How Asia-Pacific can spell the future (or failure) of climate change efforts

In 2009 and 2010, around 8.5 million livestock died in Mongolia because of extreme drought, which is linked to climate change. Asia-Pacific is the most vulnerable to the consequences of global warming. Photo by: Asian Development Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

Development stakeholders and environment advocates in Asia-Pacific are at a crossroads on climate change.

At a crucial time for efforts to tackle global warming, programs to effectively mitigate and manage disaster risks cannot wait any longer, as the success or failure of these efforts can make or break the future of what many see as mankind’s main challenge for the 21st century — and a priority for international development.

When it comes to effects and vulnerability, Asia-Pacific stands at the forefront of climate change. Several multilateral institutions and think tanks agree that the region is beyond any doubt the most vulnerable to the consequences of global warming, as well as its economic and social costs.

In a recent report, the International Fund for Agricultural Development noted how in the past century Asia-Pacific accounted for 91 percent of total deaths and 49 percent of damage from natural disasters.

Another study by the World Bank claims that calamities have cost the world more than $3.8 trillion in the past three decades — an amount that could have been spent on development programs.

Brahma Chellaney, strategic studies professor from India’s Center for Policy Research, said this level of vulnerability may be attributed to five reasons.

“There are five factors that make Asia very vulnerable to natural disasters including geography, geology, climate extremes, human-induced environmental change and climate change,” he shared Wednesday during an innovation and learning conference hosted by the Asian Development Bank in Manila.

So while Asia-Pacific seems to be more on the receiving end of climate change, can the region also lead global efforts to address this issue?

The simple answer is yes — but it is everyone’s responsibility. Loren Legarda, a Philippine senator and prominent environmental advocate, stressed that international development programs to address global warming should focus on the most vulnerable areas.

She added that these programs should go where assistance is most needed and the windows of opportunity and knowledge sharing — available for the rest of the world to apply — are wider and more vibrant.

“Building resilience should be everybody’s attitude and business. We must adapt development policies that are geared toward sustainable and resilient growth,” she said. “To adapt the new normal requires from us a change in perspective, mindset and a change in the way we think and do things.”

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About the author

  • Lean 2

    Lean Alfred Santos

    Lean Alfred Santos is a Devex development reporter focusing on the development community in Asia-Pacific, including major players such as the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Prior to joining Devex, he covered Philippine and international business and economic news, sports and politics. Lean is based in Manila.