A recent study by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has revealed that most countries in the Asia-Pacific region are not adequately equipped to deal with the growing challenges posed by extreme weather events and natural disasters.
Insufficient data and resources to support adaptation and mitigation efforts were identified as major gaps.
The report, published on May 8, 2023, warned that if swift action is not taken, climate change will continue to be one of the main causes of poverty and inequality in the region.
Climate crisis in Asia-Pacific region
The Asia-Pacific region has experienced faster temperature increases than the global average over the past 60 years, resulting in more frequent and intense extreme weather events and natural hazards. This has caused immense loss of life, displacement and damage to health, food systems, economies and societies, particularly in the six most affected countries in the region.
Climate change and climate-induced disasters are jeopardizing sustainable development and exacerbating poverty and social inequalities, disproportionately affecting vulnerable groups such as women and children, the older people, people with disabilities, migrants, indigenous populations, and youth.
The Asia-Pacific region is responsible for more than half of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, has a significant population, and includes most of the world’s low-lying cities and vulnerable small island states.
Annual losses from natural and biological hazards in the region are already estimated at $780 billion and are projected to rise to $1.1 trillion and $1.4 trillion under the moderate and worst climate change scenarios, respectively.
However, available funding is insufficient to meet the region’s climate action requirements or limit global warming to 1.5°C. With only seven years to go until 2030, the target year for the SDGs, increasing financing and ambition for climate action is crucial.
Insufficient resources hinder climate action
According to the report, Asia-Pacific countries face a lack of sufficient financial resources and data to support their adaptation and mitigation efforts, and their existing infrastructure and services are not resilient enough to withstand the impacts of climate change.
At the launch of the report, UN Assistant Secretary General Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, who is also the Executive Secretary of ESCAP, stressed the urgent need for regional climate action in the Asia-Pacific region.
She cited the severe heatwaves experienced in Bangkok and other countries in the region, including Bangladesh, China, India and the Lao PDR, which were described as the worst April heatwaves in Asian history.
Alisjahbana warned that climate change is jeopardizing sustainable development in the region and stressed the critical need for action.
Current climate action from the Asia-Pacific region falls short of the required ambition, with a 16% increase by 2030 in greenhouse gas emissions from levels projected for 2010, instead of the required 45% reduction to keep warming within 1.5 degrees, according to a report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
Most countries in the region have made commitments to carbon neutrality by 2022, but commitments range from achieving carbon neutrality or net zero carbon dioxide to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century.
The report also highlights the lack of regional cooperation in the region to accelerate action under the Paris Agreement, unlike the European Union or the African Union.
ESCAP report on urgent climate action
The ESCAP report will serve as a guide for the 79th session of ESCAP next week, which will focus on accelerating climate action for the first time.
The report highlights that the Asia-Pacific region accounted for 57% of global emissions from fuel combustion in 2020, with three-fifths of those generated from coal. These emissions have more than doubled since 1990, driven by the power and heat, manufacturing and construction, and transportation sectors.
The report also indicates that 85% of the region’s primary energy supply comes from fossil fuels, and to limit temperature increases to 1.5°C, oil and gas must be phased out by 2050, and coal must be completely removed.
The transport sector is responsible for 27% of the region’s CO2 emissions, and manufacturing and construction contribute three quarters of global emissions in these sectors. The report underscores the critical need for urgent action in the region to address these challenges.
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