Developing Asian Nations Urged to Shift to Low-carbon Growth

Developing economies in Asia will have to spend $300 billion a year until 2050

Countries across the world have woken up to the harsh realities of global warming, with the Paris conference in December 2015 seeing 196 nations agreeing to limit global warming to below 2oC and prevent further possible irreversible climate changes. To meet the targets set by the Paris climate deal, developing economies in Asia will have to spend $300 billion a year until 2050, in a move that is expected to save thousands of lives and avoid worsening poverty if they shift to low-carbon growth, according to recent research data and as reported by Reuters on September 27th, 2016.

p1The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has said that the economic returns of spending on the Paris climate targets far outweigh the costs in Asian developing nations, some of which are heavily prone to climate-change related disasters like typhoons and flooding. Some of the developing Asian nations, including Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, could generate more than $2 in gains for each $1 of cost they spend to reach the Paris goal, provided they act fast and take the steps in the right direction, research shows.

According to the World Bank, the spending in Asia on the Paris climate targets is equivalent to the size of Denmark’s gross domestic product (GDP) or the GDPs of Portugal and Morocco put together. On the brighter side, the ADB said that by meeting the Paris climate deal goals, Asian countries would see better air quality and could avoid nearly 600,000 air pollution-related premature deaths. Spending on renewable power, carbon capture and storage, and smart grids could also help communities who rely on climate-sensitive agriculture and land for their livelihoods from plunging deeper into poverty, it said.

Some of the developing Asian nations, whose population depend heavily on natural resources for their livelihood, could witness unmitigated climate changes that could reverse decades of progress in poverty alleviation and economic development, if governments do not take the right steps toward reducing greenhouse gases.p2

Governments make bold shift towards renewables

Three Asian countries – China, India and Indonesia – are among the world’s top 10 greenhouse gas emitters, according to the World Resources Institute. Six of Asia’s developing economies are ranked among the world’s top 10 countries most affected by climate risk based on frequency, death tolls and economic losses, according to the 2016 Global Climate Risk Index by think-tank Germanwatch. The ADB warned that if no action was taken to tackle climate change, it could slash the region’s economic growth by more than 10% by 2100. ADB urged the region to curb its heavy dependence on fossil fuels, which currently contribute to over two-thirds of Asia’s total emissions, and boost investment in renewable energy.

India to emerge as the biggest polluter

China became a global environmental concern over the past few decades as the biggest and fastest-growing polluter. However, China’s economic policies and its massive shift from coal to renewables is good news for climate change experts and the global energy outlook. On the other hand, India is emerging as the biggest threat to global efforts being made to curb climate changes. India’s electricity demand is expected to increase fourfold by 2040, and the country will need to invest in a variety of energy sources to meet this new demand. Much of this new electricity demand is expected to be met by cheap coal, making India the fastest growing polluter in the world in the years to come, and the major greenhouse gas emitter.

While the shift to renewables is happening at a steady pace, it is not fast enough to contain the levels of global warming. If governments across the world do not act fast, global carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector will peak in the 2020s and remain relatively flat for the foreseeable future. This in turn may heat up the Earth’s surface by more than 2oC, leading to irreversible climate changes.

E.U. set to ratify Paris agreement

In a fresh development, European Union environment ministers agreed on Friday, September 30th, 2016, to allow the bloc to ratify a global agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the coming week, ensuring that the deal will enter into force in 2016, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. So far, 61 countries, including the world’s two biggest emitters, China and the U.S., representing some 48% of global emissions, have formally adopted the climate deal, which was reached in Paris in December 2015. For the deal to come into effect, at least 55 countries representing at least 55% of emissions have to ratify it.

Concerns have been growing over the pace of climate change, with a group of leading climatologists warning this week that the planet could hit 2oC of warming, the level at which it is thought the effects will become dangerous, sooner than 2050. Given the 16 straight months of record-breaking temperatures across the globe, governments across the world have fastened the pace of actions taken to curb greenhouse gases and make a shift to green energy.

Among the developing Asian nations, India, which is responsible for 4.1% of emissions, has also announced it will formally adopt the Paris agreement on October 2nd, 2016.

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