How the economic meltdown and climate change are hitting Asia – new reports

May 8, 2009

     By Duncan Green     

The Asian Development Bank produces a remarkable amount of frequently high quality analysis. Here are two recent examples on climate change and the impact of the economic meltdown.

On the meltdown, a recent ADB Economic Working Paper uses the latest national projections for growth and past poverty performance to refine the predicts that poverty across the whole of Asia will rise by 62m people in 2009 and 100m in 2010.

The ADB’s ‘The Economics of Climate Change in Southeast Asia: A Regional Review’ (i.e. a regional Stern Review), finds that:

‘Southeast Asia is one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to climate change due to its long coastlines, high concentration of population and economic activity in coastal areas, and heavy reliance on agriculture, natural resources, and forestry.

Climate change is already affecting the region, as shown by the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts, floods and tropical cyclones in recent decades. It is exacerbating water shortages, constraining agricultural production and threatening food security, causing forest fires and coastal degradation, and increasing health risks.

The worst is yet to come. Under a high emissions scenario, the annual mean temperature in the four countries—Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam—is projected to rise 4.8°C by 2100 from the 1990 level on average; the global mean sea level is projected to rise by 70 centimeters during the same period, with dire consequences for the region; and Indonesia, Thailand, and Viet Nam are projected to see increasingly drier weather in the next 2–3 decades.

Southeast Asia is likely to suffer more from climate change than the global average. The mean cost of climate change for the four countries—if the world continues “business-as-usual” and if market and non-market impacts and catastrophic risks are all considered—could be equivalent to losing 6.7% of combined gross domestic product (GDP) each year by 2100, more than twice the global average loss.

Climate change could seriously hinder Southeast Asia’s sustainable development and poverty reduction efforts. Combating climate change requires urgent action on both adaptation and mitigation—there is no time for delay.

Many adaptation actions have been taken in Southeast Asia in climate-sensitive sectors such as water resources, agriculture, coastal and marine resources, forestry, and health. The priorities now are to scale up these actions by adopting a more proactive approach and integrating adaptation in development and poverty reduction strategies.

Southeast Asia contributed 12% of the world’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2000. And given its rapid economic and population growth, they are expected to grow further. The region has an important role to play in future global GHG emission reductions.

As the largest contributor to the region’s GHG emissions (75% in 2000), the land use change and forestry sector holds the key to successful emissions reductions. This can be achieved by reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, encouraging afforestation and reforestation, and better forest management.

International funding and technology transfer and cooperation are essential for the success of adaptation and mitigation in Southeast Asia. The region should enhance its capacities to make better use of the existing and potential funding sources.

Regional cooperation offers an effective means to deal with many crossboundary issues related to climate change, such as water resources management, forest fire prevention, disaster and risk management, and controlling the outbreak of diseases; and for learning and knowledge sharing.

The economic crisis offers an opportunity to start a transition towards a climate-resilient and low-carbon economy in Southeast Asia. Green stimulus programs can simultaneously shore up the economies, create jobs, reduce poverty, lower carbon emissions, and make the region more prepared for the worst effects of climate change.’