Regional approach to climate crisis preparedness in Asia and the Pacific - Hindustan Times

Regional approach to climate crisis preparedness in Asia and the Pacific

ByHindustan Times
Jun 11, 2023 04:11 PM IST

This article is authored by Mehdi Hussain, doctoral candidate, Centre for South Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Asia and the Pacific region has several climate vulnerable communities ranging from pacific communities, which face sudden and slow-onset disasters, rainfall variations and El Niño and La Niña climate patterns to Himalayan communities, which encounter extreme weather events like flash floods, landslides and debris flows worsened by climate crisis and depleting Himalayan glaciers. The climate crisis poses threats to food security, water and energy security, and also produces climate displacement and migration. The region has to strengthen collective efforts towards mitigation at the regional level.

People protest against the climate. (Reuters)
People protest against the climate. (Reuters)

Asia-Pacific region is running behind schedule to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has raised concerns with the lack of progress in the region in its Asia-Pacific SDG Progress Report 2023. In 2022, the efforts of the countries in the region on climate action (Goal 13) are critically regressed.

Hindustan Times - your fastest source for breaking news! Read now.

Considering membership of the ESCAP framework, Asia-Pacific region has 53 member-States and nine associate members in pursuit of solutions to sustainable development challenges. The region’s overall progress is dismally slow at about 15% in 2022 which will push the 2030 timeline by several decades, “unless efforts are multiplied now”.

The Global Environment Outlook (GEO) assesses that given the possibility of global temperature rising to 3 degrees the triple planetary crisis of climate, biodiversity loss and pollution needs immediate actions. As the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) flagship environmental assessment, the seventh edition of GEO has focused on the transformative role of policies in energy, food and waste in combating the climate crisis. The population rise, economic development, technological change, urbanisation and lifestyle have put tremendous pressure on the environment. However, challenges to practical application of these policies include politico-economic conditions and unsatisfactory coordination at multilateral level.

Current policies in Asia and the Pacific continue to remain inadequate, and their implementation cannot catch up to prevent environmental degradation. The region is responsible for over half of the global greenhouse gas emissions. It is seen as the “perpetrator” and the “victim” of the climate crisis. At this rate of progress, fighting against climate crisis and environmental degradation requires radical measures to protect human health and environment from the deteriorating impacts of climate crisis and pollution.

Given the variation and criticality of the region in climate crisis discourse, one can have a perspective from the preparedness of countries in special/vulnerable situations like least developed countries (LDCs) (11 in number), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) (12 in number) and small island developing states (SIDS) (15 member-States and seven associate members). But, the progress in SDGs for the five countries with highest GDP per capita is as poor as the regional average.

Despite several challenges, about 50 per cent of the countries in Asia and the Pacific have been leading in at least one goal. However, there is no country in Asia and the Pacific that has done enough to set as a pace leader for gender equality (Goal 5) and the average regional performance has regressed for climate action (Goal 13).

LLDCs have recorded a good progress for sustainable cities and communities (Goal 11) by decreasing the proportion of the urban living in slums, for instance, about 84% reduction of it found in Kyrgystan since 2014. It was further complemented by effective disaster risk reduction strategies. However, among LLDCs, Armenia continues to strengthen its food security, while Afghanistan, Bhutan and Kyrgystan have seen an increase in food price anomaly during 2019-2020 period.

In Timor-Leste, percentage of births by skilled health professionals are low, despite an increase from 30% in 2009 to 57% in 2016. In this effort, Timor-Leste is supported by the United Nations Population Fund, UNICEF and WHO.

Child marriage in India has decreased thanks to the conditional cash or in-kind transfers to support schooling. It is complemented by capacity-building programmes and reproductive health care services.

In January 2022, Cambodia launched country’s first evidence-based air pollution monitoring plan. The data identifies major sources of emissions helping in devising appropriate policy and action. The plan aims to achieve a 60% reduction in PM2.5 seeking to improve air quality and also an 18% reduction in carbon monoxide emissions by 2030.

At macro-level of sustainable practices, the scope of improvement in connectivity for Asia and the Pacific region constitutes a critical factor in sustainable development. Regional networking in transport, energy and ICT sectors can contribute to establishing low-carbon economy, according to ESCAP’s 79th Commission Report 2023. Several global programmes of connectivity for LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS have sought to strengthen sustainable growth in these countries. For examples, the Doha Programme of Action for LDC for the Decade 2022-2031 focuses on transport, energy and ICT; the Vienna Programme of Action for LDCs for the Decade 2014-2024 recognises the significance of transit access for the LDCs and, thus, cooperation with the transit countries is prioritised; and, the SAMOA Pathway (2014-2024) underlines the essentiality of building quality infrastructure in SIDS.

National action and leadership is significant in implementing intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) to reduction of carbon emissions. Aligning national policies with regional planning for sustainable transport and energy systems can promote long-term development. It is further reported that transport connectivity in LLDCs and SIDS is very poor. And, mobile broadband Internet is thrice as expensive as the regional average. LLDCs are struggling to have energy trade with their neighbours, on the one hand, SIDS are adopting local means to produce energy and microgrids to sustain their energy demands, on the other hand.

The Report stressed that these countries can benefit from harmonisation of operational, planning, financial and regulatory procedures for regional energy connectivity. LDCs, LLDCs, and SIDS are distanced from major international markets which render higher transportation costs. They have to incorporate new technologies in terms of scientific monitoring and reliable fibre-optic cables, accessible, efficient and quality Internet connectivity. Synchronisation of transport, energy and ICT can be implemented, for instance, through electrification of transport supported by ICT infrastructure which will produce low carbon emission as well as transform local renewable energy resources in SIDS.

Asia-Pacific countries adopted about 10 UN resolutions during the 79th session of the ESCAP in Bangkok from 15-19 May. These resolutions acknowledged the uniqueness of the countries in special situations which have been troubled by impacts of climate crisis, geopolitical tensions, economic challenges.’ Further, ESCAP and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on SDGs, climate action and regional economic and trade cooperation in the Pacific.’ Cooperation at the national and regional levels create enabling environment for more capital investments in connectivity infrastructure in transport, energy and ICT sectors. The countries can support it through sustainable economic and financial models.

The Asia-Pacific countries have to commit to a strong action towards building resilience to climate crisis and its impacts, and strengthening their adaptive capacity through appropriate adaptation measures. Sustainable development approach is, thus, critical for Asia-Pacific region to promote a sustainable growth. It should be incorporated as the principal of cooperation at regional level to resolve inter-connected challenges of poverty, gender and income inequality, insufficient infrastructure and unemployment.

Countries need to strengthen their commitment to a timely achievement of their INDCs by further matching with the standards set by the UNEP and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Their economic, social and environmental milieu should be well-integrated to achieve sustainable development.

This article is authored by Mehdi Hussain, doctoral candidate, Centre for South Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Share this article
Story Saved
Live Score
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, February 22, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On