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Asia and the Pacific unwary to face climate catastrophes

Warns new UN study

Published : 08 May 2023 09:53 PM | Updated : 09 May 2023 02:56 PM

Most countries in Asia and the Pacific are insufficiently prepared to face extreme weather events and natural disasters, which are growing in intensity and frequency due in part to climate change, according to a new study by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

Findings in the ‘Race to Net Zero: Accelerating Climate Action in Asia and the Pacific’ report reveal that countries in the region lack the sizeable financial means to support adaptation and mitigation efforts and the data necessary to inform climate action.

Over the past 60 years, temperatures in Asia and the Pacific have increased faster than the global mean.

Six of the top 10 countries most affected by disasters are in the region, where food systems are disrupted, economies damaged, and societies undermined.

The report further underscores that while the region suffers the worst consequences of climate change, it is also a key perpetrator — accounting for over half of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

This share is increasing as populations grow and economies continue to be powered by fossil fuels.

If the urgency is clear, the context is challenging. “Measures to put the economies of Asia and the Pacific on a low-carbon pathway, and adapt and become more resilient to the 

impacts of climate change, must be front and center of the region’s post-pandemic recovery,” said ArmidaSalsiahAlisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, while acknowledging that governments in the region are joining the race to net zero under challenging circumstances from the current polycrisis.

ESCAP notes that the sum of countries’ actions in nationally determined contributions to cut emissions and adapt to climate change falls short of the required ambition under the Paris Agreement.

In fact, a 16 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions from 2010 levels is forecast, a world away from the 45 percent reductions needed to keep warming within 1.5°C.

Without decisive action, global warming will remain a central driver of poverty and inequality in the region – with disastrous consequences across the continent and existential ones in Pacific small island developing States.

The ESCAP study sets out the transformations needed in three key sectors – energy, low-carbon mobility and logistics, and international trade and investment. It further provides concrete proposals on how these major shifts can be financed and how better to measure challenges and progress towards a net-zero carbon future in support of sustainable development.

ESCAP will also convene its 79th Commission session in Bangkok from 15 to 19 May, bringing together Heads of State and Government, ministers, senior officials, youth and other key stakeholders to explore bold policy options, climate-smart solutions and foster ambitious climate action towards net-zero pathways.

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