-effective and sustainable ways to address the urgent problems of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.
Oceans are Asia-Pacific's economic heartbeat. The Blue Economy—including tourism, fisheries, and aquaculture—is a major contributor to the region's prosperity and livelihoods.
How does ADB balance sustainable domestic water use and the region’s rapidly growing need for food and energy?
Sound water management and access to reliable services are vital to inclusive economic growth and social well-being. Given the urgency in achieving water security amid pressing climate and water scarcity challenges, ADB focuses on five guiding principles:
- Building resilience and adaptive capacity
- Promoting inclusiveness and gender equality
- Embracing environmental sustainability and a circular economy
- Improving governance and catalyzing finance
- Fostering innovation and technological advancement
ADB targets the poor and disadvantaged, supporting inclusive economic growth. The bank also promotes solutions that improve the quality of life in cities and rural areas and foster food security. ADB’s initiatives prioritize policy reforms, service delivery improvements, and sustainable approaches to resource management.
Is the region on track to meet its environment-related Sustainable Development Goals by 2030?
Although overall, countries in Asia and the Pacific have made more progress on the SDGs since 2015 than other global regions, ADB DMCs were off track to achieve all 17 SDGs before the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic triggered a sweeping human and economic crisis in 2020. The limited progress reflects in part the holistic and ambitious nature of the SDGs, a narrow focus on economic issues, and slow progress on several SDGs and their associated targets.
Environmental sustainability has been a particular problem with regard to SDG progress, underlining the need for ambitious climate action. Also, more progress is urgently needed in renewable energy and protecting life on land and below water, amid extensive degradation of natural resources. Important parts of the solution here are responsible consumption and sustainable production.
What role should the private sector be playing in mainstreaming green growth in Asia and the Pacific?
Private sector support for infrastructure finance and other needs is an important part of the growth strategy of developing economies. Private sector investment is needed in projects and financial instruments that provide environmental, social, and financial benefits.
Green finance involves investments targeted at environmental and climate improvements. This includes products like green loans and green bonds. ADB works with its DMCs to de-risk and incentivize private support for green projects. The ASEAN Catalytic Green Finance Facility was set up in 2019 to help scale up green infrastructure investments in Southeast Asia.