A boy searches for leftover food in polythene bags at the roadside in Allahabad, India, May 11, 2018. In 2021, more than 57 million people were affected by climate-related disasters in Asia, reported the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Sanjay Kanojia | AFP | Getty Images
Asia, one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change, is also home to major contributors to global warming.
In 2021, more than 57 million people were affected by climate-related disasters in the region, reported the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
And the risk Asia faces will only grow.
In the worst-case scenario, by 2050, a large majority of people living in areas with a likelihood of deadly killer waves will be in Asia, according to a 2020 report from the McKinsey Global Institute.
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a much-awaited report on Monday, saying current efforts to tackle climate change are simply not enough.
“It’s now or never if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C,” said Jim Skea, co-chair of IPCC Working Group III. “Without immediate and deep emission reductions across all sectors, this will be impossible.”
And yet, efforts to mitigate this risk have not been sufficient on several fronts, particularly with regard to China and India, two of the top three contributors to global emissions besides the United States.
Asia plays a crucial role in global decarbonization efforts as it accounts for nearly half of global greenhouse gas emissions. However, the region presents an uneven picture, with culpability and vulnerability varying widely from country to country.
China and India
In 2019, China’s greenhouse gas emissions surpassed those of the entire developed world for the first time, according to a 2021 report by research and consultancy firm Rhodium Group.
Dimitri de Boer, chief representative of ClientEarth China, an environmental charity, acknowledged that China has stepped up its efforts to tackle climate change – pledging to stop building coal-fired power plants overseas and by supporting other countries in the development of renewable energy systems.
However, he noted that the Chinese economy continues to be heavily dependent on coal, which could hamper its progress.
Similarly, Gabriel Lau, professor emeritus at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, also acknowledged the progress made by China. But he said more attention needed to be paid to renewable energy resources, more widespread conservation measures and public education.
India, for its part, is expected to experience the largest increase in energy demand globally over the next 20 years. And none of the country’s cities have met the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines, according to a report by IQAir, a Swiss air quality technology company.
While India’s goal of net zero emissions by 2070 is moving in the right direction, the country still needs “rigor, good practice and fairness” to achieve its goals, Avinash Kumar, head of the climate campaign at Greenpeace India, a non-profit organization, told CNBC in an email.
In addition to government incentives, the country’s energy transition must also be driven by major industries, he added.
“Setting a deadline in 50 years is by no means an escape – we no longer have that option,” he said. “It can’t be business as usual with new fossil fuel projects, surface mining and the dilution of environmental laws.”
Asian developing countries
However, many of Asia’s most vulnerable countries are elsewhere.
“There isn’t necessarily just one Asia – we have many different parts of Asia…all of which are very different in their economic structures, their degree of integration and, with that, their exposure to climate change,” said Jonathan Woetzel, director of the McKinsey Global Institute.
Southeast Asia, for example, is seeing sea levels rise faster than any other part of the world and is bearing the brunt of many climatic hazards.. This is partly because the region is home to a significant number of low-lying countries with lower GDP per capita levels, such as Cambodia and Myanmar.
Kumar of Greenpeace India stressed that developed countries will have to take greater financial responsibility.
“The $100 billion pledge promised by rich countries to developing countries in 2009 has yet to be delivered,” Kumar said. “As it stands, developing countries are far too short of the funds needed to mitigate climate change.”
What the future holds
Despite Asia’s efforts so far, climate model simulations indicate it will still be difficult to limit global warming to below 1.5C even if targets are met, Lau said.
Still, integrating climate policies into national development plans is “of immediate importance” to mitigate the adverse effects of rising temperatures, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific has said. .
Kumar warned that the next 10 years will be crucial and that tougher plans to halve emissions by 2030 must be made at COP27, the next UN climate summit.
“People are losing their lives to floods, heat waves, droughts, downpours and more,” he added. “They can’t wait another 50 years to see real climate action on the ground.”