Explore how regional unity can help Asia Pacific to reach its climate targets and foster a sustainable future.

Asia Pacific is the most populous region in the world, and it is warming faster than the global average. In 2022, the region became known as the world’s most disaster-prone area. A staggering 81 climate-related catastrophes unfurled across the continent, a majority of which – over 83% – manifested as flood and storm events. The human cost was profound; over 5,000 lives were lost, and upwards of 50 million people were directly impacted by these calamities. Economically, damages reached an astounding US$ 36 billion, as highlighted in the WMO State of the Climate in Asia 2022 Report.

This surge of disasters swept across diverse landscapes and nations. From the flooding in countries like Afghanistan, Australia, and India, to droughts in areas like China and Kiribati, and even powerful typhoons in the Philippines and earthquakes in places like Indonesia. 

Particularly, floods were the primary culprits, causing nearly 75% of the region’s disasters and accounting for over 88% of global deaths from such events. With such stark realities, the urgency for regional cooperation in the face of escalating climate challenges is clear. Here’s how collaboration across nations and stakeholders can help pave the way for meaningful solutions:

Political commitment: Tackling climate change requires political commitment from every nation in the region. Leaders must elevate the climate agenda, channelling substantial investment into meaningful policies and programs. 

At present, the gap between current strategies and what is needed to counteract climate risks is alarmingly wide. Climate policies have not been holistically integrated into national and sub-national frameworks, and are often overshadowed by continued reliance on fossil fuels, especially coal. Instead of replacing fossil fuels, renewable energy expansions are being used to meet rising energy needs due to warming temperatures and growing populations. Hence, there is an imminent risk of policies leaning towards reactive measures instead of preventive efforts to address the impacts of climate change. 

Financial resources: Achieving tangible climate action requires substantial financial backing. Collaboration is key to sourcing these funds both from within the region and globally. Just recently, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, during his address at the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), emphasised the need for developed nations to fulfil their commitment of allocating US$100 billion annually to aid developing countries’ climate endeavours. He also observed the impending need for trillions in the years to come. At the same time, it is equally important for nations to curate bankable climate action projects to ensure their appeal to prospective investors. 

Technology transfer and capacity building: Asia Pacific is made up of nations at varying technological stages. While some are at the forefront of innovation, others grapple with foundational challenges. It is crucial for nations to increase their capacity for implementing climate action – fostering human resources, enhancing infrastructure, and sculpting supportive policies. 

The green technological frontier, encompassing electric vehicles, solar energy, and green hydrogen, is predicted to quadruple in value by 2030. While many developing countries in the region lag in leveraging these technologies, some Asian nations have surpassed expectations thanks to strategic policies. These countries should actively disseminate their expertise, helping neighbouring nations to navigate green innovation. Developing nations must also prioritise investment in technical skills and training, ensuring their workforce is equipped to harness and adapt to emerging green technologies. As the region rallies together, technology transfer and capacity-building can catalyse more equitable, sustainable growth, fortifying Asia Pacific against the challenges of climate change.

Engage non-state actors: A holistic approach to regional climate action isn’t solely a governmental endeavour. Businesses, NGOs, and civil society play an equally important role in steering the climate narrative. For instance, Malaysia, recognising the influence of its youth in shaping the country’s climate future, recently designated a youth representative to participate in the Climate Change Consultative Panel. This inclusion underscores the belief in involving young perspectives in finding climate solutions for the country. As Nik Nazmi bin Nik Ahmad, Minister of Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change, puts it, “Climate change demands immediate action, not just from us but from the very generation that will inherit the consequences of our actions or inaction.” Such commitment to inclusive action is essential, and stakeholders far and wide must be involved in driving meaningful change. 

As such, the need for regional and multilateral cooperation is clear. The effects of climate change are often not confined to individual national borders. As shared residents of the region, the repercussions of our actions, or lack thereof, are a collective burden. 

Asia Pacific Climate Week 2023 offers stakeholders from across the region a platform to gather, share knowledge, and engage in collaborative practices to combat climate change. We look forward to hosting partners from around the world from the 13th to 17th of September in the city of Johor, Malaysia, shaping a sustainable future for our region together. 

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