MORE than 100 million people from Asia Pacific countries including the Philippines may fall into extreme poverty by 2030 without climate-oriented development in the region, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Unescap) warned.
According to a working paper titled “The Economics of Climate Change in the Asia-Pacific Region”, this scenario will wipe out the gains in poverty reduction achieved over the last decades.
“Without climate action, GDP in the region could decrease by as much as 3.3 percent by 2050 and 10 percent by 2100, relative to the base case,” the report said.
“The economic costs associated with disasters across the region are also increasing. Damage to property, crops and livestock from disasters increased from $52 billion annually to over $523 billion between 1970 and 2015,” it added.
Future losses from disasters are also measured in the report by the average annual loss (AAL) metric, which represents the amount countries should set aside each year to cope with future hazards.
AAL estimates show that 18 countries in the Asia-Pacific region have a ratio of above 10 percent relative to social spending, and range up to 76 percent.
PH in 3rd spot
In third spot is the Philippines as its ratio of annual average losses relative to social expenditures stood at 69.12 percent or $7.893 billion.
The report said the impact of hazards to the region are compounded by rising exposure of people and their assets.
“Vulnerability is aggravated by low incomes and low adaptive capacity. The primary driver of increased exposure in developing countries has been rapid, unplanned development in hazard-prone areas caused by rapid urbanization,” the report said.
“This is a major issue in the Asia-Pacific region where the urbanization rate is expected to reach 50 percent in the next decade, up from the current 40 to 45 percent,” it said.
The report said another impact has been the large population displacements in the region.
Out of the 19.2 million displaced by disasters in 2015, 84 percent occurred in the Asia-Pacific region. Fifteen countries in the region recorded displacements of more than 20,000 people in 2015.
In the Philippines, new displacements in 2015 associated with disasters were estimated at 2.2 million, next to India (3.7 million), China (3.6 million), and Nepal (2.6 million).
“More frequent extreme weather events associated with climate change are expected to increase the number of displaced people to an estimated 150 million to 200 million by 2050,” the study said.
“The issue of climate-induced displacements promises to rank as one of the foremost human crises of our times,” it added.
The report said the region’s impressive economic growth has lifted millions out of poverty. However, that growth has been carbon-intensive, and has not accounted for future costs from climate change.
“Adopting the same carbon-intensive approach to drive the region’s future growth brings an unacceptable risk of dangerous and irreversible climate change,” the study said.
“The Paris Agreement has converted the global climate aspirations into a universally agreed agenda with defined goals. Yet despite this progress, the anticipated costs of reducing emissions, along with the complexity and risks of enacting long-term policies to incentivize shifts towards low-carbon development, remain daunting for many countries,” it added.
The report said that this is underscored by the emissions gap between the current climate pledges and those needed to achieve the Paris target.
“It is estimated that Asia-Pacific countries will need to double their current levels of abatement ambition up to 2030 to close this gap,” it said.
Investment in adaptation and resilience is critical given that a level of climate change is already locked in.
The study also said that implementing carbon pricing of various forms at a national level can deliver an economically efficient way of reducing emissions as well as promoting long-term structural shifts in the economy to reduce emissions intensity.
“Expanding the size of carbon markets across the region through linking will offer greater potential for cost-effective mitigation,” the report said.
“Fossil fuel subsidies in many countries of the region are highly regressive and undermine efforts to increase the use of clean alternatives and energy efficiency,” it added.
The report said that climate finance needs to be scaled up to meet the growing mitigation and adaptation efforts of developing countries in the region.