A boy looks for leftover food in a polythene packet by the roadside in Allahabad, India on May 11, 2018. In 2021, more than 57 million people were affected by climate change in Asia, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Sanjay Kanojia | AFP | Getty Images
Asia, one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change, is home to some of the biggest contributors to global warming.
In 2021, more than 57 million people in the region were affected by climate disasters, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies reported.
And the risks that Asia is facing are only growing.
According to a 2020 report by the Global Institute at McKinsey, in the worst case scenario, by 2050, a significant majority of people living in areas with potential for deadly waves will be in Asia.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a highly anticipated report on Monday stating that current efforts to tackle climate change alone are not enough.
“Now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” said Jim Skeya, co-chair of the IPCC Working Group III. “Without immediate and deep emissions reduction across all sectors, this would be impossible.”
And yet, efforts to mitigate that risk have not been enough on several fronts – especially when it comes to China and India, two of the top three contributors to global emissions, in addition to the United States.
Asia plays an important role in global efforts to decarbonize because it is responsible for almost half of global greenhouse gas emissions. However, the region presents an unequal picture, with crime and vulnerability varying significantly with each 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 consulting firm Rhodium Group.
Dmitry de Boyer, chief representative of ClientEarth China, an environmental charity, acknowledged that China has stepped up its efforts to combat climate change – by pledging to stop building coal-fired power plants abroad and supporting other countries in developing renewable energy systems.
However, he noted that the Chinese economy is heavily dependent on coal, which could hinder its progress.
Similarly, Gabriel Lao, an emeritus professor at the Chinese University in Hong Kong, acknowledged China’s progress. But he said more attention should be paid to renewable energy resources, more comprehensive conservation measures and educating the public.
India, for its part, is expected to see the largest increase in global energy demand in the next 20 years. And no city in the country has met the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines, according to a report by IQAAR, a Swiss air quality technology company.
India’s net-zero emissions target by 2070 is on track, the country still needs “tough, good practice and equity” to achieve its target, Greenpeace India Climate Publicity Manager Abinash Kumar told CNBC, a non-profit organization. An email.
On top of government incentives, the country’s energy transformation must be driven by big industry, he added.
“Setting a deadline of 50 years is by no means a police-out – we don’t have that option anymore,” he said. “With new fossil fuel projects, open-cast mines and the erosion of environmental laws, business cannot be done normally.”
Developing countries in Asia
Many of the most risky countries in Asia, of course, lie elsewhere.
“Of course there is no Asia – we have different parts of Asia … which are completely different in their economic structure, their level of integration and, in turn, their exposure to climate change,” said Jonathan Wetzel, director of the Global Institute at McKinsey.
In Southeast Asia, for example, sea levels are rising faster than any other part of the world, and many climate catastrophes are taking their toll.. This is partly because the region is home to a significant number of low-level countries with low per capita GDP, such as Cambodia and Myanmar.
Kumar of Greenpeace India noted that developed countries need to take on more financial responsibility.
“The $ 100 billion pledge made by rich countries for developing countries in 2009 has not yet been fulfilled,” Kumar said. “At present, developing countries have far less funding for climate mitigation.”
What the future holds
Despite Asia’s efforts, climate model simulations indicate that even if targets are met, it will still be difficult to limit global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, Lau said.
Nevertheless, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific says the integration of climate policies into national development plans is of “immediate importance” to mitigate the harmful effects of rising temperatures.
Kumar warned that the next 10 years would be crucial and that tough plans were needed to halve emissions by 2030 at COP27, the next UN climate conference.
“People are losing their lives in floods, heat waves, droughts, cloudbursts and more,” he added. “They can’t wait another 50 years to see real climate action on land.”