To fight climate change, Asia-Pacific must turn up the power of its ingenuity and dynamism
- G20 members of the Asia-Pacific are responsible for over half of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the region is falling further behind
- With leaders lining up to make climate neutrality pledges, a realignment of finance and investment towards green industries and jobs is needed
The starting point is not encouraging, however. A joint study by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), UN Environment Programme and UN Women shows that the region is falling even further behind in its efforts: greenhouse gas emissions are projected to increase by 34 per cent by 2030 compared to 2010 levels.
Getting the 30 Asia-Pacific countries that have updated their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – basically, emissions reduction goals – to drastically raise ambitions, and securing adequate NDCs from the other 19 who have yet to submit them, will determine if the region – indeed, the world – can hope to keep the temperature increase well below 2 degrees Celsius.
The ESCAP Climate-smart Trade and Investment Index and carbon-border adjustment mechanisms shows that Asia-Pacific economies can make their trade and investment more climate-smart. A growing number of countries include environment-related provisions in trade agreements.
More are requiring energy efficiency labelling and standards on imports. Digitalisation of existing trade processes also helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions per transaction and should be accelerated, including through the regional UN treaty on cross-border paperless trade facilitation.
Such ambitious climate action will require a realignment of finance and investment towards the green industries and jobs of tomorrow. Innovative financial instruments and the implementation of debt-for-climate swaps can help mobilise this additional funding.
The intersection of Covid-19 with natural hazards and climate change remains poorly understood and gives rise to hotspots of risk. Building resilience must combine climate mitigation efforts and investments in nature-based climate solutions.
Without concerted action, carbon neutrality is not within the reach of the Asia-Pacific region by 2050. Our leaders simply cannot afford to go to Glasgow with insufficient ambition and return empty-handed.
Since it was founded nearly 75 years ago, ESCAP has supported the formation of strategic alliances that have lifted millions out of poverty and guided the region to enabling a better standard of life.
The time is right for such an alliance of governments, the private sector and financial institutions to help turn the full power of the region’s ingenuity and dynamism into the net zero development pathway that our future depends on.
Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is the UN undersecretary general and executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)